Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: which ANC buds are best?

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs Apple AirPods Pro 2 earbuds with their charging cases
(Image credit: Future)

Cambridge Audio has a new pair of wireless earbuds – its first with active noise cancellation (ANC). The British hi-fi stalwart had some success with its previous two Melomania models, mostly thanks their epic battery life, but the Melomania M100 have a new look, new features and ANC. Exciting.

So how do they compare against some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds going? Apple's AirPods Pro 2 were the first in-ear AirPods to earn a five-star review from us. They offer Apple's peerless usability (as long as you're an iOS user, that is), great sound quality and awesome noise-cancelling skills. Cambridge certainly has its work cut out...

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: price

The AirPods Pro 2 launched in September 2022 for £249 / $249 / AU$399, but when the USB-C model appeared in September 2023, the price dropped in the UK to £229 (it remained the same in the US and Australia). This price has since dropped in recent sales to £199 / $199, though there's no guarantee it'll stay there.

That's still more than the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100, which will set you back £169 / $219 (they're not available in Australia). Because they're new, we wouldn't expect to see them discounted any time soon. But then up against the AirPods Pro 2, they don't need to be.

** Winner: Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 **

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: design

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2 with their charging cases on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods' design is so familiar by now it's tempting to skip them and move right onto the Melomania M100. But while the Pro 2 look almost identical to the original Pro, they are quite different to the standard AirPods due to their interchangeable ear tips (which come in four sizes, XS to L). They also have on-bud volume controls courtesy of a touch-sensitive stem layer, which the standard AirPods lack.

The charging case is different, too. It has a built-in speaker (for playing a chime if you misplace it) and a lanyard loop (to stop you misplacing it). You can charge it wired or wirelessly.

The Melomania M100 look very different – as far as Cambridge is from Cupertino. Their look is closer to the Sony WF-1000XM5. They're light and comfortable, and don't protrude too far from the ears. And they come with five sizes of ear tip. Take that, Apple.

There's no AirPods-style ear tip fit test, however. But every member of our team who tried them managed to get a good fit without it.

The earbuds house custom 10mm drivers tuned by Cambridge Audio’s engineers and powered by Class A/B amplification to match the brand's hi-fi stereo amplifiers. They have the same IPX4 rating as the AirPods Pro 2, making them splash- and sweat-resistant.

We found the AirPods Pro 2's on-bud controls a bit more responsive and intuitive (Cambridge's take a bit more getting used to, though they're soon second nature). 

** Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2 **

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: features

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs Apple AirPods Pro 2 with one earbud out of their charging cases

(Image credit: Future)

Two words for you: Matt. Berry. Cambridge Audio has enlisted the baritone thespian – and sometime musician – as one of the voices announcing the earbuds' connection and the different noise modes. The first time you hear him announce "Device connected!" is a real laugh out loud moment.

These are the first Cambridge buds with active noise-cancellation (ANC), and they have a transparency mode to boot. They also have Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio support, as well as aptX Lossless (for CD-quality streams), Auracast and the more efficient LC3 codec, when they become available soon. For now, you'll have to make do with AAC and SBC codecs and the higher-quality aptX Adaptive, which is still more than some pairs at this price level.

Cambridge's previous two Melomania models were notable mainly for their staggering 45-hour battery lives (including the charging cases). But they lacked ANC. Despite adding ANC, Cambridge has kept that number high – the M100 boast 33 hours of runtime (10 hours from the buds, plus 23 from the case) with ANC on. That's more than the AirPods Pro 2's 30-hour total (six hours from the buds, 24 from the case). Impressive.

The Melomania Connect app gives you six EQ presets and a seven-band graphic equaliser to play with, and there are plenty of other features besides. 'Wear sensor' pauses music when you take a bud out and restarts when you pop it back in (like Sony's 'wearing detect') – though this is a little hit and miss. But there's multipoint for switching between two wireless devices, a low-latency gaming mode, mono mode to share a bud with a friend, and sleep mode which deactivates all touch controls and voice prompts. 

The AirPods Pro 2 have all manner of tricks up their various sleeves, one of which is Conversation Awareness. Like Sony's Speak-to-Chat, it lowers the music volume and allows in ambient noise when it detects you speaking, so you can hold a conversation without yanking the buds out. It's very smart, and elegantly implemented too. 

