Cambridge Audio is a long-standing British manufacturer with a forty year history of making high-end audio gear. The venerable brand has spent most of its illustrious history building award-winning integrated amplifiers, CD players, power amplifiers, phono preamps, and most recently network amplifiers, speakers, turntables, and true wireless earphones. The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ wireless earbuds are another spoke in the wheel; and one that is paying real dividends for the brand.
It is rather easy in 2021 to build a complete system around Cambridge Audio equipment and it’s worth noting that our review of the excellent Cambridge Audio DACMagic 200M has been the most popular article on the website over the first 8 months of the year. Good luck getting one with the chip shortage but it’s a very popular item.
I have owned a CXC CD transport for some time now and still consider it among the best options for spinning up the little discs. I love the concept behind the CXC as the mechanisms needed to read a CD are static and thus by decoupling the DAC we have a future proof investment. More companies should think like that.
But what about headphones?
The one product category that has been understandably absent from the Cambridge Audio catalog has been headphones; something that made a lot of business sense with so much competition and the cost of developing products from scratch.
So it was with raised eyebrows that Cambridge released a lineup of IEMs called the Melomania Series.
Much to the delight of its dealer network, the Melomania IEMs have been a rather strong seller so far and that brings us to the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ Wireless IEMs.
There are currently two models in the lineup; the 1+ which retails at $99 and is their entry into the phone companion space and the Touch with a slightly higher retail price of $139 which is more of a gym earphone. I have been using the 1+ for a few weeks now and I have quite a few thoughts on them.
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ looks like a competitor to the Apple Airpods; it is roughly the same size and style case, available in black or white, and uses an app to control most of its functions.
Whether we want to admit it or not, Apple set the standard for this market and left everybody else trying to one-up them.
Construction is mostly impact resistant plastic for both the earpieces and the case which helps with weight reduction but does mean that a certain amount of care needs to be taken to prevent damage.
One plus is that they are IPX5 rated so they are a bit more resistant to water than the typical product in the category. The earpieces are roughly the width and height of a US dime with the nozzle protruding above.
The 1+ is a straight into the ear fit so a smaller tip than average may be needed for comfort. The deep seating helps with passive noise isolation as the body of the earpiece sits directly outside the ear canal.
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ comes with ten sets of tips (albeit with some overlap) so finding the right size within the provided ones is more likely than those with the standard SML set.
One other caveat is that two vents exist on the side of the shell just beneath the faceplates, depending on orientation the earlobe may block one of those vents and change the tonality so be careful aligning the earbuds when inserting them into the ear.
Technology & Operation
Internally, the 1+ uses a 5.8mm dynamic driver with a graphene coated diaphragm and a Qualcomm QCC3026 Bluetooth 5.0 chipset with a Kalimba DSP to tailor the sound to the user.
Protocols supported include SBC, AAC, and aptX; connectivity was solid and reliable as long as source distance was kept to 10-15 meters in open space.
Advertised battery life is 9 hours which is a reasonable estimate although I found that with the high performance setting enabled that life was more like 6 ½ hours.
The case adds another 30+ hours to the 1+ before it needs to be recharged via its USB-C port. A series of 4 LEDs on the case give the user a quick indication of charge state. The literature says 36 hours but again this is measured in low power mode and when using the high performance mode the life is a bit shorter.
Controls are handled either by the app or by pushing gently on the faceplates. There is a tactile click when pushed so it is a more positive system and those frustrated with touch systems that seem to forever do something other than what you want, will find this refreshingly straightforward.
The “plus” in the name for me is the app. The Cambridge Melomania app is available through the Play or Apple store and offers a way to see the charge levels and protocol in use on the main page as well as the ability to disable the buttons on the earpieces altogether if desired.
Earphone controls can be individually enabled or disabled via the settings tab which also allows for enabling high performance mode, manual codec selection, and firmware update.
Note that switching between high performance and low power is a firmware change and requires an extended downtime rather than being a push button change on the fly. I found it took roughly five minutes to complete the change of modes in either direction.
The intervening tab is the equalizer which offers a 5 band EQ with 6 presets and 3 customizable options. The graphic would lead one to think it is a parametric EQ but on further investigation one finds the only controllable option is the amplitude and the bands cannot be moved, widened, or narrowed as a true parametric EQ would.
Still, it’s a better solution than a lot of sub-$100 IEMs and offers some very real tuning possibilities. I did my listening notes with the EQ set in neutral but if listening for pleasure would introduce some minor tweaks.
Microphones are present in both earpieces; all CXC noise rejection is configured to eliminate outside noises during conversations. The mic is also frequency limited to 100Hz-8kHz to further reject low droning or high frequency noises that might interrupt phone conversations.
I found the mic to work well enough indoors but it does pick up some wind noise when used outdoors. The 1+ is also capable of initiating Siri or the Google assistant via the mic if configured to do so.
With no tweaks to the EQ and the 1+ in high performance mode (which Cambridge recommends for best sound quality), I found a mildly bass boosted tuning with fairly bright signature.
There is a moderate elevation to the sub-bass with a roll-off only evident below about 30Hz and a gradual slope from about 70Hz up to 1KHz where it plateaus until a treble peak in the 7-8kHz range.
That treble peak can become the dominant feature of the landscape and my earlier comment about tweaking a bit for casual listening would be to pull that down by about 5 dB. Detail retrieval is pretty good but falls a little short of the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser CX offerings recently reviewed; of course you can buy 3 pairs of the 1+ for the same money so that is somewhat expected.
Overall the Melomania 1+ offers a lot when we consider the app features, the tuning options, the battery life, and the firmware upgradability. For those looking for a budget alternative to the higher priced offerings that doesn’t sacrifice sound quality or tunability, the Cambridge Audio Melomania Series offers a lot of value at a very affordable price.
For more information: Melomania 1+
Where to buy: $99 at Amazon