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Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review: The best-sounding wireless earbuds under £100

The Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus are a rarity in the world of affordable true wireless earbuds. Rather than attempting to stand out from the crowd with a list of features as long as your arm, they prioritise sound quality above all else.

There’s no active noise cancellation or transparency mode, the buds don’t automatically pause when taken from your ears and the case doesn’t support wireless charging. But what they do offer is a “High Performance” audio mode boasting increased dynamic range and an expansive soundstage, albeit at the cost of battery life.

In that mode, the Melomania 1 Plus deliver rich, detailed audio other £100 earbuds simply can’t match, along with customisation options to further enhance your listening experience. That experience would be even better if they were more comfortable, but the Melomania 1 Plus are about as close to audiophile earbuds as you’ll get for this money.

Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review: What do you get for the money?

In terms of their cost, the Melomania 1 Plus launched at £120 but saw a price cut earlier this year and will now set you back £100.

Available in either black or white, the earbuds operate wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0 and support the SBC, AAC and aptX codecs. Codec switching is handled within the Melomania app, which is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Included in the box is one of the most generous selections of eartips I’ve come across. In total, you get nine pairs: two sets of small, medium and large silicone tips, along with small, medium and large foam pairs. Also supplied is a USB-A to USB-C cable with which you top up the accompanying charging case.

The case measures 50 x 22 x 59mm (WDH) and provides up to 28 hours of playback if using the Melomania 1 Plus in High Performance mode. Combined with roughly seven hours from the buds themselves, you’re looking at somewhere in the region of 35 hours total playtime. If you’re willing to sacrifice some audio quality for more battery life, the Low Power mode will help eke out around two hours more from the buds and take total staying power to 45 hours. These figures are of course dependent on your listening habits and volume levels, so your mileage will vary.

Both the case and earbuds themselves are IPX5 rated for water resistance, which is more than adequate to protect them in a sudden downpour and means they’ll withstand sweaty workouts in the gym.

Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review: What do we like about them?

It should be clear by now that audio quality is the area in which the Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus excel. The buds house 5.8mm dynamic drivers and, when in High Performance mode, they provide sound quality that far exceeds what you’d expect from £100 earbuds.

Underpinning the sound signature is a robust bass response that delivers R&B tracks like Rihanna and Drake’s “Work” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” with a pleasing punch. There’s more than enough weight to the low-end reproduction to keep bassheads happy but those in search of detail and clarity are in for a treat, too.

READ NEXT: Best cheap wireless earbuds

The nuances of both Rihanna and Drake’s vocals were communicated wonderfully well and I was able to pick up on the slightest changes in intonation and dynamics. The only time the earbuds faltered was during really big, bassy songs where treble got a little lost in the mix.

But this is where the Melomania 1 Plus’ EQ adjustment options come in handy. The Melomania companion app has a five-band graphic equaliser that can be used to tweak any of the six preset EQs or create three of your own from scratch. I found that by boosting the upper mid-range slightly and reducing the mid-bass frequencies I was able to achieve a profile that sounded engaging and balanced across pretty much every genre I listen to.

The app also lets you customise the earbuds’ controls, which are another area of strength. They forgo touch controls in favour of buttons you physically press and this ensured I never executed commands by accident when adjusting the buds in my ears.

The button presses cover all of your basic commands – play/pause, next track, previous track and hailing your voice assistant – but also facilitate changing volume, which is a big plus. They can’t be remapped but you can switch them off individually if you want a simplified experience, which is another nice touch.

Stated battery life is above average at 35 hours in High Performance mode (the mode in which I tested the earbuds) and highly commendable at 45 hours in Low Power mode. I got a solid week-and-a-half of use from the buds before needing to charge them, which is plenty good enough in my book.

Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review: What could be better?

The Melomania 1 Plus would undoubtedly benefit from the addition of a few more convenience features. Active noise cancellation and a transparency mode would be very welcome, as would wear detection and the ability to charge the case wirelessly.

I’m not too keen on the design and fit, either. They look fine, but no attempt has been made to sculpt the bullet-shaped housings to the contours of people’s ears.

READ NEXT: The best Bluetooth headphones

Because of this, I found I needed to wedge them really far into my ear canals to ensure they remained stable on a workout. This led to discomfort during longer listening sessions and the way in which the buds were positioned in my ears also caused their edges to rub against the inside of my earlobes.