The Pro 2 also automatically pause/resume music when you take them out/put them back in, just like the M100. Like all AirPods, they're a doddle to pair with an iOS device, and they're quick to tweak with the dedicated AirPods section within the iPhone's settings menu. 

They also have Spatial Audio, which the M100 lack. Some tracks sound better than others given the 360-degree full immersion treatment, but the dynamic head tracking (which anchors the sound to a screen) is as impressive as ever. 

There's a chink in the AirPods' armour, and it's Android. By design, a lot of the features aren't available to Android users, which is a ploy to keep users in the Apple ecosystem. (Apple's subsidiary Beats has no such qualms, having its own Android app.) Apple should win this round, but because of that, and Matt Berry, Cambridge takes it.

** Winner: Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 **

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: noise cancelling

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds with their charging case on a wooden table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Apple's ANC tech is very effective, and noticeably better than the first-gen AirPods Pro. The H2 chip and repositioned vents really do make all the difference – background noise is neutralised nicely, with a comfortable, airy effect that doesn't leave you feeling like your ear canals have been vacuumed like some pairs.

The ANC has some advanced features too, like Adaptive Transparency. This takes the edge off sudden, harsh noises in your environment while using Transparency to allow in some ambient sound. It keeps you aware of your surroundings, but not bothered by them. And Adaptive Audio (which arrived with iOS 17) adjusts the level of ANC depending on the noise levels of your surroundings. It's a subtle effect, but effective, though it would still be nice to be able to adjust it manually.

The M100 are also very capable noise cancellers, and they too adapt to ambient noise. They smooth out harsh noises and take idle office chatter down a few notches on the volume scale. For straight noise cancellation, they're on a par with the AirPods Pro 2, which is very impressive given that a) this is Cambridge's first attempt at ANC, and b) they're a fair bit cheaper than the AirPods.

You can adjust the ANC level yourself in the app – hurrah! – with High, Medium and Low options. There's a transparency mode too, but unfortunately it's not as good as Apple's. Traffic comes through loud and clear, but station announcements less so. There is the option within the app to focus on voices, which does improve things a little, but even with the Transparency on High, it's still a little hard to hear what someone's saying over the sound of the music playing.

** Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2 **

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: sound

A single Apple AirPods Pro 2 earbud being held in hand

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The AirPods Pro 2 deliver Apple's trademark neutral sonic profile but with more weight, detail and dynamic subtlety than previous AirPods. That's down to the low-distortion, high-excursion audio driver, transducer and high dynamic range amplifier which lurk inside each earbud. Combined with the H2 chip's advanced algorithms, it's a sonic tour de force.

The sound is richer and more powerful, while still remaining clean and well organised. And they're superb with vocals. All of which puts them up there with the best-sounding ANC buds available.

Cambridge Audio is one of the most highly respected British hi-fi brands around, so we would expect the M100 to sound pretty great. And they don't disappoint. They're impressively detailed and clear, with an even balance, which makes them comfortable to listen to over longer sessions. Rivals might be more nimble, but their timing is agile enough, though their dynamics are a tad constrained, which tends to impinge on the music's character a bit – rather than letting tracks show off their individuality, they tend to paint them all with the same brush. 

The AirPods Pro 2 are more subtle, but more dynamically interesting at the same time. They're just more fun.

** Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2 **

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 vs AirPods Pro 2: verdict

The AirPods Pro 2 are more feature-packed, sound more fun and have the more sublime noise cancellation. But it's undeniably impressive just how much Cambridge Audio has managed to pack into the M100 – they sound very good (just not great), have ANC and Transparency, and are packed to the gills with features. Their controls aren't quite as intuitive as Apple's, but they do grow on you. And how many pairs of earbuds have Matt Berry as a hidden feature?

The M100 are also quite a bit cheaper than the AirPods Pro 2, and all their features work with Android. Which could well be the deciding factors for many.

If you have the funds, and live in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Pro 2 are the smarter choice. But those are two big 'ifs' that won't apply to a lot of people. If that's you, the M100 are seriously worth considering.


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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.