I have for some time been looking for some bluetooth earbuds for use when the bulk of my Bowers & Wilkins PX headhhones - a full over-ear noise-cancelling headset - is inappropriate, like when am gardening!
My wife has a pair of Apple AirPods, which appeal because they are an Apple product and so meshes perfectly with the rest of the Apple ecosystem - great for our all-Apple household! However, they are not an option as thy simply don’t fit my ears.
When the AirPods Pro, with their sealed fit to the ear and active noise cancellation arrived on the market, they were a temptation, but one I had little difficult resisting simply because of the price (£259)! And so, after much research, I recently ordered a pair of the much cheaper, but well-reviewed, Cambridge Audio Melomania earbuds (£99).
I have been simply blown away by these things. Sure, they don’t compete with the B&W PX - but I wouldn’t expect them to. For earbuds the sound quality is excellent, crisp and sharp, frequency range is good, and despite not having active noise cancellation (well, not for listening!), they seal so well into the ear that they act as quite effective ear-plugs, so ambient noise is rarely a problem.
Similarly, the battery life is spectacular, with 9 hours between recharging the buds, and 5 such charges in the case when fully charged. This fits perfectly with my intended usage. The controls (stop/start, next/previous track, volume up/down) are simple and easy to use, though there is a slight but noticeable pause between clicking the button and the action occurring.
Pairing them with my iPhone or iPad is easy, and to my MacBook only slightly less so, and once connected the bluetooth signal seems to be reliable. The only significant problem I have had, though, arises from trying to move from one device to another - especially where one of the devices is a Mac. Moving the connection between my iPhone and iPad usually needs to be done by way of the Bluetooth settings. However, to connect to my MacBook or iMac I need to ensure either that the IOS devices are out of bluetooth range or I need to turn off their bluetooth altogether. This is a signifiant annoyance - and, in fact, as outlined below is a deal-breaker.
Just after receiving my Melomanias, I found the AirPods Pro significantly reduced - to £200, merely double the Melomania price! - and so I couldn’t resist ordering a set for comparison, intending to return it afterward.
The comparison is interesting. For listening, the Melomania is clearly the better option - the AirPods Pro losing marks for their fiddly controls, lack of volume control (one has to speak to Siri change volume, or go back to the source device), their slightly poorer sound, and their relatively weedy battery life. However, they are marginally more comfortable to wear, and - decisively for me - will connect to all my devices and change connections when required without difficulty. The Melomanias just don’t seem to want to let go of the device they are currently connected to - and life’s too short to keep having to deal with such problems every time I want to use my earbuds!
I sat down and carefully scored the two systems on every single aspect that seemed important to me, and the Melomania win on everything except that one point - ease changing connections. However, I simply don’t think I can live the annoyance that transferring connections with them will cause, and so - with the very greatest reluctance, because I know that I will miss both the sound quality and the battery life - I have decided to return the Melomanias, and instead keep the AirPods Pro. To be honest, I’d like to keep both, but that seems a bit silly!