Lastly, the extensive range of eartips supplied is worthy of praise but, alas, none of the supplied options helped me achieve what I’d describe as a truly comfortable fit.

Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review: Should you buy them?

Despite that, I’m happy to recommend the Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus based on how good they sound and the audio customisation options they offer.

It says a lot about Cambridge Audio’s confidence in its sonic expertise that it’s willing to omit popular features like ANC and wear detection but, after using the Melomania 1 Plus, it’s easy to understand why.

If you can’t live without noise-cancellation, you’ll find plenty of great options on our best wireless earbuds list, but be prepared to spend more than £100 if you want ANC coupled with the sound quality the Melomania 1 Plus deliver.


Enter the natural habitat of any gearhead—a Best Buy, maybe, or a coffee shop in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. If you're lucky, you will soon hear the gearhead's plaintive call. “But it’s worth it!” someone will cry. Whether they're pointing at a $900 tablet or holding a $2,800 camera, it’s usually true that you get what you pay for.

It can be really hard to reconcile our expertise with a normal person’s budget. Before this week, if you’d asked me for a great pair of wirefree workout headphones for around $40, I would’ve told you that barring very few exceptions, you get what you get.

When I tried the Back Bay Tempo 30, I had to check and double-check the price before immediately making my colleague Parker Hall try them too. I wore the $40 earbuds running and walking my dog in the rain, and dangling upside down in the climbing gym, and I couldn’t shake them. They're so good, I feel bad recommending any other workout headphones.

Hot Fits

Back Bay Audio is a Boston-based startup. Founder Jeremy Abend spent a year developing workout headphones that would have a premium fit and sound, without the retail markup.

From the moment I took them out of the packaging, I was shocked. The case is aluminum and tiny, noticeably smaller than my AirPods Pro case. They come with six different rubber ear tip sizes. I tried the rose gold version, but they also come in black. 

Unlike other buds, the ear tips vary not only in size but in depth. I have extremely small and shallow ears. Fitting is normally a tedious process, and I still get nervous if there’s no additional ear fin or wing to hold the bud in. The shallow, medium ear tips that came on the Tempo 30 out of the box fit me securely and perfectly. That never happens.

Pairing was simple. I just selected them in my iPhone 11's Bluetooth menu. They don’t have an app to tinker with EQ, but they do have active noise canceling that is pretty effective. I had to take them out to hear my kids talking to me when I got home from a run.

Tapping the right bud activates Bass Boost mode. It was hard to tell when it was active, because tapping the right bud is also how you turn up the volume. You can turn the volume down by tapping on the left. I tried to switch to Bass Boost several times, but as befits a pair of workout headphones, the bass is heavy even without it.

In fact, the drums on Elle King’s “Drunk and I Don’t Want to Go Home” were so heavy that I actually took the buds out of my ears at the gym to check. It seemed impossible that no one else could hear the low end besides me.

Light Weight

These buds have a bunch of market-beating specs. The battery life is eight hours and 32 with the case. After four days of wearing them more or less constantly, the battery is still at 80 percent. They’re rated IPX7, which means they can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes—I ran while wearing them in pouring rain (thanks, Oregon), and they felt and sounded fine.

Let me reemphasize the fit. Only a few workout buds have passed my ultimate test—after a few days, I took these buds to rock-climb at the (masked, socially distanced) climbing gym. I did pull-ups and swung wildly around on an outcropping shaped like a giant piece of corn, then dropped 10 feet down onto a mat. They stayed put. They’re also incredibly light—I barely noticed they were there.

Of course, at this price, these are not audiophile-quality buds. I switched between them and a pair of Grado GT220s while listening to Kacey Musgraves' Pageant Material, and they just don’t have the same clarity, especially in the high range. They have dual mics, so calls sound OK on the other person's end. But they were a little tinny on mine.

The Bluetooth isn't the strongest, either. I like to wear earbuds while doing chores around my house, but while wearing the Tempos, I quickly learned that leaving my phone on the kitchen table or even going around a corner would make the sound cut out.  

