IPXX Ratings: A Complete Guide to Waterproof Speakers and Earphones
| Reuben Howe
A common factor in deciding if a pair of earphones for the gym or a Bluetooth speaker for the bathroom is a good idea is the worry over steam, condensation, waterproofing, sweat resistance and in some cases even dirt, sand and particulate resistance! IPXX ratings are the easiest way to identify which product has dust and water resistance right for you. Soon you’ll be understanding what a product is capable of and certified for in no time!
What is IP Rating?
Hidden away in the title of a speaker or the bullet points of a set of earphones you may see an IP rating. The rating is always the letters IP and then 2 numbers for example IP67. What each of those digits mean is vital to understanding an items IP Rating.
IP Stands for Ingress Protection and so describes exactly what you’d expect. The rating is designed to tell you what types of materials, in what quantities, could cause “ingress” (Disturbance, intrusion, damage etc) to an item.
The digits following the IP letters represent the “Solid” ingress protection and the “Liquid” ingress protection. An “X” indicated NO protection. In our IP67 example, the item would have Ingress Protection of 6 against Solids and protection of 7 against liquids. How does that translate to anything real, though?
Firstly, Solid ingress can be caused by things like -
Mud / Dirt
Physical Force or Shock
Attempts to damage (I.e. a knife, screwdriver, etc)
Liquid ingress protects against things like -
Water (Still / Submerging)
Water (Running / Moving Through)
Steam / Vapour
Sprays and Mists
As you can see, IP rating can define some very important protections. You wouldn’t want to buy a speaker for the bathroom if you didn’t know It had protection from at least vapours and steam, and preferably running water too. If you wanted one for the bath itself, you’d need proofing against submersion entirely!
In general, Solid protection stops shocks and damage up until IP4x. At IP5x and above it also protects against solid particles like dust, sand and dirt.
Similarly, Liquid protection stops water drops and vapour and sprays / splashes until IPx6. At IPx7 and above it protects from varied lengths of full submersion.
What is IPXX K?
Occasionally you may see a “K” on the end of a rating. This indicates a separate measure of resistance to Temperature and Pressure. For example, an IP67 item may be submerged for short times, but in a very hot (Temperature) or very deep (Pressure) body of water the item will still be damaged. Do not assume an IP67 rating accounts for Temperatures or Pressures.
What IP Rating Do I Need For…
Now that you understand the logic behind IPXX designations it’s time to view some products and see how the practical effects of the IP Rating are used and marketed.
Bathroom Speaker IP Rating?
A bathroom can get steamy, full of condensation and water vapour even with an extractor fan running. Speakers that want to work in this environment so you can shower-karaoke your heart’s content obviously require some IP rating. We know the ingress is unlikely to be dirt, dust or sand (At least, in every bathroom I’ve been in) and so the IP rating can have an “x” in the solid column. This shows there is no solid ingress protection. The second number, however, would need to have a good rating.
This August MS430, for example, is designed for bathroom use. It features a novel attachment method in the form of sticking to tiles in the bathroom, as so could be right above the bath! The speaker has a rating of IPX5. As we said, this has no solid ingress protection.
The “5” means it does posses liquid ingress protection at level 5! This means the speaker is protected from water jets from any direction as well as lighter splashes too. So, a normal-pressure shower will leave the MS430 unharmed! The speakers uses 2 separate driver units both encased in a protective shell giving high-fidelity sound quality. Sing away, shower stars.
IP Rating for Exercise Earphones?
Exercising is a wide-ranging activity. For some, it’s hiking through a rugged woodland and crossing a small forest stream while for others it’s hanging out with your spotter and lifting weights in an official gym setting.
For that reason, the minimum required rating for exercise earphones is as low as IPX4. This protects the earphones from splashes from any direction. Due to the dynamic nature of a hike, workout, cardio session and stretches the earphones need to be protected from all angles to ensure sweat and water stays out.
This gives you the freedom to exert yourself how you need without the earphones reacting to your motion or angle.
The August EPG500 Exercise and Gaming Earphones use IPX4 to protect from exercise as well as intense gaming sessions. The Charging Case and long Battery Life mean you can seamlessly switch from one hobby to another.
What IP Rating is Good for Swimming?
Of course, IPX4 only protects against those splashes, so if your idea of exercise is swimming then IPX4 is not suitable! The lowest IP rating that supports swimming is IPX7 as this protects earbuds from submersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. As you are not constantly submerged while swimming and you do not ordinarily dive under 1 meter, IPX7 is often suitable. For a more reliable result, IPX8 rating provides water submersion protection at depths below 1 meter and for long periods of time.
Do I need IP67?
Once you have established what water-resistance you need you only need a solid ingress protection number if you know you will be heavily exerting the device. If it will often experience physical knocks and shakes then some rating is advised. If you are taking a Bluetooth Speaker to a beach on sand (Rather than Shingle) then an IP rating of at least IP5X is recommended. IP5X is the first solid ingress level to stop particulates like dust and sand and will protect for up to 8 hours.
If you are using earphones for a variety of settings, and travelling with them, then a rating like IP67 covers all your bases, but not many people need that level of ingress protection so be sure to assess your needs and the cost of high IP ratings.
Be Prepared with the Right IP Rating
Understanding IP rating is essential to choosing the best product for you, and now whenever you see those 4 digits IPX5 or IP34 or whatever it may be, you can instantly assess if the item will serve your needs. Whether you’re using a Google Assistant in the rain and finding the nearest café, or tinkering with the sound profile for your relaxing bath ambience an IP rating is what you need. Remember to always check the rating and if you see something say “Waterproof” or “Great for beaches” and don’t see an IP rating anywhere, you know to look elsewhere!