Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: A cheaper, better-sounding AirPods alternative

The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus undercuts the AirPods with hi-fi sound and longer battery life

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus is a superb set of wireless earbuds that delivers top-notch performance at an enticing price point.


  • +

    Stellar audio performance

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Attractive companion app with useful features

  • +

    Elegant and water-resistant design

  • +

    More affordable than the AirPods


  • -

    No ANC or transparency mode

  • -

    Disappointing call quality

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When Cambridge Audio announced the Melomania 1 Plus (also known as the Melomania 1+), it was hard to contain my excitement. If you have ever experienced the brand’s award-winning sound, be it through hi-fi sound systems or powerful speakers, you would be giddy as well, especially after seeing the buds’ entry price of $139 — handily undercutting the Apple AirPods.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus specs

Colors: Black, white

Battery life (rated): 7 hours (High Performance Mode), 9 hours (Low Power Mode), 45 hours (with charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Processor: Not stated

Size: 1.1 x 0.6 x 0.6 inches (per bud), 2.3 x 1.9 x 0.8 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud), 1.3 ounces (charging case)

I've spent a week testing the Melomania 1 Plus and was extremely satisfied with the final product. In addition to a clean and striking design, listeners are rewarded with dynamic and versatile sound that can be personalized via companion app, along with extensive playtimes. Unique features like enhanced listening modes and multi-codec support also help cement its place among the best wireless earbuds available. Read on for our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Price and availability

You can buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus from Amazon or direct from Cambridge Audio. It's available in two color options: black and white.

Again, $139 is a relatively affordable price for wireless earbuds with such a solid range of features. In addition to the standard AirPods, the Melomania 1 Plus has a lower MSRP than some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds out there. like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($199) though the Melomania 1 Plus itself lacks active noise cancellation (ANC).

For all of the latest sales, feel free to bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Design and comfort

If you’re bored of the long-stem silhouette that Apple has made synonymous with the category, the Melomania 1 Plus is a breath of fresh air. The almost bullet-shaped design gives it a contemporary, sleeker appearance than both the AirPods and AirPods Pro, which also allows for seamless insertion into the ear. The buds don’t dangle, nor do they stick out like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Jabra Elite 85t do, making for a more discrete wear.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Build quality is substantial, with the hard-plastic casing and soft-touch matte finish hitting that sweet spot between durable and elegant. You won’t panic if these fall from a high distance or if they become exposed to water, as Cambridge Audio designed the buds with IPX5 splash resistance. Just don’t drop them in the jacuzzi, because they aren’t built to survive submersion or pressurized water jets.

There are some notable details that deserve recognition. I like how the designers were able to give the multifunctional button a flush appearance, despite it being slightly raised. The indented logo is a nice touch too. Something else that is unique is how the buds charge, which is the perfect segue into the charging case.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus reviewe

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Cambridge Audio’s case looks better the standard AirPods case. It’s also one of the lighter cases out there, and is compact enough to store in your jeans pocket or everyday bag. The lid shuts securely as well. However, the charging system was what caught my attention most. It uses electrical contacts (the metal ring and ear tip grille) that are neatly disguised to generate a charge. It is something different and an example of the brand’s commitment to ingenuity.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Six silicone tip sizes and four memory foam tip sizes come bundled to accommodate different ear shapes. The default pair created a decent seal to keep the buds stabilized when moving around. I felt the AirPods Pro was the better fitting option, though, and Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test assists with achieving optimal fit.

You will enjoy acceptable comfort with the Melomania 1 Plus, but I would be mindful about wearing the earbuds for long stretches as you might feel some soreness around the concha after two hours of listening. Furthermore, pressing the buttons means pushing the buds further into your ears, which can become aching after a while.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Controls and digital assistant

The Melomania 1 Plus doesn’t boast touch controls or on-ear detection. Instead, it has physical buttons that support a full suite of media controls. These are divvied up between each bud and can be activated through hold and single/double-press gestures. Functions include playback (play/pause/next track/previous track), volume, answer/end call, and voice assistance. The buttons are responsive and produce great tactility to ensure users of intended commands.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Siri and Google Assistant are available to handle daily tasks and inquiries hands-free. Cambridge Audio’s mic array demonstrated excellent speech recognition, picking up every word and understanding long-winded requests without any confusion. To create calendar invites, open programs, and pull up basketball scores was a breeze on Android, iOS and macOS devices alike.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Sound quality

Cambridge Audio went the extra mile to give these buds stellar audio representation. On top of 5.8mm graphene-enhanced drivers and support for the latest aptX and AAC codecs, the Melomania 1 Plus includes a special mode called High Performance. This employs the same hi-fi-grade amplification found in Cambridge Audio's renowned CX range of stereo amplifiers to optimize sound.