However, I’m not wearing workout buds to sing ballads about butterflies to myself, and it's not that big a deal to keep my phone in my pocket. If all you want is a pair of earbuds for picking up dog poop in the rain, and you're sick of people telling you to just suck it up and buy a pair of AirPods Pro, these are the headphones you're looking for. 

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Black Friday headphones deals 2021: early sales and what to expect

This year's official Black Friday headphones deals are now mere weeks away - and if you're eagerly awaiting the biggest discounts of the year, you've come to the right place.

Black Friday 2021 falls on November 26, but we know from experience that headphones deals start rolling in from late October onward - and that means you need to be prepared if you want to snag the best headphones of 2021 for a budget price.

It may be worth shopping in advance this year anyway; chip shortages around the world means that electronics manufacturers of all kinds have been hit with shipping delays. If you're buying a pair of headphones with a specific date in mind (like a birthday), you might want to start hunting for Black Friday headphones deals sooner rather than later.

In any case, Black Friday is always a great time to find deals on headphones, whether you need a pair of budget-friendly true wireless earbuds to chuck in your bag or you're hoping to find the pricey over-ear headphones you've had your eye on at a discount. 

Once the holiday season sales start, we'll be rounding up the very best Black Friday headphone deals on this page - and if you know exactly what you're looking for, you'll find dedicated guides such as the best Black Friday AirPods deals and Bose Black Friday deals elsewhere on the site. 

In the meantime, read on for our top tips on how to find Black Friday headphones deals, when to start your 2021 search (spoiler alert: it's sooner than you think), and our predictions for this year's deals. 

First though, let's take a look at the top headphones deals available right now - you can still save money if you can't wait until November 26.

Today's best headphones deals

Black Friday is one of the best times of year to save money on headphones - but it isn't the only time. If you can't wait until November, there are plenty of deals around now, too. Here are our top picks in the US and and the UK:

US: early Black Friday headphones deals

Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones: $274.97 at Walmart
Save $75 -
You'll find the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones sitting at close to their lowest price ever at Walmart right now. That's a stunning turnaround for the best headphones on the market right now - and one those after a set of seriously powerful cans shouldn't ignore, even if Black Friday deals will probably see in larger discounts.
View Deal

Plantronics Backbeat Go 810: $47.99 at Walmart
Save $102 -
This incredible deal sees these Plantronics noise-cancelling headphones reduced by over two thirds of the price. For your money you're getting 22 hours of battery life, a warm, balanced sound, and stylish design.View Deal

Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds: $128 at Amazon
Save $71.99 –
Featuring industry-leading noise cancellation and fantastic battery life, the Sony WF-1000XM3 consistently ranked as TechRadar's favorite pair of wireless earbuds before being usurped by a newer model. This discount makes them a bit of a bargain ahead of Black Friday, especially compared to their $229 RRP.
View Deal

UK: early Black Friday headphones deals

Sony WH-1000XM4: £264.62at Amazon
Save £85
– We've seen prices for the Sony WH-1000XM4 drop as low as £201, so we'd recommend waiting for Black Friday - however, this is still a decent discount on the best headphones you can buy today. With excellent noise cancellation, a brilliant audio performance, and a slick design, you're certainly getting your money's worth.View Deal

Plantronics Backbeat Go 810: £44.93 at Amazon
Save £96 -
While other color variants cost as much as £89, this incredible deal on the bone-white Plantronics Backbeat Go 810 could save you nearly £100. With ANC, a decent battery life, warm sound, and slick design, these wireless headphones are a bargain.View Deal

Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds: £114.77 at Amazon
Save £105 –
We've seen these excellent true wireless earbuds for slightly cheaper, but this early Black Friday deal on the WF-1000XM3 is well worth picking up. For your money you're getting ANC, a stellar audio performance, and a stylish design.
View Deal

Black Friday headphones deals: our predictions

Black Friday is always a fantastic time to find headphones deals, on everything from cheap in-ears to over-ear cans you can use for analytical listening in the studio. 

This year we're expecting more of the same - and that means you're almost certain to find discounts on the Apple headphones, Beats headphones, Sony headphones, and Bose headphones. 

Now that they're a few years old, the 2019 AirPods will likely see some big discounts, which means you can expect prices to dip below $99 / £99 - especially as rumors around the AirPods 3 hot up. The noise-cancelling AirPods Pro and the over-ear AirPods Max are also likely to be discounted, with the later likely to see discounts of around $100 / £100, echoing deals we've seen this year. 

