A high performance audio mode and customisable EQ control are the main attractions offered by the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus – the second generation True Wireless earbuds from the UK Hi-Fi specialists (and also featured in our guide to the best budget wireless headphones).
Performance wise they are a step up on their predecessors, the original Melomania 1, and boast noticeably better dynamics and noise management. Also new on these second generation buds is USB-C fast charging.
Design wise they look much the same, with that distinctive slug design - now available in matte black or stone white – and on-bud controls. They’re also IPX5 rated, to offer protection against rain and sweat. So they should survive a weekend at Donington Park.
- The best in-ear headphones and earbuds: Find the perfect fit
- The best AirPods alternatives: Sonic superstars taking the fight to Apple
- The best headphones for music: Our pick of the best around
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review: Features
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus may lack Active Noise Cancellation, but they counter with excellent battery life. These earphones offer around seven hours use on a full charge with the default High Performance audio mode engaged, or nine otherwise, which is several hours more than many ANC rivals.
The charging case holds enough power to re-juice the buds for another four stints, so that’s a lot of power in reserve – 35 or 45 hours in total, respectively. The charging case illuminates a row of LEDs as it replenishes.
It’s definitely worth downloading the new Cambridge Melomania app, as it unlocks additional features. You can check on the battery level of each bud, watch neat little graphical routines as firmware updates, and customise sonic output to taste. Presets comprise Balanced, R&B, Electronic, Bass Boost, Rock and Voice. Unsurprisingly, Rock (a little thicker) and Electronic (thick with a treble tickle) are the sensible options. Avoid Voice at all costs.
The Bluetooth spec is 5.0, which supports both AAC and aptX high quality codecs. Which brings us to performance.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review: Performance
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a helluva lot of fun. Their Low Power mode may gain you more playtime, but stick to High Performance, as it sounds significantly better!
We’re told this High Performance mode uses trickled down technology from the brand’s stereo amplifiers. The user benefit is a higher dynamic range, with wider staging. Translated, that means plenty of space between the cowbells on Blue Oyster Cult's Don’t Feel The Reaper.
Once you've achieved a snug fit (more on which later), these little buds have real visceral kick, so much so you’ll feel basslines reverberating around your orbitals at volume. The pop punk of Trash Boat’s Controlled Burn had my peepers pogoing in their sockets (an alarming sight for fellow commuters, to be sure).
Each Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus earbud is built around a 5.8mm graphene-enhanced driver. Lightweight Graphene is notable for its strength and rigidity, which gives rise to a confidently dynamic performance. These little buds are ballsy, and make a tight, impressive noise.
But that’s not to say they can’t be gentle too. The plaintive chords of Creeper’s Suzanne (Eternity, in your Arms) are crisp and clean, Will Gould’s tremulous vocals deliciously emotive.
I love the way these buds involve you, even during quiet stuff: Hannah Greenwood's soulful solo country vocal sounds on the money.
That said, they can get a little foggy when things get dense. The tempo changes on Conjurer's debut Mire present these modest earbuds with a challenge. The clean, melodic bridges that link the band's crunching riffs are tonally rich, almost tuneful, but when the gates of hell open, growling vocals and guitar churn tend to blur into one.
To be fair, we’re probably asking a bit much at this price point. Only pricey open-backed over-ears, forged in fire pits stoked by Surtur, are likely to cope with Conjurer unleashed.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review: Accessories
Given that there’s no Active Noise Cancellation available, getting a good fit is more important than ever. A tight seal helps mitigate against intrusive ambient noise.
While the lack of ANC will be an issue for many, when they’re tight you get natural noise mitigation. And let's face it, nothing much is going to intrude on Creeper’s anthemic Down Below, a right rollicking singalong, even on the centennial clatter of the Piccadilly Line.
Cambridge includes various sizes of both silicon and memory foam ear tips in the box. It's worth experimenting, I settled on the memory foam tips for the best fit. Remember, a good fit is also key to a better performance. If the buds don’t sit right, the sound thins out.
Comfortably light, at just 4.6g, the pointy design means they don’t quite lock in place as easily as some rival buds, you have to lightly screw them in. This takes a little practice, not least because you’ll want to ensure that the pin-prick mic on each bud isn’t obscured; it needs to be facing down for best voice pick-up. But practice makes perfect.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review: Alternatives
If the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus aren’t quite your cup of tea, then there are some other in-ear options coming in at around the same price that are well worth a closer look. The Sony WF-1000XM3 are a tad more expensive in general, but are absolute belters. They have noise canceling tech built in and deliver fab sound no matter where you are. Want more? The Jaybird Vista are a little under the radar but are an ideal option if you use your earbuds for gym sessions or outdoor runs. They offer up great sound and are snug and comfortable to wear.
- The loudest headphones around: You want volume? You got it
- The best budget noise cancelling headphones: Listen for less
- The best headphones for vinyl: Take a spin through our list