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Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: smooth sound that goes the distance

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 in charging case, lid open, held in hand.
Cambridge Audio Melomania M100
MSRP $219.00
“Killer sound and massive battery life help the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 stand out from the crowd.”
Pros
  • Clear, detailed sound
  • Lots of EQ adjustment
  • Lossless audio for compatible devices
  • Bluetooth Multipoint
  • Excellent battery life
  • Wireless charging
Cons
  • Quirky noise canceling
  • Must remove both buds to pause
  • May be too big for small ears
  • Can't customize controls

Since we have effectively reached the era of peak wireless earbuds — a moment when even very affordably priced products meet the listening needs of all but the most discerning buyers — it’s gotten hard for many companies to differentiate. It has proven so difficult for brands to compete in this new landscape that Jabra (one of the earliest and most successful wireless earbud makers) has abandoned the category entirely.

That might help explain why Cambridge Audio thinks it can succeed with its new Melomania M100 earbuds. With deep roots in audiophile-caliber hi-fi components — specifically receivers and amplifiers — Cambridge is bringing some of that know-how to bear on the M100. Instead of the usual Class D amplifiers that power most wireless earbuds, the M100 use Class AB amps. To a casual audience, that might not mean much. But it’s like catnip for hi-fi enthusiasts because it’s the same amplification technology that’s found in their favorite gear.

There’s more to the M100, like lossless audio and a $219 price that undercuts flagships from Sony, Bose, Apple, and Sennheiser by as much as $80. Is it enough to give Cambridge a seat at the table and a home in your ears? After several weeks with them, the answer is yes, but not without a few caveats.

Editor’s note: Until the end of July 2024, Cambridge Audio is selling the M100 for just $159 — a remarkably steep discount for such a new and promising product.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 plus accessories.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Melomania M100 definitely evoke the understated design cues of hi-fi components. Smooth, semi-gloss black plastic and a thin highlight of silver give the earbuds and case a sophisticated, high-end look. When in your ears, the only hint of the Cambridge brand is its circle-within-a-circle logo. It’s so subtle you’d need to get very close to notice it.

The earbuds are a bit on the hefty side. Like most stemless designs, they occupy much of the ear’s concha — no problem if your ears are big enough to accommodate them, but these will be a challenging fit for those with smaller ears.

I found them to be similar in fit to the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 — they’re comfortable enough for longer periods. The inclusion of two sizes of foam eartips (in addition to three sizes of silicone tips) helped with both comfort and stability. Once inserted, they barely moved at all, even when working out. Speaking of that, with an IPX4 rating, the M100 should have no trouble with sweat or rain as long as you wipe them clean after each use.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 in charging case, lid open.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The case itself is not IP-rated, so it’s best to keep it away from water. It’s also on the bigger side, and once again the Sennheiser comparison is apt — neither is as pocketable as the Apple AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM5.

You get wireless charging plus standard USB-C (cable included), and its clamshell lid creates a generous opening for accessing the buds.

I have a strong preference for physical buttons, but I had no problem with the Melomania M100’s touch controls, which were easy to tap and very responsive. By default, you can control all of the M100’s features including playback, volume, track skipping, phone calls, ANC mode, and voice assistant access. The Melomania app lets you disable any of these gestures, but you can’t customize them. In other words, play/pause is always a single tap on the right earbud, ANC mode is always a single tap on the left, etc. The only exception is if you choose to use one earbud on its own, in which case all of the commands normally available on the right earbud get transposed to the left earbud when it’s running solo.

I’m fine with this arrangement but for one small complaint: There’s no way to toggle between ANC and transparency modes without going through the “normal” (ANC off) mode. Since I typically spend my time in ANC — only rarely popping into transparency mode — it’s not very convenient to tap my way through normal each time.

The M100 are also equipped with wear sensors for auto-pausing and resuming your music, which is a handy feature that is becoming increasingly common. What is far less common — and actually unique in my experience — is the way this works on the M100. To pause your tunes, you must remove both earbuds and replace both to resume, which is, well, a lot less handy.

Pairing the M100 is easy — especially on Android thanks to Google Fast Pair — and switching between two paired devices via Bluetooth Multipoint is totally seamless. Cambridge says we’ll get LE Audio and Auracast compatibility with a future firmware update.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100: both earbuds in front of charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As you’d expect, given my intro and Cambridge’s reputation, the Melomania M100 sound great. Even before you dig into the Melomania app’s impressive 7-band equalizer, the tuning on these earbuds offers a finely balanced sound signature, with a tonality that is both warm and clear.

