Truly wireless headphones can be great for on-the-go listening thanks to the absence of tangle-prone wires, but high-end models from the likes of Apple and Sennheiser can set you back £200 plus.
Even the cheapest models we've tested typically cost around £30, which makes Lidl's new £24.99 offering a tempting proposition for those who like the idea of going wire-free without breaking the bank.
We won't pretend that our at-home tryout rivals the rigorous tests that headphones go through at our lab, where we scientifically test sound quality, battery life, build quality and ease of use. But our first look - or first listen, if you will - should give you a flavour of whether Lidl's cut-price pair can satisfy the ears of the average music listener.
Lidl's clearly taken a design lead from Apple, as its headphones look very similar to (but in matt black rather than shiny white), with a stalk that hangs down from your ear and a hard, moulded plastic earbud.
They have a few other features in common too, as our head-to-head comparison table shows.
|Feature||Apple AirPods||Silvercrest True Wireless Headphones|
|Claimed listening time (between case charges)||5 hours||3 hours|
|RRP||£199 with wireless charging case||£24.99|
Apple's AirPods claim a couple of extra hours of battery life but, beyond this, on paper there are remarkable similarities despite the price difference.
Overall, we found the headphones straightforward to set up and use.
We'd recommend referring to the manual rather than the picture-based quick-start guide when you're setting up, though; we didn't always find the pictures easy to follow.
For example, without referring to the manual we wouldn't have known to remove the protective 'foil' between the headphones and the charging point within the case before using.
The headphones come with a compact charging case (about 5 cm high, 5cm wide and 2.5cm deep), which keep your headphones safe when you're not wearing them. The case is chargeable via USB port (a cable is supplied), and it can also be charged wirelessly. Three small LEDs on the front of the case indicate the battery status.
The earbuds are charged by popping them into the case. Lidl claims its case offers five full charges for the headphones and each cycle provides up to three hours of listening time. That adds to a maximum claimed 15 hours of listening before the case needs recharging.
And if you don't listen to your music too loudly, you might achieve much more than that. Listening to music continuously on a relatively low volume (less than half of the maximum), our test pair lasted a full five hours before issuing verbal 'low battery' warnings into our ears.
Current circumstances meant we were mostly listening in the relative peace and quiet of a private home; listening on public transport, or in a busy cafe or office might call for higher volumes and a shorter battery life.
The Silvercrest True Wireless In-Ear Headphones connect to music-playing devices, such as smartphones, via Bluetooth, and we found connecting to an iPhone really simple; we just had to select the headphones within the Bluetooth settings of the phone.
The connection stayed steady even when the headphones and iPhone were in different parts of an (admittedly not huge) flat.
Each earbud has a small LED, designed to indicate certain statuses. When they're paired with a Bluetooth device, this flashes white intermittently .
Buttons on the side of each earbud allow you to turn them on and off, pause audio, skip tracks and answer calls. Once we'd used the manual to work out control sequences (a quick, single press to pause and a long press to jump to the next track, for example), they worked well.
In our expert lab tests, a listening panel of five audio experts assess each pair of headphones using nine set pieces of music, covering a range of genres from pop and spoken word to classical and jazz.
Our much-less scientific, at-home verdict on the sound quality of Lidl's Silvercrest headphones is: it's OK.
We tried listening to a few of the same tracks both with Lidl's headphones and an existing pair of wired, soft-tipped in-ear Sony headphones that have previously done well in Which? tests (though they're no longer available to buy). We found Sony's sound quality much better - especially when listening to songs with a bit more bass; the Lidl set sounded lighter, flatter and less rich by comparison.
That said, if you don't have great expectations, and only plan to use the headphones for short periods of listening or for spoken word like radio and podcasts, we reckon you'll find the sound quality acceptable - especially given the price.
Many of Lidl's cheap tech products don't hang around for long, so we won't be putting this pair through our full tests, but our guide on explains more about the different types you can buy and how this can affect sound quality.
If you've been putting off the move from wired to wireless headphones due to concerns about them coming loose when you're out and about, and vanishing down a drain you'll be pleased to hear that, despite our reservations, Lidl's headphones stayed firmly in place throughout a drizzly half-hour run.
However, the fairly large, rigid plastic tip didn't make for the most comfortable wear. While the battery life might allow for five hours of continuous listening, we felt that doing so regularly might make for sore ears.
For anything but short listening sessions, unless you happen to have the ear size that perfectly matches the headphones, you might prefer to find a pair that comes with a selection of different sized soft tips - or even an over-ear pair for maximum comfort.
For £25, you can buy eight pairs of Lidl's headphones for the recommended retail price of Apple's AirPods (with wireless charging case). Unlike pricier options, you probably won't be too fussed if you lose one (or both) of these diminutive devices, and if you want to try out a pair of truly wireless headphones for the first time, they may be a good shout.
But bear in mind that Lidl's middle-aisle offers don't stay around for long, so a single lost bud may prove an irreplaceable annoyance.
And if you're an audiophile, or someone that likes listening to music for long periods, you probably don't want to make these your main pair thanks to the middling sound quality and comfort.
You'll need to check our full reviews to guarantee high standards of either, though; below, we've highlighted a trio of truly wireless headphones at different price points, and pointed you in the direction of our reviews to find out if they're worth your money.
Like the Lidl Silvercrests, each Sesh earbud has a single button control. These allow you to play/pause music, skip to the next/previous track, answer/end calls, change the volume and activate your smartphone's voice assistant (this defaults to Google Assistant on Android or Siri on Apple devices).
They're water and dust resistant, which means they'll survive a rain shower (though not full submersion in water), and come with three sizes of earpiece.
Skullcandy claims the headphones deliver three hours plus of battery life from the buds themselves, and 10-plus hours with case charges.
This model's being discontinued at the end of 2020, so is currently attractively priced.
One of the advantages the Freebuds have over the Lidl and Skullcandy rivals above is that they come with active noise cancelling. When noise cancelling works well, it helps to block out background noise so you can hear your music better without cranking up the volume.
By default, controls on the headphones let you play/pause music, answer/end calls, and toggle active noise cancelling. If you're an Android user, a linked app lets you adjust the controls to be able to skip to next/previous track and activate Google Assistant voice control (this option isn't available for iPhones).
Huawei claims 18 hours of listening in total with case charges, with 3.5 hours of continuous listening between charges, and they come with four sizes of flexible eartips.
This truly wireless offering from Sony offers active noise-cancelling technology, to help block out unwanted noises. The headphones also support all the main smartphone voice assistants (Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa) for hands-free control.
If you prefer to control your music manually, you can play/pause music, adjust volume, turn noise cancelling on/off, activate the voice assistant of your choice and answer or end calls using touch-sensitive controls on the headphones.
The WF-1000XM3s come with a range of different-sized earbuds, and also have a feature called ambient sound mode, which you can turn on and off to allow you to hear conversations, or train station announcements, for example.
With noise cancelling on, Sony claims up to six hours of listening on a single charge - impressive for truly wireless headphones - and a total of 24 hours of listening with case charges. It says you'll get even longer with noise cancelling turned off.