Apple's headphones don't just include AirPods, though; Beats headphones are likely to see some big discounts, and we think the Beats Powerbeats Pro will be included in the Black Friday sales now that the Beats Studio Buds are here.

Sony headphones are always popular over Black Friday, too, and older-gen models like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the WF-1000XM3 will probably drop even further in price in the next few weeks. We'd expect to see current-gen models such as the WH-1000XM4 and the WF-1000XM4 get their biggest price cuts on the big day itself on November 26. 

As for cheap headphones deals? You can pretty much pick up a pair of super budget-friendly earbuds from Amazon at any time of year, but the really impressive price cuts will start creeping in over the next few weeks. Look out for deals on headphones from JLab, 1MORE, EarFun, and Lypertek if you're on a strict budget.

When will the best Black Friday headphones deals start in 2021?

Black Friday officially falls on November 26 this year, but you can expect to see Black Friday headphone deals dropping from as early as this month. Traditionally the biggest discounts are released on Black Friday itself, but in recent years headphone deals have started earlier and earlier.

This trend is very different to how it used to be, when prices would drop sharply on the day itself and then quickly rise again. However, retailers had a huge incentive to run their Black Friday sales even longer than usual last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

With most brick-and-mortar stores closed, more people than ever were forced to shop online: data from Adobe Analytics shows more than a 50% increase in 2020 compared to 2019. This made shipping delays caused by pandemic restrictions even worse, so the extended deals came in to help make sure retailers could get their products to shoppers in time for the holiday season. 

Although restrictions are being lifted in many parts of the world, we're expecting to see a longer holiday sales period again this year, and we predict some headphone deals will stick around until December. However, if you do see an offer you like it's worth grabbing it while you can in case stock runs out - especially as we're in the midst of a global chip shortage that has led to production delays for many manufacturers.  

We'll be rounding up the very best Black Friday headphones deals here. We'll tell you which offers are worth it - and which to avoid - so bookmark this page and keep checking back..

Where will the best Black Friday headphones deals be?

You'll find all the best Black Friday headphones deals on this page as soon as they go live, but if you want to go hunting for yourself, you'll need to know where to look. Below we've linked to a few of the best retails for cheap headphones deals over Black Friday. It's a good idea to start looking at them now to build an idea of what pre-Black Friday prices look like, so you can spot the biggest discounts later.

Top US retailers
: some of the lowest headphones prices
Best Buy:


Sony's WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds drop to an all-time low of $128

Even after two years, Sony's WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds are among the best you can buy in terms of sound quality and active noise cancellation. If the regular $200 price has been holding you back, you can now pick up a pair at Amazon and Best Buy for just $128, or 36 percent off the regular price. That's substantially lower than the $150 sale from Best Buy and Amazon last month. 

Buy Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds at Amazon - $128Buy Sony WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds at Best Buy - $128

With an outstanding 89 score in our Engadget review, the WF-1000XM3 took the top spot in our 2019 wireless earbuds buyer's guide. That's largely thanks to the excellent sound quality with bass that's powerful yet clear, bright highs and solid performance for all types of music. The active noise cancellation is the best in the business, blocking out most background noise, while running an excellent six hours on a charge with ANC enabled. You can even tailor that sound using Sony's companion app. 

These main downside of this model is the bulky design of the buds and case, which were changed with the current $299 WF-1000XM4 model — which now tops our wireless earphone buyer's guide. Its six hours of battery life is also less than the eight hours offered by the new model. Apart from those things, however, the WF-1000XM3 model can hold its own against any wireless earphones in the areas that count. For $128, it's available at nearly 60 percent less than its successor, and substantially less than anything else that can even remotely compete.


Wireless best buy

Perhaps not as impressive as some of the cutting-edge OLED TVs, it's tough to argue with a deal this good. The 55-inch Insignia F50 4K TV is currently available at Best Buy for $450, nearly its lowest price ever. This sizeable QLED panel features a 60Hz refresh rate and is powered by the Fire TV OS allowing for built-in Alexa voice controls. This gives the TV native access to most major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus. The picture can be enhanced with Dolby Vision and HDR for increased depth of color, and a narrow bezel provides the TV with a sleek aesthetic.

