Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Hands-On: Setting the standard for affordable wireless earbuds
Cambridge Audio makes countless audio products, whether that be Hi-Fi systems, speakers or Home Cinema equipment. The company also sells a pair of TWS earbuds that you would be remiss for overlooking. The earbuds are called the Melomania 1, underlining the company's enthusiasm for music. We have heard great things about these pair of unassuming earbuds, so we thought we would try them out. Cambridge Audio kindly provided us with a pair to test at no charge to ourselves. However, the company did not have any influence on the opinions contained here, nor did it have any approval on the copy.
Design - Plastic and minimal
Cambridge Audio sells the Melomania 1 in Black or Stone. According to the company, both colours have a UV lacquer finish, which has proven scratch-resistant during our time with the earbuds. Both versions come with a colour-matching charging case and replaceable ear tips. Each earbud weighs 4.6 g, while the charging case tips the scales at a mere 37 g, which brings the total weight up to 46.2 g. The latter measures 59 x 50 x 22 mm and each earbud measures 27 x 15 mm.
In the box, you will find four pairs of ear tips. One pair is attached to the earbuds, while the other three are attached to a thin plastic tray. Three of the sets are made from silicone, which is fairly standard. However, the final pair are memory foam tips, a rarity for earbuds that retail at £99.95. Cambridge Audio originally sold the Melomania 1 for £119.95, but the earbuds have been available at their lower price for a while now. There is also a micro USB charging cable in the box, which denotes that the Melomania 1 can only be charged via micro USB. We would have preferred USB Type-C charging, but micro USB charging is not that big of a deal considering how good the battery life is on these earbuds.
The earbuds sit firmly in their case and will not fall out no matter how hard we shake them. The top of the case emits a satisfying snap when it is closed and is also held in place by a magnet. There is no correct orientation for charging the earbuds either, so you cannot put them in the "wrong" slot, and they will still charge. The ring around the button on the earbuds glows when they are charging, and there are five LEDs on the front of the case to denote how much charge it has left. The case has held up well in the months that we have been using the Melomania 1, although its soft-touch finish picks up fingerprints easily. With that said, the case is impressively scratch-resistant, to the extent that you would struggle to tell that we have dropped it a few times. The case also fits in a jeans coin pocket, which is a nice touch.
Better still, Cambridge Audio sells a replacement case, should you lose or damage yours. The company sells these for £50.00, which is the same price it charges for a pair of replacement earbuds.
Connectivity - Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX
The Melomania 1 is based on what Cambridge Audio calls a "Triple-Core Processor Architecture". By that, the company means earbuds are powered by a dual-core 32-bit processor application subsystem, a Qualcomm QCC3026 single-core processor and a Kalimba DSP audio subsystem. The earbuds support Bluetooth 5.0 and have excellent range.
Sound quality - Excellent with Qualcomm aptX
The Melomania 1 supports the AAC, Qualcomm aptX, and SBC Bluetooth codecs. Additionally, the earbuds support the A2DP, AVRCP, HSP and HFP Bluetooth audio profiles, and Cambridge Audio promises a 70 ms latency response time over aptX. The 5.8 mm graphene-enhanced diaphragm drivers offer a 20 Hz-20 kHz frequency response, along with a total harmonic distortion (THD) of 0.04% (1 kHz 1 mW).
In our experience, the Melomania 1 offers the best audio quality of any sub-£100 set of TWS earbuds that we have tried. While the earbuds cannot deliver the soundstage of over-ear headphones, the Melomania 1 offers unrivalled depth and richness across all genres of music. Speech is clear too, while the MEMS microphone, which supports cVc noise cancellation, picks out our voice well. According to Cambridge Audio, the microphone has a sensitivity of 96 dB SPL at 1 kHz and a frequency response of 100 Hz-8 kHz.
The earbuds do not have active noise cancellation (ANC). However, the passive noise cancellation generated by the ear tips is good enough to drown out most background noise.
Software - None existent
Cambridge Audio has not developed any software for the Melomania 1. The company does not plan to deliver any firmware updates for the earbuds either. According to a post on its website, Cambridge Audio insists that the software has been "extensively optimised and tested so...it does not need updating". All units sold in 2020 and beyond have firmware v6.6. If the serial number of your Melomania 1 contains 6959, then it will have firmware v6.6 installed.
In our experience, Cambridge Audio is correct in saying that the Melomania 1 does not need updating. The earbuds have all the button commands that we could reasonably want. Each earbud has one large button, with which one can change the volume, summon a digital assistant, switch tracks or control audio playback.
The ability to customise the button combinations would have been good, but we would sooner have the functionality that the Melomania 1's offer than the ability to customise fewer button commands. Cambridge Audio provides a cheat sheet for memorising the button combinations, but they are pretty intuitive. The combinations work across Android, macOS and Windows 10, too. However, we could not get volume up or skip ahead to work on Windows 10 initially. Instead, double-tapping the right earbud brings up Cortana, while a long press only causes the earbud to emit a beep. This beep does not trigger with any action in Windows 10. A reboot rectified these issues, but we never encountered them on Android or macOS Catalina, though.
Additionally, both buttons are easy to press. They require little activation force to trigger, so we are not left with sore ear canals as has been the case with some TWS earbuds. In short, they feel natural to use.
Battery Life - Living up to expectations
Cambridge Audio boasts that the Melomania 1 should last 9 hours on a single charge and up to 36 hours with the charging case. In practice, this estimate is surprisingly accurate and allows us to go a working week before we need to recharge the charging case. Likewise, the earbuds can easily last a full day's use before they return to the charging case, which is unheard of for TWS earbuds.
Verdict - Perfect execution
If you have £100 to spend on TWS earbuds, purchase the Melomania 1. Not only has Cambridge Audio produced a stylish and compact pair of TWS earbuds, but it also delivered on excellent sound quality and equally-good battery life. We still cannot fathom how Cambridge Audio has packed so much into 4.6 g earbuds.
Our one gripe with the Melomania 1 is its micro USB charging port. Its inclusion feels cheap in 2020, but we are willing to forgive Cambridge Audio here for the week-long battery life that the earbuds achieve. Simply, the Melomania 1 offers the best battery life in its class and even exceeds over-ear headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM range.
Cambridge Audio has blown away the competition with the Melomania 1. This is how TWS earbuds should be done.
The lack of software is a shame, but the stellar buttons more than make up for this. We like that Cambridge Audio sells spares of everything too, should you happen to lose the charging case or an earbud. Overall, the Melomania 1 is an outstanding attempt from Cambridge Audio, and we hope that it continues to make more TWS earbuds in the future.