Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review

Can Cambridge Audio bring its hi-fi talents to its first ANC earbuds? Tested at £169 / $219

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds in case held in hand
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

They’re not perfect, but the M100 are well-designed and easy-listening earbuds with crowd-pleasing features for the price

Pros

  • +

    Clean, detailed, spacious sound

  • +

    Balanced and composed presentation

  • +

    Ample features and effective ANC

Cons

  • -

    Could have more energy and drive

  • -

    Rivals offer better dynamic contrast

  • -

    Transparency mode is poor

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The best feature of Cambridge Audio’s latest wireless earbuds, the Melomania M100, isn’t the fact that they have active noise-cancellation for the first time, or that their long battery life beats most rivals, or even that they are powered by Class A/B amplification, the type we normally associate with hi-fi amplifiers.

Those things are all true, incidentally, but the very best feature is a hidden one: it’s that one of the voices that announces the earbuds’ connection and the different noise modes is that of actor and comedian, Toast Of London himself, Matt Berry.

We need to get this out of the way first, because absolutely nothing will prepare you for how sudden and loud and joyous it is to hear Matt Berry’s extremely distinctive voice bellow “Transparency!” or “Normal!” or “Game Mode On!” at you. There aren’t many wireless earbuds – or even tech products – these days that can boast such a quirky and enticing celebrity tie-in that genuinely grabs our attention. Hang your spatial audio and special finishes; we want Laszlo Cravensworth accompanying us in our ears at all times.

For this special voice guest Easter egg alone, the new M100 are worth considering. Luckily, they have plenty of other good features and perform admirably for a pair of well-priced wireless earbuds, too.

Price

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 cost £169 / $219, and it’s quite impressive just how much a brand can pack into this mid-price range these days. There are many contenders from brands such as Audio-Technica, Jabra, Technics and Huawei in this price bracket, but none have won us over with a five-star performance. The M100’s closest competitor in this range right now is the Apple AirPods Pro 2, which are available for £199 in the UK at the time of writing, but a more premium $259 in the US.

We have more disappointing news for our friends down under, as the new Melomania M100 buds are not available to buy in Australia.

Build & comfort

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds in case on red surface

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Melomania M100 sport a teardrop-like design instead of the bullet-style shape of the previous five-star Melomania 1 Plus buds, and they happily don’t protrude out of the ears too much. The black finish with subtle silver accents looks rather smart, too.

The M100 buds are light and comfortable to wear. We found a good, secure fit straight away, but there are five pairs of eartips included in the box in two materials – three silicone, two foam – in various sizes to help you get the best fit for you. There is no eartip fit test in the app, which we tend to find helpful for getting the best seal for sound quality, but all members of the review team who tried them during testing found them easy and secure to wear during commutes and in daily use around the office and house.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 tech specs

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

Type True wireless earbuds 

Bluetooth version 5.3

Codec support SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, aptX Lossless, LC3

Active noise-cancelling? Yes

Spatial Audio? No

Battery life 10 hours (ANC on); 16 hours (ANC off); total 52 hours (with charging case)

Earbuds weight 6.65g

Charging case weight 53.3g

Finishes x 1 (black)

Inside each earbud are 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. We wouldn’t call these sport or fitness-friendly earbuds as there are no wings or stabilising bands, but the IPX4 splashproof rating is decent enough to survive the drizzly British weather. 

You can control music playback, change volume, answer calls, cycle through noise modes and summon a voice assistant by using the touch controls on each earbud’s surface. They respond well enough, although we do occasionally find the need to make a second, firmer tap to make the action stick. However, we prefer this to a hyper-sensitive touchpad that gets activated by accidental brushes. All actions are straightforward (single tap for play and pause, double taps for previous or next track, a long press for volume change, and so on) and become more intuitive to use over time.

You can toggle all these touch control options on or off to your liking in the brand-new Melomania Connect app, available for iOS and Android devices. You can’t reassign controls to a different earbud, although that’s a bonus feature we don’t miss too much at this price point.

Features

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The biggest headline when it comes to wireless earbud features is that Cambridge Audio has finally included active noise-cancellation (ANC) – and a Transparency mode – in its Melomania headphones range. We’ll dive deeper into the M100’s ANC quality in the next section, below.

Cambridge Audio has focused a lot of attention on making the Melomania M100 earbuds as future-proofed as possible when it comes to Bluetooth codec support. With Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio on board, there’s support for aptX Lossless CD-quality streams, next-gen Auracast and the more efficient LC3 codec, when they become available in the near future.

