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Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?
(Image credit: Sony)

It seems like only yesterday that wireless earbuds seemed a bit of a novelty, and now the market's flooded with them. When it comes to the best wireless earbuds, there's a huge amount of variety on offer, from budget pairs, to high-end, to those made for sports and those that promise marathon battery life.

These are two of the best. The Sony WF-1000XM3s have been among our favourite wireless earbuds since we first clapped ears on them. (Lately, we've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their successors, the WF-1000XM4s.) But they're not the only game in town. The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s offer superb battery life and excellent sound and come in far cheaper than the Sonys.

The fight is on. If you're wondering which would be best for you, or just want to know more about wireless earbuds and what they offer, read on as we compare these two pairs spec by spec.

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: price

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

If price is your only consideration, the Cambridge Audios are the best wireless earbuds out of the two. They were £120 ($130) at launch, but can regularly be found for around £100 ($100).

The Sonys are more expensive, but less so than they were originally. At launch, they would have set you back £220 ($230), though they are much cheaper now, going for around £170 ($228). And with a successor on the way, it seems likely that the price will drop again soon.

**Winner** Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: battery life

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Sony)

Of course, price isn't the only consideration when looking for the best wireless earbuds. Battery life comes is also very important, especially if you're using them on your commute or when you're away from a plug for long periods of time (when camping, for example). It's also handy if you forget to charge them up.

The Melomania 1s excel in this area. The earbuds keep going for nine hours before needing to be juiced up, but the real coup is the carry case, which packs an incredible 36 hours of extra battery life. That makes for 45 hours of listening before you need to plug them into the mains. Epic.

The Sonys only manage a little over half this time. The earbuds give you six hours of juice, with an extra 18 hours in the case. That gives you a total of 24 hours of run time. Not bad, certainly. But no match for the Melomania 1s.

**Winner** Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: design

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

The look and feel of the earbuds will have a huge impact on what they're like to use. After all, if they're ugly, uncomfortable and difficult to control, you're not going to want to put them in your ears.

Size-wise, the Sonys sit somewhere in the middle of the pack – not as petite as the Melomanias, but not as bulky as the Bose SoundSport Frees. Thanks to their black or silver paint job, they look suitably premium, as you would hope from a pair with their price tag. 

There's a touch-sensitive control pad on the outer part of each earbud, and they stay nicely in place thanks to Sony's ‘Tri-hold structure’, which focuses on three key points in your ear to give the headphones better support. There is even a special high-friction rubber on the surface of the main chamber to help with stability.

They come with no fewer than seven different sizes of earbud – four ‘hybrid silicone’ buds and three ‘triple-comfort’ buds – which is more than with many rivals. The headphones enter the ear at a slight downward angle, you then have to twist them up to lock them in place. The intrusion is kept to a minimum, but you still feel nicely isolated.

Overall, they're a comfortable, balanced fit, and feel firmly enough in place to wear while doing light exercise.

The Melomania 1s are less appealing to the eye. In fact, with their stone grey hue, they have a whiff of the medical about them. Four sets of ear tips should suffice for most people, though some team members needed to experiment a bit to get them securely in place.

The control method is similar to that of the Sonys, with a series of taps used to execute certain functions. But for their sleeker look and feel, we prefer the Sonys in this round.

**Winner** Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: features

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Sony)

The Sonys are packed with features. They boast noise-cancelling, support SBC and AAC codecs (but not aptX HD Bluetooth), and they work with the Sony Headphones Connect app. This shows the battery level of each earpiece and the case, lets you alter the built-in equaliser, enable Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant support, and flip the functions of the touch controls – useful for any left-handers who feel more comfortable this way.

There's also an Ambient Sound mode, which allows in a bit more outside noise than noise-cancelling, and a Quick Attention feature, which lets you hold a conversation without having to pause your music or take them out.

The Melomania 1s are altogether more pared back. They have a noise-cancelling mic, but it's only for making calls sound clearer or talking to your voice assistant, not for blocking background noise so you can focus on your music. There's no app either. While some will undoubtedly prefer this simpler, no-frills approach, it does mean you miss out on some features compared to the Sonys (an equaliser, for instance).

**Winner** Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: sound quality

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: which should you buy?

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

The Sonys produce a wonderfully musical sound. Instruments sound natural and believable, there’s subtlety in spades but also plenty of power and poise. Bass is weighty and wholesome, but punchy and agile too. There’s a real sense of musicality and balance.

The level of transparency is nicely judged as well – poor recordings aren’t dressed up, but better than average tracks really sing. 

Part of the credit for this superb sound quality has to go to the noise cancelling functionality. With it on, you can hear more of the track, and without turning up the volume and potentially damaging your hearing. Sony has done an excellent job here.

The Melomania 1s do a good job sonically, but they're not in the same league as the XM3s. They dig up plenty of insight, the treble is clean and delicate, and the soundstage expansive. They sound good. Really good. Just nowhere near as good as the Sonys. Which is rather what you'd expect given the difference in price.

**Winner** Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Cambridge Audio Melomania 1: verdict

Both pairs of earbuds have their strengths. The Sonys are more appealing visually and have more features, while the Cambridge Audios are cheaper and have much longer battery life. Sonically speaking, though, there's no competition: the Sonys are among the best-sounding wireless earbuds you can buy at any price, while the Melomanias are simply built to a lower budget.

Even so, there's plenty to like about the cheaper Cambridge Audio pair, not least of all the marathon battery life. And if your budget doesn't stretch to the Sonys, they are a very capable alternative.

MORE:

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

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