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If you are looking to buy an outdoor speaker or sports headphones/earbuds and you did your research, you have probably seen some IPX rating in the specification list or on the box of the device you want to buy. Most of today’s outdoor speakers and sports headphones/earbuds have at least IPX4 rating and some even have IPX7 or IP67 ratings. In case you are not sure what those ratings actually mean, this short article will help you understand the purpose and meaning of each IP/IPX rating.
What is IPX Rating and Why is it important?
IP stands for International Protection or, in some cases, Ingress Protection. IP (or IPX) rating is the marking that describes the level of protection (provided by the enclosure of the device) against dust, water, and ingress of other particles or fluids.
You can see the general form of the IP rating in the picture below. Each rating starts with the IP abbreviation followed by 2 or 3 numbers and/or letters. When buying an outdoor speaker, sports headphones, or a waterproof/dustproof smartphone, you will probably see only two numbers or a letter and a number (something like IP67 or IPX7). Each letter/number has its own meaning and describes the level of protection against the ingress of certain particles/fluids.
The general form of an IP rating
The first digit/letter in the IP rating describes the level of protection against ingress of solid particles and objects. If the device doesn’t offer any protection against ingress of solid particles, the first symbol will be 0. If there is no info on the level of protection against ingress of solid particles (it the device wasn’t tested), you will see the X letter instead of 0 as the first symbol after IP (something like IPX4 or IPX7). This is what you can see in many product descriptions when looking for waterproof/water resistant/splash proof outdoor speakers and other electronic equipment.
There are 6 levels of protection against the ingress of solid particles. Level 5 and level 6 are desirable when buying outdoor speakers especially if you are going to use them on the beach. If the first number after IP is 5, the device is dust protected which means that it is not completely protected from the ingress of dust but even if the dust enters the device, the quantity will not be enough to interfere with the operation of the device. If the first number after IP is 6, the device is dustproof/dust tight and it is completely protected from the ingress of dust.
The second symbol in the IP rating describes the level of protection against water ingress (not against ingress of other fluids). There are 9 levels of water protection and we will explain them all in the next section. If a device doesn’t offer any level of protection against water ingress, the second symbol in the IP rating will be 0 and if the device is not tested for water resistance, 0 is replaced with X.
The third symbol is optional and not all devices are tested for this rating. The third symbol is a letter (H, S, M, F, or W). These letters describe different conditions in which the device was tested and give you some important info about the device characteristics. H stands for high voltage, M implies that the device was moving during the water test, S implies that the device was standing still during the water test, W stands for weather conditions, while F implies that the device is oil resistant.
The Meaning of Each IPX Rating
The water resistance rating is the most important thing you should be checking when buying an outdoor speaker, sports headphones/earbuds, or any other piece of waterproof/water resistant/splash proof electronic equipment.
As we have already mentioned, there are 9 levels of water resistance and we will now go through all those levels and explain the amount of protection they represent. For the purposes of this article, we will assume that the device (speaker, headphones, earbuds) is not tested for dust resistance (the first symbol in the IP rating is X and the second describes the water resistance).
IPX1 – A device with a level 1 water resistance rating can survive drops of water falling vertically on it for 10 minutes. The amount of water corresponds to 1mm per min rainfall.
IPX2 – A device with a level 2 water resistance rating can survive drops of water falling on it while being tilted at a 15° angle. The device is tested 4 times (in four positions) and the amount of water corresponds to 3mm per min rainfall.
IPX3 – A device with a level 3 water resistance rating can survive sprays of water (sprayed by a nozzle with a counterbalanced shield approved by the IEC). The water is sprayed at different angles up to 60° measured from the vertical axis. The pressure of the water is 50-150kPa and the amount of the sprayed water during 5min testing is 50 liters.
IEC-certified IPX3/IPX4 spray nozzle used for testing (source – Zhilitong Electromechanical Co., Ltd)
This is the moment when the things get interesting. Most of the outdoor speakers and sports headphones/earbuds feature at least IPX4 rating and they are often considered splash proof.
IPX4 – A device with a level 4 water resistance rating can survive splashes of water from any direction. The same nozzle from the previous example can be used for this testing but the shield has to be removed. Some of the most popular speakers with the IPX4 rating are Bose Soundlink Revolve and VTIN.
IPX5 – A device with a level 5 water resistance rating can survive small water jets projected by a 6.3mm nozzle at any angle. The testing lasts for 15min and the volume of water is 12.5 l/min.
IPX5/IPX6 Test Nozzle (Source – Amazon)
IPX6 – A device with a level 6 water resistance rating can survive strong water jets projected by a 12.5mm nozzle at any angle. The testing lasts for 3 min and the volume of water is 100 l/min.
Devices with the IPX5 and IPX6 ratings are considered water resistant.
IPX7 – A device with a level 7 water resistance rating can survive (without any damage) immersion in water of up to 1m (approx. 3ft) for 30min. All the devices with the IPX7 rating are considered fully waterproof. There’s a bunch of speakers/headphones with the IPX7 rating and the most popular are JBL Flip 4, JBL Charge 3, UE BOOM, etc.
IPX8 – A device with a level 8 water resistance rating can survive immersion in water deeper than 1m (usually up to 3m). The duration of testing is determined in cooperation with the manufacturer (there’s no predefined time but it’s usually longer than the testing time for the IPX7 rating).
IPX9K – A device with a level 9K water resistance rating can survive powerful water jets. High-temperature water (80°C/ 176°F) is used for testing and the device is sprayed from a close distance (0.1-0.15m). The water pressure is supposed to be really high (8-10MPa) and the volume of sprayed water is 14-16 l/min.
Most of the outdoor speakers, sports headphones and earbuds, and waterproof/water resistant smartphones on the market have IPX4, IPX5, IPX6, and IPX7 ratings. You can also find some earbuds, speakers, and protective phone cases with the IPX8 rating, while IPX9K is reserved for some other device (cannot be found on audio equipment).
What to Look for When Buying Waterproof Speakers/Headphones/Earbuds
Now that you know what each symbol in the IP/IPX rating means, it’s not so difficult to guess what to look for. If you need a pair of sports earbuds, they need to be at least IPX4 certified. Devices with IPX4 rating are considered splash proof but some manufacturer also define their products (usually headphones and earbuds) as sweat resistant. You should know that there is no such IP rating that can be described as ‘’sweat resistant’’ and most of the products described as ‘’sweat resistant’’ are, in fact, splash proof (IPX4 certified). If you want the best possible protection, you should be looking for IPX7 rating (fully waterproof device) or even IP67 (fully dustproof, fully waterproof).
Even if a speaker is IPX7 certified, that doesn’t mean that it will float on water. That’s a completely different thing.
Two more things before the end. The fact that some device is IPX7 or IPX8 certified (fully waterproof and submersible in water) does not mean that it is IPX6 or IPX5 certified (it doesn’t have to be resistant to water jets). IPX7 and IPX8 devices have to be additionally tested for IPX5 and IPX6 rating. If they are tested for both, you will see IPX rating written like this IPX6/IPX8. Also, be careful when checking IP and IPX ratings – if there’s a hyphen between IP (or IPX) and the number, the rating is fake/invalid. So, if you see something like IPX-7 or IP-68, don’t trust the manufacturer. This is not a valid IP/IPX rating. It may be just a mistake but you should still be careful.
This was, in short, all you need to know about IP and IPX ratings. If you liked the article please share it and subscribe to our mailing list. If you have any questions regarding the IP/IPX ratings, feel free to ask.
Your AudioReputation Team
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.