Insignia F50 55-inch 4K TV

This 55-inch QLED TV from Insignia features 4K resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate. This model uses the Fire TV OS, which gives it access to an impressive library of apps as well as native built-in Alexa voice controls.

The ever-increasing size of game updates has become something of a meme by now. If you’re tired of constantly freeing up space on your PC or console, we recommend investing in the slim Samsung 970 Evo Plus SSD. This 2TB is currently enjoying a deep discount on Newegg and is available for $250. The M.2 form-factor of this SSD makes it a cinch to install in whatever platform needs a little extra storage space. Besides providing more room for saves and local installations, the faster transfer speeds offered by M.2 SSDs can help improve the load times of anything installed on them. Just don’t expect them to improve your framerates, or your kill-death-ratio for that matter.

Samsung 970 Evo Plus SSD (2TB)

This M.2 SSD from Samsung boasts a whopping 2TB of storage space and blazing fast transfer speeds. This slim drive features read/write speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s and is remarkably easy to install in your PlayStation 5 or any motherboard with a free M.2 port.

If you’re looking for ways to beef up the sound of your home theatre, this six-piece surround sound system from Klipsch is available for $289, its lowest price ever at Newegg. This massive system comes with a pair of front and rear speakers, as well as a center channel and wireless subwoofer. Each speaker is capable of standing on its own, but they also feature built-in mounts if you’d rather anchor them to the wall. The one potential drawback to this otherwise outstanding deal is that you’ll need a standalone 5.1 receiver to take advantage of everything this system has to offer. However, surround receivers typically fall in the $300-$400 range, making them relatively affordable, and will still result in a net discount on this usually pricey set of speakers.

You know what they say, “pics or it didn’t happen”, now with the Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+, nobody will ever have reason to doubt your speed run of ever Metroid: Dread ever again. This slim capture card is available at Best Buy for $164, its lowest price ever. While the utility of this device is somewhat lost on your typical gamer, this gadget is a must for any streamer or content creator that wants high-fidelity video from a console or external PC. Capable of capturing output from any 4K HDMI source at 60Hz the capture card plugs into your console and operates as a throughput to a nearby PC with streaming software.

A device like this is going to be more useful for someone that does their gaming on consoles, as anyone with a PC can typically stream their gameplay directly to their preferred platform. However, for consoles with no built-in streaming capabilities, like the Nintendo Switch, this is the best way to piece together highlights of your gameplay.

Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+

This handy device from Elgato is a must-have for any streamer. The Elgato Game Capture HD60 S+ allows you to record the audio and video output of any device with an HDMI port at 4K resolution. And as the name implies, is capable of recording at 60 FPS.

An excellent, flat-panel gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro VG270U is available for just $340 at Newegg, which is a reasonable discount. This 27-inch monitor offers some specs that are perfect for gaming, including a 144Hz refresh rate and AMD Freesync compatibility for super-smooth performance. The 1440p resolution offers a sharp picture and the panel has inputs for HDMI 1.4, 2.0, and DisplayPort for a variety of connectivity options. The stand has limited adjustment options, with only a small tilt range available, can be attached to a wall or monitor arm with the integrated 100x100mm VESA mount. While the monitor does come with built-in 2W speakers, they can be a bit underpowered, for the best gaming experience we’d recommend investing in some headphones or a standalone speaker system.

Acer Nitro VG270U

The Acer Nitro VG270U is a 27-inch flat-panel monitor with 1440p resolution. This Freesync compatible model also features a pair of built-in 2W speakers and a 144Hz refresh rate.

We’ve got one last deal to fill you in on today. The Verge is celebrating its 10th birthday on the 22nd and 23rd of October with a massive party in New York City dubbed On The Verge, and you’re invited. The party is going to be an eclectic exhibition of immersive art, musical performance, and appearances by The Verge talent. Normally $250, we’re currently offering tickets for $99, just enter the promo code $99NOW at checkout. These tickets include admission for both days and include four complimentary drink tickets. If you find yourself in NYC that weekend, we’d love to see you there.

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Top 5 Budget True Wireless Earbuds Under $50 (2021)

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