Most the songs I played sounded pretty close to their original mixes, especially jazz classics. The instrumental separation on Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay” was the finest that I’ve heard on a pair of buds in this price range, as the lively horns, melodic bassline, and steady hi-hats were all crisp and distinctive. Much of this performance carried over into fusion genres like jazz-rap: Gang Starr’s “Words I Manifest (Remix) maintained its smooth and up-tempo resonance with the buds wonderfully reproducing DJ Premier’s impactful drum patterns and piano samples.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Vocal range is another highlight on the Melomania 1 Plus. I loved the definition on Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” with the default sound profile emphasizing the plaintive vocals, which helped establish the record’s somber mood. The acoustic guitar also had an openness that felt surreal with every string plucked. 

If there is any complaint, it’s that the passive noise isolation isn’t very effective. While the tips keep the buds in place, the seal struggles to block out noise at a high level, letting external sounds into the soundscape. This is where ANC would have been clutch. The good news is that any noises heard aren’t distracting enough to pull you away from the music, unless an alarm goes off a few feet away from your ears.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: App and special features

The Melomania app hosts a handful of features with the Equaliser being its most serviceable. You get the option of creating three custom sound profiles that can be fined-tuned to your hearing preferences or select from six different, well-balanced presets: Balanced (the default), R&B, Electronic, Bass Boost, Rock, and Voice. Each of these pair well with their specific genres and content. While I recommend sticking with Balanced, there's much pleasure to experience when enabling Voice for YouTube clips and podcasts. Bass Boost and R&B are solid options for urban music categories too.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Tap the Settings icon at the bottom and there are toggle controls for the codec selection and all other functions, as well as an Audio Mode that has two settings: Low Power and the aforementioned High Performance. I already explained the benefit of enabling High Performance, but not the trade-off, which is lower battery life (7 hours). Low Power prioritizes battery life (9 hours) over audio quality.

The Hub (aka the home screen) is basic in functionality, but visually appealing, as the tinted dark blue background with white text and neon symbols are aesthetically appealing. I like how the battery level indicators for each bud are presented and that the Find My Earphones option is easily accessible at the bottom.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Firmware updates are available, though I experienced a technical difficulty when trying to download the latest 7.2.3 version. I got to update the right bud, but the left wouldn’t pair to my Google Pixel 2 XL, so I managed to connect the unit to my Pixel 3 XL, and the download completed. It’s an odd issue, but one worth noting.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Battery life and charging case

In low Power mode, playtimes are some of the highest in the category with a full charge generating 9 hours of use.. Phone calls, streaming, and volume decrease battery life by about an hour in this mode, though 8 hours is still a more-than-sufficient amount to work with. It’s also nearly double that of the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and not too far off from top performers like the Beats Powerbeats Pro (9 hours) or Master & Dynamic MW08 (10 hours ). I was content using the buds 1.5 hours daily before recharging them around the fifth day.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The charging case holds up to 45 hours when fully charged. Do the math and that's 5 extra charges: nearly double the 24 extra hours that the AirPods charging case offers. Wireless charging, sadly, didn’t make the cut.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Call quality and connectivity

As capable as the Melomania 1 Plus is with music, I wasn’t too fond of it as a calling headset. Whenever I spoke with my wife during walks, she mentioned my voice was muffled and distant, and heard the numerous ambient noises (like dog barks, speeding cars and wind) that surrounded me. Indoors, she could hear me slightly better, but it wasn’t a massive improvement. This was very disappointing since the mics performed superbly when firing up the digital assistant.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.0 operates reliably on the Melomania 1 Plus. Range is standard at 30 feet; stepping out of this distance will cause audio stuttering or dropped calls. Connectivity is strong too, as the buds are instantly recognized when entering pairing mode and re-pair to known devices automatically. I just wish other wireless features were included, like Google Fast Pair or multipoint technology to pair the model with two devices at the same time.

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review: Verdict

If you’re on a (relative) budget and want affordable stylish earbuds that not only look and sound better than both AirPods models, but also get you double the playtime, then the Melomania 1 Plus is practically a a must-buy. 

The sound profile lends itself well to all music genres and complements other media such as movies, podcasts, and eBooks. Craftsmanship is sharp, plus having 45 hours of playtime at your disposal is awesome. Most importantly, the Melomania 1 Plus offers these hallmarks at nearly half the price of luxury options like the AirPods Pro and the MW08.

Some may not even be bothered by the lack of ANC and transparency modes, though this does join call quality as the earbuds' two big disappointments. I've recently tested the Edifier TWS NBQ, which provides ANC for just $59, so it's hard not to see the omission as negative even if it's also not a dealbreaker.

Nonetheless, the Melomania 1 Plus is well deserving of an Editor’s Choice badge, and is a great deal that you'd be remiss not to at least consider.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.