What Is IPX Rating And Why Is It Important? (Comprehensive Guide)


If you’ve done your research and are looking to buy an outdoor speaker or sports headphones/earbuds, you’ve probably seen some IPX rating in the specification list or on the box of the device you want to buy.

Most outdoor speakers and sports headphones/earbuds today have an IPX4 rating, and some even have an IPX7 or IP67 rating. If you’re not sure what those ratings mean, this short article will explain the purpose and meaning of each IP/IPX rating.

WHAT IS IPX RATING AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

IPX Rating Explained: How Waterproof is Your Earphones?
IPX Rating Explained: How Waterproof is Your Earphones?

IP is an abbreviation for International Protection, or Ingress Protection in some cases. The IP (or IPX) rating is a label that describes the level of protection (provided by the device’s enclosure) against dust, water, and the ingress of other particles or fluids.

The image below depicts the general form of the IP rating. Each rating begins with the IP abbreviation, which is followed by two or three numbers and/or letters.

When purchasing an outdoor speaker, sports headphones, or a waterproof/dustproof smartphone, you are most likely to see only two numbers or a letter and a number (something like IP67 or IPX7). Each letter/number represents a different level of protection against the ingress of specific particles/fluids.

The first digit/letter in the IP rating indicates the level of protection against solid particle and object ingress. If the device does not provide any protection against solid particle ingress, the first symbol will be 0.

If there is no information on the level of protection against solid particle ingress (because the device was not tested), the first symbol after IP will be the X letter rather than the 0 letter (something like IPX4 or IPX7). This is common in product descriptions for waterproof/water resistant/splash proof outdoor speakers and other electronic equipment.

There are six levels of protection against solid particle ingress. When purchasing outdoor speakers, levels 5 and 6 are preferable, especially if you intend 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 dust ingress, but even if dust does enter the device, the quantity will be insufficient to interfere with its operation. If the first number following IP is 6, the device is dustproof/dust tight and completely protected from dust ingress.

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 every device is tested for it. A letter is the third symbol (H, S, M, F, or W).

These letters describe the various conditions under which the device was tested and provide you with important information about the device’s characteristics. H denotes high voltage, M denotes that the device moved during the water test, S denotes that the device stood still during the water test, W denotes weather conditions, and F denotes that the device is oil resistant.

WHAT DOES IP STAND FOR?

IP stands for “Ingress Protection,” but it is also known as “International Protection.” Ingress is defined as “the action of entering or going in,” and Ingress Protection ratings are the standardized code that refers to a device’s ability to keep things like dust or water out.

It includes appliances, plug outlets, street lamps, and everyday electronics such as smartphones. IP ratings are denoted by those two letters followed by two characters, such as IP67 or IPX5; each character is pronounced individually, as in “I-P-six-seven” rather than “I-P-sixty-seven,” because each one represents a distinct element.

The entire purpose of IP ratings is to clarify how much ingress a device can withstand in standardized tests. It’s much more specific and useful than broad terms like “water-resistant” or “dust-proof,” and it’s essential to know if you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker to use at your next pool party.

For consumers, IP ratings are typically assigned to devices such as smartphones, action cameras, smartwatches, earbuds, and Bluetooth speakers. You won’t find IP ratings on devices like TVs or even turntables because they aren’t typically used outside on a regular basis (at least, we hope not).

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IP Ratings Guide
IP Ratings Guide

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DOES WATERPROOF REALLY MEAN WATERPROOF?

When you’re in a tech store looking for new earbuds or speakers, you might notice the word “Waterproof” a lot. You may believe that it truly indicates that the product is waterproof, but if you look closely, you will most likely find an IPX score on the back.

So, what exactly does IPX stand for? And how do we quantify it? Today, we’ll look at a method of categorizing water-resistant technology and what to think about before making a purchase.

WHAT DO DIFFERENT LEVELS OF IPX RATING MEAN?

