Top positive review
Cambridge Audio nailed it on their first attempt! The AirPods finally have an "in-ear" rival.
Reviewed in the United States on June 20, 2019
These arrived two days ago and I’ve taken a little time to put them through their paces. I'm impressed. These sound great, the build quality is solid, and the Bluetooth connection is top notch. I have a couple small gripes, but these are great headphones!
First, I’m using these with an iPhone Xs and an iPad Pro, so my experience is limited to whatever limitations are inherent between iOS and the headphones. These use a fairly new Qualcomm Bluetooth 5.0 chip (the QCC3026). The chip was announced last year but very few devices have it as far as I can tell. Like most true wireless headphones, one of the headphones is a slave and the other is the master; but different from most true wireless headphones, this can switch on the fly to balance battery usage between the two headphones (since one has to maintain two connections at all times. In practice, what this means is that two headphones show up in your Bluetooth settings (an L and a R). The phone only shows one as being connected at a time, but this can switch over time (the headphones handle this on their own). Also, if you put the headphones in their case and pull them out again, whichever one you pulled out first will be the master.
• Both headphones work during phone calls. Call quality is acceptable though the microphone placement means it’s not as good as the AirPods. But they work fine. If you use headphones on business calls frequently, I wouldn’t recommend these. I stick to wired headphones for business calls.
• You can use a single headphone just fine. [UPDATE - it appears that single headphone use only plays the right or left channel, not mono. You can of course turn mono on in the phone settings, but it's not automatic.] If you are using two, but then put one in the case, one of two things will happen: If the master is still in your ear, music will continue (though you will hear a few beeps which apparently are some sort of warning that one is in the case. But it will keep working and the beeps stop). If you put the master in the case, then the slave will pause but it will connect to your device and become master. You then just have to hit play to resume playback. So not as smooth as the AirPods, but not a deal breaker. Qualcomm has another bluetooth chip which apparently will allow each headphone to connect to the device like AirPods, but it is limited to working this way with very specific phone hardware that also has to be Qualcomm (apparently there are very few compatible devices for now), so if you're on Apple devices like me, that other chip wouldn't make a difference.
• It’s nice that they support AAC and AptX Bluetooth profiles for better sound quality. With the iPhone, you use AAC but those on many Android devices use AptX. You can actually tell that calls use SBC as you can hear a slight change in quality when a call comes through. Since many headphone makers leave you in the dark about what profile they’re using, it’s nice to get that info right on the box.
• Range: Pretty darn good. This will vary a bit due to your surroundings, but I can leave my phone in my office (at the front of the house) and walk to the back door without any disruptions. If I turn a few more corners into the bedroom, I start to get it cutting out. So that’s at least 45 feet without any walls, and about 30 feet with walls. Obviously, this will depend a lot on your house, but you should have plenty of range for most activities while leaving your device sitting on the counter.
• Connection between the two headphones is rock solid. None of the issues I’ve had with others that didn’t want to connect to each other or occasionally cut out on one earbud.
• iOS reports the battery percentage of both headphones (but not the case).
• Switching devices: This is more of a hassle than I would like. These can be paired with up to 7 devices. Currently, I’ve paired it with just my iPhone and iPad. However, switching is not easy. You can pause your music and then hold a button down. They said they’re in pairing mode and at that point you can select them in the Bluetooth settings of you other device. Every other pair of Bluetooth headphones I have, you can simply switch by selecting the headphones in the settings of the new device. That doesn’t work on these. The headphones seem to ignore the request. The instructions say they should connect automatically to the second device if Bluetooth is turned off on the first device, but so far that hasn’t happened for me. I’m still trying to figure this out and will update my review if I get it figured out. This is a downside compare to the AirPods, which can connect to multiple devices at once and are easily switched; you don’t even have to enter iOS settings since they will appear on all your devices.
