Cambridge Audio is a company that's well known for producing great-sounding audio equipment. Whether that's its range of stereo amplifiers or room-filling speakers, you generally get a lot for what you pay.

For 2019 the company stepped a little outside of its usual home audio box, into the world of wire-free earphones, with the absurdly named Melomania 1. With a price of just under £120 are these wireless in-ears an un unbelievable bargain?

Like little foam-tipped bullets

  • Plastic build with single button on each side
  • IPX5 water/sweat resistance
  • Weight: 4.6g each earbud
  • LED light ring
  • Flip-open magnetic carrying case included

Look at the wire-free market and you'll see plenty of manufacturers going with the Apple AirPod-like design, i.e. having an extending arm beneath the earbud. However, that's not Cambridge Audio's style. Instead, the Melomania 1's earbuds look more like tiny bullets. Foam- or silicone-tipped bullets that you shove in your ears.

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In that sense, they're pretty basic, but there's a beauty in the symmetry and simplicity, and we love the LED light ring that lights up around the top of each of the earbuds. This top edge, appropriately, is designed to look like Cambridge Audio's logo: round, with another recessed circle near the edge.

One thing we don't like, however, is the colour of the review units we were sent. While there is a black/dark grey model (definitely get that one), there's also a lighter grey "Stone" version that looks like the same colouring and plastic you'd find on a 90s PC. Oh, and it has a Micro-USB port, which shouldn't be in any device in 2019.

This same plastic is used in the carrying case, which - unlike the earphones themselves - is very much like the AirPods'. It's a small, portable case, with a flip-open lid at the top. Like a tub of dental floss. That's not a bad thing though: it's light, small and portable enough to carry around in your pocket while barely noticing it's there.

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Because the Melomania 1 doesn't have those protruding stems, the earphones go into the case tip first, with a magnet in each hole pulling them and snapping them firmly in place. These magnets mean you never have to worry about the earphones falling out when opening the case. What's more, the earphones are really easy to grab out when you need them. It's actually a really well thought out case.

As for fit, these earbuds feel like most pairs of in-ears. You can definitely feel that they're in there, and the feeling is a bit pressured, but we were still able to comfortably wear them for extended periods.

Finding the right seal is a must for the sound to be good. The trick to this is using the right sized tips. There are three different sizes in silicone and one pair of foam tips in the box (the latter our choice every time). Since foam can be squeezed flat to fit in easily, and then expand to form a good seal, you don't have to mess about too much to get a good sound. With the silicone tips, we found ourselves playing with the angle more.

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Despite being completely round and not having a fin or any manner of hook to hold them on to our ears securely, the fit is very secure indeed. A factor in this is the weight: at just 4.6g per earbud, each is super lightweight. There's no shift within the ear either, unless you, say, yawn or something - that can force you to readjust.

In all, the Melomania 1 in-ears are lightweight, comfortable enough to wear for long periods and fit securely. What's more, the look is simple and clean. You certainly won't draw attention to yourself wearing these.

Battery and performance

  • 9 hours play time outside case
  • 4 extra full charges in case
  • 45 hours total battery
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX

Cambridge Audio has made use of Qualcomm's aptX and TrueWireless technologies in conjunction with Bluetooth 5.0 to ensure that when connected, the Melomania 1 stays connected with minimal latency. In real, everyday use, it's resulted in a pair of earphones with a rock solid connection. We didn't experience any drop-outs in the whole time during testing - either between phone and the earphones, or between one earphone and the other.

The only thing we wish was present is an auto-pause feature. Some competitors feature accelerometers and light sensors so that they can detect when they've been removed from your ears. The Cambridge Audio offering doesn't, so you need to physically press the button on the outside of the earbud in order to play, pause or skip through the music.

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Having just the single button taking up the space on the end of each earbud has its advantages. It means no fiddly and inconsistent touch panel, and it means it's impossible to miss. The only tricky part is learning which side does what. For instance, if you hold the left earbud button down for two seconds, it turns the volume down; click it twice quickly and it'll skip to the previous track. The right does the opposite, and they can both be tapped once to play/pause or accept/reject calls.

It's in battery life that the Melomania really excels though. Cambridge Audio boasts up to nine hours of music playback outside the case, which is identical to what Beats promises with the long-lasting Powerbeats Pro. Where the Cambridge Audio comes up trumps, however, is in the carrying case, which holds an additional four full charges, taking the entire battery life life combined up to 45 hours. In our weeks testing the earphones - using them a couple of hours per day - we never once had to plug them in to refill the case. And that's what a good pair of wire-frees should offer you: convenience, without battery anxiety.

Sound

  • Graphene enhanced
  • 5.8mm drivers

On our very first listen, we really weren't taken in at all by the sound of the Melomania 1 earphones. But, once we realised it was all down to the fit of the tips within the ears, things changed dramatically.

With the silicone tips at the wrong angle, the sound was flat, tinny and lacked any sort of bass. But, with a well-sealed fit - particularly with the foam tips - the opposite was true. In fact, we couldn't quite believe the sound we were getting was coming out of a pair of wireless earphones that cost less than £120.

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Now, these in-ears might not quite sound quite as dynamic, clear or full as some of the much more expensive wire-frees from the likes of Master & Dynamic or Sennheiser, but there's not too much in it, and you're certainly getting way more than you'd expect for the outlay.

The clack of a snare drum hit are clear and punchy, vocals are clear, while subtle mid-range in the background is given a good amount of presence too, ensuring you don't miss anything.

Of course, a good part of what makes the sound great is the natural noise isolation offered by a good fit. Despite not having any active noise-cancelling (ANC), the foam tips especially do a good job of blocking out a lot of external noise, shutting you off into your world of music. 

Verdict

It's rare to find such a complete pair of earphones at such a low price point, especially in the wire-free category. With Cambridge Audio's first untethered in-ears you get superb sound, convenience, reliability and an almost stupidly long battery life, for less than the price of any big-name rival.

What we found almost unbelievable, however, was just how long the battery can keep going. We've not had to plug these in-ears in once after weeks of listening, failing to drain the battery in a full week of using them for a couple of hour per day, thanks to the backup of that case.

However, we're not big fans of the grey 'Stone' model, and the in-ear fit could be improved.

Overall, you'd be incredibly unlikely to get anything close to a pair of wire-free earphones this good for this price. The Melomania 1 is unmatched in this price range, which makes for an instant recommendation.

Alternatives to consider

samsung galaxy buds hardware image 1

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Rather than launch an expensive all-singing all-dancing pair of fitness buds, Samsung decided its latest wire-frees should be purely focused on music. Inexpensive, with decent sound, these in-ears also come with a wireless charging case as standard - the wireless part being something you won't find with many others.

Pocket-lintApple Airpods 2 Review buds image 1

Apple AirPods 2

AirPods are an easy recommendation for anyone with an iPhone, especially the second-gen model with the enhanced H1 chip and the option to have a wireless charging case. Not as cheap as the Melomania 1, though, and the noise isolation or sound quality isn't anywhere near as good, but the convenience and reliability is what wins here.