Greater the IPX rating, greater the resistance. The following list clarifies the IPX rating and what does it imply:

  • IPX0-  Zero/ no protection
  • IPX1-  Protects against Dripping water
  • IPX2-  Protects against vertically dripping water
  • IPX3-  Protects against sprays up to 60°
  • IPX4-  Protects against splashing water
  • IPX5-  Protects against water jets
  • IPX6-  Protects against powerful water jets
  • IPX7-  Protects in water up to 3 feet.
  • IPX8-  Protects when immersed in water over 3 feet

When going to the beach or experiencing sudden rain showers, users will want their headphones/earphones to be waterproof. They would want to buy it from a trusted brand for this purpose, so that the brand stands by all of the features that it claims the device has.

When purchasing wireless earbuds and headphones, the IPX rating should always be considered. Bluetooth connectivity, battery backup, and exceptional sound quality are all desirable features. All of these features contribute to a pleasurable music-listening experience.

If one is looking for a good pair of Wireless Speakers, consider having at least IPX5 rating. The devices having IPX4 rating are considered to be splash resistant. While the manufacturers also claim them to be sweat resistant. Therefore, they make an ideal choice for heavy workout sessions.

On the other hand, if one wishes to buy speakers that one can carry to the beach, an IPX rating of at least 5 or 6 is desirable.

Alternative Video: What Is IP Rating?

What Is IP Rating?

HOW TO DECODE IP RATINGS?

The first character following “IP” denotes a device’s ingress protection against foreign objects (such as dust or bugs), while the second denotes its ingress protection against liquids (like light rainfall). A device could also have a “X” instead of one of the characters. This could indicate that the device lacks a specific level of security or that it was never tested at all.

Additional characters in an IP code are also possible, but these are typically used to denote hazardous parts or mechanical-impact resistance. They are rarely found on common consumer electronics, and you should not be concerned about them.

1. First Character: Solids

This character represents the level of protection against access to hazardous parts (like moving parts or electrical conductors) as well as the ingress of solid foreign objects (like dust).

  • IP0X: No solid intrusion protection.
  • IP1X: Protected against solid objects between 50mm-2in, like the back of your hand.
  • IP2X: Protected against solid objects between 12.5mm-0.49in, like your finger.
  • IP3X: Protected against solid objects between 2.5mm-0.098in, like a thick wire.
  • IP4X: Protected against solid objects between 1mm-0.039 in, like a paperclip or a large ant.
  • IP5X: Protected against a limited ingress of dust (dust-protected). No interference with equipment caused.
  • IP6X: Protected against all dust ingress (dust-tight). A vacuum must be applied, with a test duration of up to eight hours based on airflow.
  • X: Not formally rated or no rating data supplied for this type of ingress.

2. Second Character: Liquids

This character represents the enclosure’s protection against water ingress. It should be noted that ratings in this category above IPX6 are not cumulative.

This means that a device that is IPX7 compliant will not necessarily be IPX6 compliant, as the goals of each test differ. If a device passes both tests—say, for spray and immersion—the two will be separated by a slash, as in IPX6/IPX7.

  • IPX0: No liquid intrusion protection.
  • IPX1: Protected against vertically falling water drops.
  • IPX2: Protected against vertically falling water drops tilted up to 15 degrees.
  • IPX3: Protected against water falling as a spray up to 60 degrees from the vertical.
  • IPX4: Protected against splashes of water from any direction.
  • IPX5: Protected against low-pressure water jets.
  • IPX6: Protected against high-pressure water jets.
  • IPX7: Protected against immersion in water up to one meter for 30 minutes.
  • IPX8: Protected against immersion in water between one to three meters under pressure for lengthy periods of time.
  • IPX9K: Protected against close-range, high-power, high-temperature water jets.
  • X: Not formally rated or no rating data supplied for this type of ingress.
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF EACH IPX RATING?

When purchasing an outdoor speaker, sports headphones/earbuds, or any other piece of waterproof/water resistant/splash proof electronic equipment, the most important thing to look for is the water resistance rating.