I’ll leave it to someone else to write the definitive take on their sound as I’m not really equipped to give more than a cursory review. The truth is I will use these for listening to podcasts/audiobooks about 85% of the time, and they are more than good enough for that. I compared them against a pair of Jaybird X3 Bluetooth headphones, a pair of Etymotic HF3 wired headphones, and the Apple AirPods. The HF3’s are the best sounding of the bunch, but that’s not surprising. Their clarity is superb and it’s not really a fair comparison. Their only weakness is that they are truly balanced, meaning those that love bass won’t find much. But the bass they produce is clear and clean. The Melomania 1 compare pretty closely to the Jaybird X3. They both are pretty good in the bass and mid-tones and they’re not as good up high. They have a bit of a laid-back sound. I find them perfectly acceptable for listening on the go. I’d say they offer a little better sound quality than the AirPods, but not drastically so. But a side-benefit of the sealed nature of how they fit in your ears is that you block off a little outside noise and can generally listen at lower volumes that AirPods. That's actually a big plus.
[UPDATE - after a week of use, I've found these have opened up nicely and they seem less laid back than before and a little more detailed. Frankly, they sound very good.
UPDATE 8.17.2019 - I've seen some reviewers complaining about bass and I honestly have no idea what they're talking about. These have a wonderful bass response. One comparison was to the newest Sony's and it's possible those have even more bass. But I'm not sure why you would want it, these have plenty and frankly, anything more would be bloated and unbalanced. If that's what you want, feel free to get something different as these are pretty nicely balanced and have a gorgeous, full sound.]
While not a clone of the AirPods case, it's pretty close. I've attached a few photos comparing the two, but there's no concern with the case being too big to pocket. They're nearly the identical size, with the Melomania 1 case being ever so slightly larger in each dimension. But the corners are rounded and the material will slide easily into a pocket. Compare to some of the truly ridiculously large cases that sometimes accompany true wireless headphones - I'm looking at you Sony, as well as the Powerbeats Pro - this is a relief. The angled top of the case when open is a clever way to make it easier to pull out the Melomania 1 than the AirPods.
[UPDATE 8.17.2019 - I feel like the case is the unsung hero here. Just like the AirPods, it's so small and easy to pocket. I pretty much take them everywhere, just in case. I have not had the same experience with other headphones with bulky cases and I simply love them.]
The case does not connect to the phone in any way (unlike the AirPods), so you rely on the battery display on the front, which lights up when you open the case. I haven’t been able to confirm the battery life of the case. I fully charged it two days ago when I received them in the late afternoon and I haven’t plugged it in since. I’d say I’ve used the Melomania 1 for about 8 hours since then, and let them charge overnight last night in the case. The case now shows 4 out of 5 lights on the charge display (with full batteries on the headphones). I’m not going to plug it in again until it’s dead to see how long I can go, and I’ll update.
Everything here feels solid and well-made. The headphone body and case are made out of a smooth matte plastic. It’s not sticky at all, so no issue sliding the case in and out of your pocket, it’s hard like the AirPods case but not polished smooth. The buttons on each headphone are easy enough to click without touching the rest of the headphone but I prefer to hold the headphone between two fingers and then press the button when I’m doing anything that requires holding the button down. It’s also nice that you don’t have to search for the buttons, they’re just the full end on each of the headphones. Can’t comment on the waterproofing as I’m not planning on getting these wet (other than sweat during a workout which has never been an issue for me, even with headphones with no waterproofing).
The controls are pretty easy to figure out and it’s nice to be able to adjust volume on the headphones. The buttons work a little differently than other wireless headphones I’ve had, but they include a nice little card the size of a business card in the box to carry around in your wallet until you’re familiar. Nothing particularly difficult, just a small learning curve.
