When Cambridge Audio announced a new model in its inaugural and two-time What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Melomania line-up, we heaved a collective sigh of relief. The Melomania 1 Plus (or Melomania 1+) promise the same look and feel of their decorated older sibling, the original Melomania 1, but with additional app support, customisable EQ settings and the British audio firm's innovative High-Performance Audio Mode.
There’s a new colourway, too – gone is the ‘stone’ grey hue we lovingly dubbed ‘NHS Grey’. Here, the upgrades are hard to spot to the naked eye, but then again, beauty is usually in the detail. Melomania 1 Plus launched in early 2021 at £120 ($140, AU$185), but we've been seeing extraordinary deals on the buds since – you can get them for as low as £40 / $50 in November 2022.
So how good do they sound, and are they worth upgrading to?
Build and comfort
The fresh white finish of our Melomania 1 Plus charging case sample (also available in black) is a matte affair and a solid upgrade on its predecessor. It feels cool, tactile, more pebble-like and means that fingerprint smudges no longer collect on the perfectly sized case.
Bluetooth version 5.0
Finishes x2 (black, white)
Battery life Up to 45 hours (low power mode)
Dimensions 2.7 x 1.5cm
Weight 5.6g (each)
The five-strong row of LEDs to indicate battery life remains, just below the snappy flip-top lid. The 'L' and 'R' on each earpiece, underneath the tiny LED light on each, are now written in electric blue lettering. You now get a USB-C fast charging port, too.
Although multiple ear tips were promised to ensure a secure fit, what Cambridge has done is double up on its standard small, medium and large offerings, so you now get two sets of each rather than one.
There are also two sets of medium and large ‘memory foam’ options, but curiously no small option. The memory foam tips are only supplied in black, too – the regular tips are white – which spoils the ice-white aesthetic somewhat.
The bullet-shaped buds are practically identical in build to the Melomania 1 – each weighs the same 4.6g, boasts IPX5 certification against rain and sweat, houses a 5.8mm graphene-enhanced driver and boasts Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity with aptX and AAC codec support.
The Melomania 1 Plus boast up to nine hours of battery life on a single charge plus four extra charges from the case, which adds up to an impressive 45 hours of total playtime when in Low Power mode. In the default High-Performance mode, you’ll get seven hours from a charge or 35 hours in total courtesy of four more blasts from the case, which is still highly competitive.
In comparison, our new 2022 Award-winner and benchmark for budget wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-C500, offer 10 hours of battery life in the buds, going up to a mere 20 hours total with the charging case.
Pairing is easy using the handy quick start guide. Only one earpiece needs to be paired on your device; the second bud (labelled ‘Handset’) will simply request a connection to it – and that only needs to be done once. During our tests, the connection between both units and our device remains secure and snag-free.
Possibly the biggest upgrade with this new iteration is support for the free Melomania app, which is now considerably more stable than it used to be. With it comes the ability to customise the EQ settings yourself or pick from six presets, check the battery level of each earbud, locate misplaced earbuds on a map, and receive firmware updates.
Touch controls here involve pressing the circular button on each bud and we find these intuitive and useful. Holding down the right one increases volume, while holding down the left lowers it – simple and effective. A single press of either earpiece starts or pauses playback, two skips forward a track (right earbud) or back a song (left earbud), and three presses of the right bud calls up Siri on our iPhone – although note that they can also access the Google Assistant.
These controls are so reliable that we rarely dig out our smartphone when testing them in transit. That should be a given, but it hasn’t always been our experience when testing competing buds at this price.
Cambridge has advised wearers to position the earpieces so that the recessed circle within the circular top surface of the driver housing is at its lowest point so that the MEMS mic in each bud can perform to its fullest. We do so and are able to enjoy clear voice calls.
The good news is that with low power mode deployed, you’ll get a performance that is on a par with the originals.
Switching back to High-Performance Audio and with all EQ levels unaltered, we’re treated to an impactful and expansive presentation of Kate Bush’s And Dream Of Sheep (a Tidal Master file). The keys feel three-dimensional in our left ear as Bush’s vocal soars through the frequencies centrally, backed by samples of seagulls, pared-back guitar picking, wind instruments and spoken word. When the brooding storm builds, the Melomania 1 Plus deliver it dutifully and with remarkable clarity for this level. This is a small but definite improvement on their older sibling for layering and detail.
Instruments such as the slinking bass, Wurlitzer and saxophone at the outset of Beck’s Debra are organised with precision and given an extra few yards of space within the mix, too. The low-level, call-to-action vocal before the verse is often lost in muddier bass registers of lesser headphones, but not here. Beck’s distinctive voice is emotive and held masterfully in check even as the intensity builds. Through the mids and treble, we’re aware of the step-up in terms of clarity and refinement over the original Melos.
Through heavier tracks such as Eminem’s Stan, the teeming rain sounds natural at the window as Stan’s scrawl cuts through with clarity, underpinned by an accurate and regimented bassline. There are marginal gains to be had over the originals in terms of the dynamic build too. The leading edges of notes are marginally cleaner in the updated set of in-ears, as demonstrated by the initial synth strings in Dr Dre’s Forget About Dre.
In our review of the five-star Panasonic RZ-S500W, we said that in direct comparison, the older Melomania buds suffered marginally for detail. That balance is now redressed with the Melomania 1 Plus. Whether you prefer the Panasonic proposition over the Melomanias will likely come down to the former's noise-cancelling or teardrop design, neither of which features in the Cambridge earbuds. But for an engaging, detailed, expansive listen, the Melomania 1 Plus are very much back in the running for best at this level.
The Award-winning Sony WF-C500 take the performance that one step higher, with an even-handed balance, fine insight and impressively neutral tonality that won us over at this price point (tested at 89 / $79 / AU$149 - but you can find the Sonys on also-excellent £50 / $50 deals in November 2022).
Cambridge Audio’s compact, fuss-free and affordable design was a hit with us the first time around in 2019. The addition of a slicker paint job, app support for EQ customisation and the step-up in sonic detail and refinement – without the anticipated price hike – only makes us want to heap extra praise upon the new Melomania 1 Plus.
The buds can also be found at a significant discount in 2022, making them a real value proposition. There’s no noise-cancelling onboard, but those who don’t need it shouldn't hesitate to add these affordable Melomanias to their shortlist.
- Sound 5
- Comfort 4
- Build 4
Read our guide to the best wireless earbuds
Read our Sony WF-C500 review
Read our Panasonic RZ-S500W review