I have to admit I've never been good friends with in-ear earphones. I either dropped them constantly, felt like they were producing inferior sound, or just thought they looked ugly or not very resistant long-term - not just because I dropped them a lot, but also when it comes to dealing with sweat and water. I was more of a wired boy until very recently, and even though wireless tech has improved a ton, I really didn't see myself going for superlight earbuds after I switched to Sony's over-ear WH-1000XM3 and experienced their amazing, noise-cancelled sound.
I however understand that the in-ear type is way more convenient for several specific uses, including everyday unplanned listening sessions on the go, casual hands-free calls, or even sports, as long as they fit your ears properly. For the past year or so I've been using the JBL Reflect Flow as my sports companions and some times for long walks when it's too warm for the Sony (I live in the warmest area in Spain), as they come seriously sweat and water-proofed and insert that tiny additional 'hook' into your ear to prevent from running drops. But boy do they sound flat.
So why all these precedents? Because I might have found what I thought was impossible, the in-ear earphones that nail the sweet spot between comfort, safety and looks (and price!), while at the same time producing some uplifting waves. I'm talking about the Melomania 1+ by Cambridge Audio, which released in the spring but became more widely available (and cheaper!) during the summer.
Fancy packaging and presentation aside -which nowadays is a given for many manufacturers regardless of their prestige- what really impacted me was the initial playing impression - it was love at first listen. They magically fit in my ears with the default tips, and they didn't fall for the rest of the many hours I used them as I went about that day. More importantly, their sound is something else when it comes to in-ear phones, as I've been able to confirm for the past two weeks of daily usage.
The Melomania 1 Plus's bass is deep, the treble is sharp and the voice is natural but, above all, everything sounds incredibly clean, accurate and well-separated, all considering we're talking about an earphone type that can never reach the performance of the best on-ear or over-ear headphones. The sound stage, no matter the genre, feels truly wide and dynamic, and some parts and instruments surprised me in ways I really wasn't expecting from this tech.
At this point I think I can introduce some comparison notes. Even though Apple's so-popular AirPods can sometimes behave a bit wilder in terms of pure bass, I feel like the clarity of the Melomanias, together with their finer high notes, tip the balance for me. I also like their button-based controls compared to Apple's touch-tech, and whereas I feel like "resetting my brain to defaults" whenever I try to skip song on the too-penetrating JBL, the Cambridge Audio feel clicky, soft, and responsive, even when I hold them to increase/lower the volume.
It is also true that the AirPods keep their bass sweet spot easier thanks to their otherwise fixed design while the Melomanias can lose it more often. However, the latter come with no fewer than 20 (!) tips, including three size silicone variants (S/M/L) and the Comply memory foam alternative, which you can shape to your own ear for best custom fit and isolation. And this is important because not only do you get that punchy bass more permanently, but also because the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ doesn't do any active noise cancelling (ANC).
Now, I love the ANC of the Sony, and I pretty much can't take a flight without it anymore. That being said, the in-ear isolation is always more significant than on-ear, and other than with extreme cases of noise and wind, I honestly really didn't miss it with the Melomanias, which at the same time benefits an astonishing battery life (9 hours plus four 9-hour in-case recharges) and a more reduced price point. By the way, the official recommended price point is around 129.95 Euro, but you can find them around the 100 bucks mark, which is a steal given the quality and comparing these to many others in the same range or even above.
Elsewhere the design follows the same minimalistic trends as of late but has some Cambridge Audio personality to it. The charging/carrying case is dental-floss size, pretty much like the regular AirPods', and can fit your jeans much better than say the Reflect Flow's.
Tech-wise I also enjoyed the companion app, with nice equaliser options, user-friendly tutorial, and codec selector (didn't like how insistently it wants you to provide your location in case you lose your earphones, though). The nice sound comes provided by 5.8 mm drivers, Qualcomm's QCC3026 chip, and aptX/AAC-ready high-res Bluetooth 5.0. The mic for calls isn't the best as expected, but remember to point it downwards for better results, as you won't care given the the cylinder-design.
And so, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ became my new everyday earbuds and just earned a space in my pockets. They surprised me with their natural adjustment from the get go, their sleek design, or their nice controls and accompanying app, but mostly with their clear, well-separated stereo sound with no sign of distortion. They might not cancel the noise of this mechanic keyboard, but made me reconsider my position about in-ear buds.