I often find that factory tuning produces boosted frequencies (typically the highs, though occasionally the lows too), but I was perfectly content listening to the M100 right out of the box.

Bass is both snappy and authoritative, with no bloating. There’s excellent clarity throughout the mids and highs, and vocals seemed to come through with a particularly strong level of detail.

Simon Cohen wearing Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 (side view).
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Jazz standards like Dave Brubeck’s Take Five deliver the resonance that I always listen for, and tracks like the Cowboy Junkies’ Misguided Angel are appropriately spacious, thanks to the generous and precise soundstage.

I’m not sure I can definitively say that I can tell the difference between Cambridge’s AB amplification and the normal Class D. The only way to be absolutely sure would be if the company created two versions of the M100, thereby eliminating all of the other variables. Still, I did notice a smoothness in the way volume increases. Some earbuds have a distinct sweet spot for sound quality. The Sennheiser Accentum Wireless Earbuds, for instance, don’t fulfill their potential until you hit the 65% to 75% level. With the M100, the difference between 50% and 100% is simply the amount of power. Even at full blast (not recommended for more than a few seconds), distortion was barely perceptible.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100: one earbud in front of charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Of course, this could also be thanks to the 10mm drivers that Cambridge used, which are nearly 50% larger than the ones you’ll find in most earbuds.

Making tweaks with the app-based equalizer is both fun and easy. You can start with any of the six available presets if you’re an EQ expert, and then make your own changes. You can lock in up to 20 of your recipes — that’s a fantastic amount of freedom and control.

Cambridge has also incorporated Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform, which, for the lucky few who have a compatible smartphone, gives you lossless CD-quality transmission over Bluetooth. This feature is wasted on lesser earbuds, and don’t even try to appreciate it if you’re not in a quiet location. But if you are (and if you have access to a lossless source of audio), you may notice that music sounds less harsh, especially at either end of the frequency spectrum. Play a few tracks that you know like the back of your hand and you may also hear added detail through the mids that you didn’t even realize had been missing.

That’s a lot of ifs, and further, the benefits of aptX Lossless are most noticeable when jumping back and forth with a device that only supports lossy codecs like SBC and AAC. Still, it’s real enough when you hear it.

The M100’s noise-canceling can be an uneven experience. When it’s good, it greatly diminishes a variety of unwanted noises, from traffic sounds to the music your gym insists on playing even though there’s no way that 100 sweaty people all have the same taste.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 in charging case, lid open (side view).
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

However, Cambridge chose to use Qualcomm’s adaptive ANC, and I don’t think it got the engineering quite right. At random intervals, the ANC would let sounds in, like the roar of a truck going by. I could never predict which sounds would trigger it or why, moments later, it would revert back to silence. When asked, Cambridge Audio couldn’t really say why either, other than to suggest that maybe it was trying to adapt to changes in the fit of the earbud. Regardless of the reason, it would be great to see adaptive ANC as an option that can be disabled.

Transparency mode works well, and you can choose how intense to make it — there’s even a mode that focuses on voices. Unfortunately, the one voice it can’t focus on is your own, so conversations were never quite as natural-sounding as I would have liked. Not that I can lay the blame for this on Cambridge — it’s a very common weakness shared by almost all ANC earbuds that aren’t made by Apple, Sony, or Bose.

Simon Cohen wearing Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 (quarter-rear view).
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

That same lack of self-voice clarity (or sidetone as it’s sometimes called) can be fatiguing when using the M100 for calls. Most of what you hear of your own voice will come via bone conduction, which is muffled and dull.

In quiet locations, the mics do an excellent job of transmitting your voice to your callers, but that quality deteriorates the noisier things get. On the plus side, your callers may never be aware that you’re walking down a busy street — those sounds are effectively canceled — but your voice will get increasingly wobbly and compressed as the system is forced to compensate.

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 charging case (rear).
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

It’s hard to complain about the M100’s battery life. With a claimed 10 hours of playtime per charge with ANC on and a huge 16 hours when it’s off, most days you won’t come close to draining them. If you do, the charging case has another 23 (or 36) hours in the bank, for up to 52 hours of total listening time. You could fly around the world in that time and never need to go looking for power.

Should you need a quick top-up, 10 minutes will buy you an extra 1.5 or 2.4 hours, respectively.

The Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 earbuds are not without their flaws, but in general, they’re an outstanding value for folks who place a strong emphasis on sound quality above all. Some of the quirks — like ANC mode switching and the need to remove both earbuds for auto-pause — may get addressed over time with firmware updates. I’m not as optimistic that the glitchy ANC behavior is as easy to fix. Still, the M100 offer a premium sound experience for a price that’s within reach for a lot of buyers.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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