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Cambridge Audio Melomania P100

With these new Melomania P100 wireless noise-cancelling headphones, Cambridge Audio has set itself one heck of a challenge. Is there a more competitive sector of the consumer electronics market? The television market is similarly hotly contested, true - but when it comes to choosing a new TV you really only have four or five brands to choose from, whereas a product very similar to the P100 (on paper, anyway) can be had from maybe as many as a dozen brands of greater or lesser credibility.

So how confident can Cambridge Audio allow itself to be? After all, this is one product category where ‘pretty good’ isn’t anything like good enough…  

Mind you, the P100s are certainly confident where the specification/asking price ratio is concerned. And there’s an immediate Point of Difference apparent: these headphones use Class A/B amplification to drive a couple of 40mm three-layer polyurethane/polyether ether ketone full-range dynamic drivers. When you consider that virtually every rival uses Class D to do a similar job, this gives the Cambridge Audio a helping of hardcore hi-fi credibility right from the get-go. The excellent Mark Levinson No.5909 wireless headphones are a Class A/B design, it’s true - but then they’re almost four times the price of this Cambridge Audio model. 

Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 5.3 LE, and there’s compatibility with the cutting-edge aptX Lossless codec as well as the more common SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive alternatives. So as long as you’ve a source player capable of delivering it, the P100 can serve up digital audio files at a lossless 16bit/44.1kHz resolution as well as a lossy 24bit/96kHz. Bluetooth 5.3 LE also promises compatibility with Auracast and the low-power LC3 codec in the future, too. 

And they’re able to do this for an extraordinary length of time. Cambridge Audio is claiming an absolutely epic 100 hours of battery life with ANC switched off, and an equally impressive 60 hours with ANC switched on. With stamina like that available, running out of juice would be a pretty negligent thing to do - but in case you’re extremely careless, a five-minute power pit-stop will hold you for another two hours of ANC-enabled listening.

Both the earpads and the battery can be replaced by the user as and when it becomes necessary. And as well as wireless listening, the USB-C socket on the left earcup can be used for data transfer as well as battery-charging - which means hard-wiring to a digital or analogue source of music is possible. The P100 still need to be switched on for this to happen… but when you consider how long they’ll play for from a single charge, this is hardly an issue. 

You have a couple options where operation is concerned. There are no touch-sensitive controls here, but a little array of physical buttons on the edge of each earcup covers off the major stuff - power on/off/Bluetooth pairing is handled by a slider, and there’s a button to cycle through ANC settings or summon your voice assistant, along with a three-button strip handling play/pause, skip forwards/backwards and volume up/down. 

You’re advised to investigate the ‘Melomania’ control app that’s free for iOS and Android, though. Here’s where you can scroll through ANC options both broad (‘on’, ‘off’ or ‘transparency’) and fine (‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ when it’s ‘on’), investigate some EQ presets or specify your own using a seven-band adjuster, switch the auto-play pause feature that detects when you remove your P100s on or off, enable the low-latency gaming mode, and plenty more besides. It also allows you to choose between nine languages in the ‘audible feedback’ section (where information such as “power on”, “waiting to pair” and so on is delivered). You may not think ‘English’ is a different language from ‘Southwark’ - but try the latter option and revel in feedback spoken by actor and recording artist Matt Berry. You’ve never heard the words “device one… disconnected!” delivered with quite such relish.

Build quality is perfectly acceptable - the Melomania P100 feels made to last. The quality of the materials - plastic, mostly, with some ‘pleather’ and aluminium to let you know who you’re dealing with - is good, and as well as offering a little tactility they’re flawlessly applied. The standard of fit and finish is well up to the standard that is established at this price-point.  

Sound quality

Some pairs of wireless headphones have definite preferences. Preferences where the sort of music you like to listen to are concerned, preferences as to the sort of digital audio file size and/or type you give them to deal with. The Cambridge Audio Melomania P100, though, don’t appear to be fussy in the slightest. “It’s all good” seems to be their mantra.

Of course, they’re at their best when given some uncompressed digital audio files to deal with and when offered as high a standard of codec as possible - that almost goes without saying. But in broad terms, they’re not remotely judgemental - so no matter if you give them some poverty-spec 160kbps MP3 nonsense from Spotify or a nice 16bit/44.1kHz FLAC file from Qobuz or TIDAL, they simply make the best of it. Of course, they’re happier still if you hard-wire them to a genuinely high-resolution source of music - but then can you name a pair of headphones that doesn’t prefer 24bit/96kHz content to 320kbps? Of course you can’t.