For now, the basic AAC and SBC codecs and the higher-quality aptX Adaptive are also available and more widely compatible with current devices. We found the M100 paired with our smartphones and laptops swiftly, with no connection dropouts marring our listening experience when streaming from Tidal and Apple Music

More useful for daily listening is just how impressive the battery life is, especially for a mid-price design. The M100 boast a potential 52 hours from the buds and charging case combined. How? The earbuds offer ten hours on a single charge with ANC on, but this extends to 16 hours if you keep ANC turned off. That’s more than you get from the flagship models of Sony WF-1000XM5 (eight), Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 (7.5) and AirPods Pro 2 (six). You get more than two extra cycles with the charging case, and ten minutes of fast charging will top the M100s up for two to four hours (depending on ANC mode). Neat.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds on wooden top with one bud out of case

Special finish: limited M100 How High Edition versions for charity. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Fire up the newly designed Melomania Connect app and you’ll find plenty of additional features that add to the M100 experience. There are six EQ presets and a seven-band graphic equaliser so you can fully tailor the earbuds’ sound to your music tastes. There’s no spatial audio, but you can turn on a ‘wear sensor’ that pauses music when a bud is taken out of the ear. We find this feature very useful and responsive in Apple and Sony earbuds, but it’s a little flaky in the M100 and doesn’t always work as expected. We hope a firmware update can iron out this inconsistency.

Other features include multipoint connection, gaming mode (with reduced latency for better audio/visual sync), a mono mode (when sharing a bud with a friend) and a sleep mode (deactivates all touch controls and voice prompts when wearing buds to bed). You can also, as mentioned above, choose different voices and languages for the feedback prompts; pick “Southwark” for Matt Berry, or switch to a standard voice, just tones or turn entirely off if you’re not a fan.

ANC quality

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds in front of case on wooden table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

How does the M100’s hybrid ANC quality compare to that of more established rivals? Quite well, actually. It offers effective ANC regardless of how the earbuds fit in your ear and adapts according to your surroundings’ noise levels.

We use the earbuds on busy, high-traffic streets, on the train and in the office, and we like how well the full ANC mode damps down noise. It smooths out any harsh noises and dims office chatter effectively, while a train engine’s deep rumblings are reduced to silky smoothness. It’s nearly on par with the noise-cancelling quality of the AirPods Pro 2, which is to say it’s very good indeed for this price.

You can even adjust the level of ANC in the app, with High, Medium and Low options available for how much you want the outside world to be silenced. 

The Transparency mode’s effect is less successful. We are aware of traffic and surrounding noise when crossing a busy street, but in a quiet train carriage, announcements over the tannoy aren’t easily heard. Delving into the app, we find there are High and Low options, as well as a Voice Focus option. The latter makes voices heard more clearly, but we find it odd that all outside noise isn’t pumped through equally in the High mode. We also find that it’s still rather hard to hear over the volume of the song playing, which makes the point of this Transparency mode less useful for staying fully aware of your surroundings while wearing the buds. 

Sound

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds in front of case on wooden table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Play Paradise Circus or Teardrop by Massive Attack on Tidal, and there’s a huge area of space in which instruments and vocals can play. These Cambridge Audio buds are impressively detailed and clear, with every drum snap, synth crackle and breathy vocal coming through with crisp detail. It’s a very clean sound too, allowing us to turn the volume up to levels we really shouldn’t recommend, without getting too fatigued. 

They have an even balance overall, with no part of the frequency range sticking out. The top end is clean and smooth, with no undue bright or sharp edges. Phil Collins and Philip Bailey’s Easy Lover is a great example here: the initial fanfare of high notes can so easily sound brash and splashy on lesser earbuds. On the Melomania M100, they are controlled and composed. 

They’re comfortable to listen to. At the lower end, the potent bass notes of Massive Attack's Paradise Circus and Angel, and also Forget About Dre, are shapely and taut. There’s enough solidity for piano notes to sound substantial, and while we’ve heard more nimble presentations, the M100 aren’t slothful when it comes to timing.

We do find that the M100’s dynamics are rather constrained. We’d like to hear more variations in the dynamic ebb and flow of a song, and a wider scope of dynamic contrast that would liven up the M100’s presentation. Next to the more agile, subtle and more dynamically interesting AirPods Pro 2, the M100 could do with an energy shot to better relay the momentum and rhythmic drive of songs. 

What ultimately robs the M100 of that fifth star is that they impinge this particular sonic character over all songs, rather than bending to every song’s inherent musicality. It’s also not quite deft at revealing the differences in recordings and genres as we go through our playlists. Salt-N-Pepa’s playful, sultry ’90s R&B tunes have a different feel to the wild, frenetic energy of a noughties’ System Of A Down metal track, just as a ’70s-era Fleetwood Mac recording will have a quality that’s distinct from the slickly produced sheen of a modern day Dua Lipa album. The M100 tends to paint them all with the same brush, and we wish they were more deft at letting the music shine through more faithfully. 

Verdict

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 wireless earbuds with alternate yellow tip in hand

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Melomania M100 are well-designed wireless earbuds with fun and flagship-bothering features that are worth considering at this price. They aren’t without their faults, but their clear, detailed, balanced sound and effective ANC make them an easy-going pair that’s recommendable if you don’t want to pay premium prices.

SCORES

  • Sound 4
  • Features 4
  • Comfort 5

MORE:

Read our review of the Apple AirPods Pro 2

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

Also consider the Technics EAH-AZ60M2

Best wireless earbuds: top pairs tested by our experts

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