This is a hugely subjective category, but has been my biggest issue shopping for truly wireless headphones. I have pretty large ear canals (probably from sleeping with earplugs for the better part of the last 20 years) and besides the AirPods (which I just find uncomfortable), I haven't been able to get a good fit with any of the others I've tried except the Sony WF-SP700N (which were very problematic in other areas - horrible case and pitiful battery life). I've also tried the Jabra Elite 65t, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, and the JLabs Jbuds Air. Nothing fit right. I think the Melomania 1 are going to work for me. I will say that the three included ear tip sizes (medium size is in both silicon and foam) are surprisingly small. Again, I have large ears, but I also have an assortment of large ear tips that I use on other earphones, and the ones supplied here are smaller than average. While it's not an issue for wearing them, the issue I have run up against with other earphones is using third-party ear tips with the charging cases (the others have unusually shallow tips. The Melomania tips are normal depth but small in circumference). Happily, I was able to find some that fit okay in the case and allow the earphones to charge but are still large enough for my ears (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CZMDJFZ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1). The fit in the case is a little tighter than I would prefer, and they don't slide in quite as nicely as with the supplied tips, but this is something I can live with. After a couple days, I’m finding they slide into place easier than on day one, so I don’t think it will be a problem. They’re still not as comfortable as earphones with a very narrow body that don’t touch the sides of my ears (my wired earphones are Etymotic and are wonderful), but I think they’ll be okay.
I’ve only had these two days, so it’s hard to say if they live up to their purported battery life. Like I mentioned elsewhere, iOS displays battery percentages for both earphones. The case displays battery life with 5 small lights on the front. 9 hours is pretty impressive, providing a full work day of sound on a single charge. Plus you can get another 4 charges from the case for something around 45 hours. Frankly, this blows away almost every other wireless headphone (I saw that JLabs just announced some similar to the Powerbeats Pro with a total of 70 hours of use between the headphones and charging case, but other than those, these are the best I know of) I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in everyday use, but based on my normal usage, I’m looking at least a week of normal use per charge of the case, which is great.
[UPDATE - It's now been a little over a week since I received these and charged them up fully. I haven't plugged the case in to charge since then and I have two out of five lights (showing roughly 40% battery life left in the case, plus my headphones are currently fully charged. I've been using them as I normally do, with several hours of music playback during the day while I work, an occasional phone call, audiobooks and podcasts while I take care of stuff around the house, etc. I should clarify that I use both headphones at the same time, as it's possible to use a single one at a time which would extend battery life by a good amount. It's hard to overstate how impressed I am with the battery on these things. I'm going to keep using them until they die, I'm guessing around the two week mark. We're basically entering Kindle battery life with these things, which is tremendous.
UPDATE 8.17.2019 - So I'm getting about two weeks of my normal use per charge to the case/headphones. I took them on a 3-week long road trip where I used them more than normal, sometimes for 7 or 8 hours a day, and I only had to charge them up once. Pretty impressive. I can't imagine anyone will have any complaints about battery life with the headphones themselves or the case.]
There is a single pogo pin in the bottom of the case that makes contact with the metal guard over the driver (I've never seen this setup but it seems to work just fine), and the silver band around each headphone makes contact with a metal band around the inside of the case. I'm guessing those are the two points of contact for charging purposes. A strong magnet pulls each earphone into place and holds it while it charges, similar to the AirPods (probably 1.5x the strength of the AirPod magnet, likely because unlike the AirPods, the inside of the top of the case isn't molded to the shape of the headphone so the magnet is all that keeps them in place). And of course there is a micro-USB charging port on the side of the case to plug into whatever micro-USB charger you may have out there (a cable is provided in the box). A lot of people will probably complain that this isn’t USB-C, but honestly, with the total battery time between case and earphones you can carry around, you are unlikely to need to carry any charging cable unless you’re going out of town for a few days.
Cambridge Audio is a storied brand and are well-known in audiophile circles. They have done an amazing job considering these aren’t just their first true wireless headphones, these are actually the first headphones they’ve ever made. They’ve nailed a lot of things that other companies that have been making headphones for years are still having issues with (like Bluetooth connection, case size, battery life, etc.). I've been waiting a long time for true wireless headphones I can live with. I think the Melomania 1 are what I’ve been looking for.
[Edit: I just wanted to add that my headphones developed an issue with static a couple months ago. Obviously this wasn't a great development, but Cambridge Audio was easy to work with and quickly replaced them without a hassle. Great service in addition to a great product.]