No matter the specifics of their circumstances, though, the P100s deliver a detailed, full-scale and entertaining listen. They can peer deep into even a complex mix and return with an absolute stack of detail - they’re as attentive to transient details at the rear or the edges of the soundstage as they are the headline occurrences that are front and centre, and they’re able to integrate them convincingly. The stage on which this happens is wide and deep, and the P100s have no problem organising it in a coherent manner. Even in the busiest recordings, every element enjoys a little elbow-room in which to do its thing without being cramped or otherwise impacted on by some other element.

Tonality is really nicely judged - in the final analysis the P100s are just slightly on the ‘warmish’ side of neutral - but this just seems to add to the generous nature of their sound. It certainly doesn’t prevent the top of the frequency range being delivered with plenty of crunch and shine, that’s for sure - treble sounds have the sort of substance that prevents them becoming splashy or hard, but there’s plenty of extension to keep the top end bright. And in the midrange, the Cambridge Audio communicate in fairly lavish fashion - they’re eloquent and pretty deft, absolutely wide open when it comes to detail retrieval and contextualisation, and have plenty of what it takes to allow a singer to express themselves fully.

The frequency range is smoothly integrated from top to bottom, and the lowest frequencies combine substance and authority to brilliant effect - bass sounds punch rather than shove, and they’re controlled enough to allow rhythms to be expressed with real positivity. There’s a stack of tonal and textural variation available at the bottom end, which makes for a persuasive and nicely balanced listen.

There’s ample dynamic headroom on display, so the Cambridge Audios can put meaningful distance between the quietest and the loudest, most intense moments of a recording - and can switch between these two states in an instant, without any apparent stress. And where harmonic variations and low-key dynamic contrasts are concerned, the P100s are just as accomplished. This may seem like another way of saying these headphones are analytical - and they are, up to a point. But that’s not their fundamental attitude - instead, they’re an engaged, energetic and entertaining performer, musical in the most obvious way, and a thoroughly appealing listen.

Where active noise-cancellation is concerned, the main problem here - the only problem, really - is the same as the main problem endured by almost every one of their nominal rivals. It’s the word ‘Bose’ and extraordinarily efficient noise-cancellation apparent in the products it’s attached to. That Bose is out on its own where active noise-cancellation is concerned is hardly big news - but the fact remains that if you want your headphones to do as complete a job on external sounds as possible, you buy a pair from Bose. The P100s are a high-performing member of the second tier where ANC is concerned, along with the likes of Sennheiser and Sony - they do a very decent job on external sounds of most volumes and every frequency, but stop short of almost supernatural isolation a pair of similarly priced Bose headphones can offer.      

Living with

There’s very little hardship associated with Cambridge Audio Melomania P100 ownership - which, let’s be fair, is generally the case with any pair of wireless over-ear headphones. The battery life, along with just how much the P100s can extract from even a fleeting visit to the mains, goes some way to making the ownership experience pretty painless - pick them up and put them on, they’ll have power available. So, I’ll give a shout out to a couple of things - perhaps the only things - that make owning a pair of Melomania P100 even remotely arduous…

First: they don’t fold very small, so the hard travel case is bigger than is ideal. And second: the white finish seems very willing to collect marks. Having said that, I will concede that perhaps I’m not the most careful custodian - and if you’re like me in this respect, there’s always the black finish as an alternative… 


Ultimately, it’s all rather predictable. Cambridge Audio, as confident as they come, identifies an area of the consumer electronics market it would like to be involved in, develops and delivers an appropriate product - and that product turns out to be a superbly specified device that’s profoundly enjoyable to listen to. Chalk up another one in the Cambridge Audio ‘positive’ column… 

Listening notes

Big Thief Shark Smile

It sounds like a straightforward enough ensemble recording, but Shark Smile is an almost underhandedly tricky recording to deal with effectively. The P100s have no trouble, of course - and their powers of midrange resolution and separation in particular are to the fore.  

Ray Charles Hallelujah, I Love Her So

Relatively lo-fi and unapologetically rough around the edges, here’s a recording that gave full notice of Ray Charles’ determination to put the sacred into the secular. Midrange fidelity, dynamism and detail retrieval are imperative if this tune is going to engage on every level.

Thievery Corporation Shaolin Satellite 

Low-frequency extension, control and variation, as well as rhythmic positivity, get a good examination on this smooth slice of mid-90s clubby, dubby nostalgia. The P100 are more than revealing enough to identify the joints in this sample-tastic cut-and-paste recording, too. 

What the press say

Why you should buy it

You want a pair of 'proper' headphones with performance few can match and battery life that's way out in front

Video review

Pair it with

The Melomania P100 works well with any half-decent source of wireless audio - but given the nature of its specification, the ideal would be a player with aptX Lossless capability. Let us know how you get on with trying to find one… 

Alternatives to consider

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