As previously stated, there are 9 levels of water resistance, and we will now go over each of those levels and explain how much protection they provide. We will assume for the purposes of this article that the device (speaker, headphones, earbuds) has not been 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 water resistance rating of level 2 can withstand drops of water falling on it while tilted at a 15° angle. The device is tested four times (in four positions), and the amount of water corresponds to a rainfall of 3mm per minute.
  • IPX3 – A device with a level 3 water resistance rating can withstand water sprays (sprayed by a nozzle with a counterbalanced shield approved by the IEC). Water is sprayed at various angles ranging from 0° to 60° measured from the vertical axis. The water pressure is 50-150kPa, and the amount of water sprayed during the 5 minute test is 50 liters.
  • IPX4 – A device with a level 4 water resistance rating can survive splashes of water from any direction. The previous example’s nozzle can be used for this testing, but the shield must be removed. Bose Soundlink Revolve and VTIN are two of the most popular IPX4-rated speakers.
  • IPX5 – A device with a level 5 water resistance rating can withstand small water jets projected from any angle by a 6.3mm nozzle. The testing lasts 15 minutes, and the water flow rate is 12.5 l/min.
  • IPX6 – A device with a level 6 water resistance rating can withstand strong water jets projected from any angle by a 12.5mm nozzle. The testing lasts 3 minutes, and the water flow rate is 100 l/min.
  • IPX7 – A device with a level 7 water resistance rating can withstand (30 minutes) immersion in water up to 1m (approx. 3ft). All devices with an IPX7 rating are considered completely waterproof. There are several speakers/headphones with the IPX7 rating, the most popular of which are the JBL Flip 4, JBL Charge 3, UE BOOM, and so on.
  • IPX8 – A device with a water resistance rating of level 8 can withstand immersion in water deeper than 1m (usually up to 3m). The length of testing is determined in collaboration with the manufacturer (there is no set time, but it is 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.

IPX4, IPX5, IPX6, and IPX7 ratings are found on the majority of outdoor speakers, sports headphones and earbuds, and waterproof/water resistant smartphones on the market. The IPX8 rating is also found on some earbuds, speakers, and protective phone cases, while the IPX9K rating is reserved for another device (cannot be found on audio equipment).

A Detailed Guide on IPX Ratings
A Detailed Guide on IPX Ratings

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING WATERPROOF SPEAKERS/HEADPHONES/EARBUDS?

It’s not so difficult to guess what to look for now that you know what each symbol in the IP/IPX rating means. If you require a pair of sports earbuds, they must be IPX4 certified. Splash proof devices have an IPX4 rating, but some manufacturers also label their products (typically headphones and earbuds) as sweat resistant.

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You should be aware that there is no such IP rating as “sweat resistant,” and the majority of products marketed as “sweat resistant” are actually splash proof (IPX4 certified). If you want the best possible protection, look for an IPX7 rating (fully waterproof device) or even an IP67 rating (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 a device is IPX7 or IPX8 certified (fully waterproof and submersible in water) does not imply that it is IPX6 or IPX5 certified (resistance to water jets is not required).

IPX7 and IPX8 devices must also be tested for IPX5 and IPX6 ratings. If they have been tested for both, the IPX rating will be written as IPX6/IPX8. Also, when checking IP and IPX ratings, keep in mind that if there is a hyphen between the IP (or IPX) and the number, the rating is fake/invalid.

So, if you see IPX-7 or IP-68, don’t believe the manufacturer. This is not an acceptable IP/IPX rating. Even if it was a mistake, you should proceed with caution.

WHO RUNS IP TESTS?

Because the IP code is simply a set of international standards agreed upon by each industry, there is no official body or network of third-party companies in charge of IP certifications. Rather, it is the responsibility of the companies seeking certification to purchase, install, operate, and maintain the equipment required for the tests.

As you might expect, the cost of all of this equipment, as well as the manpower required to manage and operate it, as well as the facilities in which it is housed, is prohibitively expensive for businesses. Companies must also cover the costs of gaskets and other components required to ensure a specific IP rating, though these are much less expensive than the testing equipment.

Large companies that sell millions of devices and have an experienced IP certification team can easily spread out and recoup the equipment costs without hesitation. Small businesses, on the other hand, face a completely different situation.

The cost of IP certification is much more difficult to absorb for these smaller teams that are not producing millions of units per year, and they are more likely to decide not to test and certify their devices even though they could easily achieve an IP68 rating.

CONCLUSION on IPX Rating

Hopefully, this guide has given you a better understanding of IP ratings and what your devices are likely to withstand in the event of an accident. Before making a purchase, always check to see if a device has an IP rating or has undergone similar testing.

Even if your device has an IP68 rating, you should still use common sense and keep it in a cool, dry place away from water and dust, and dry it off immediately if it falls into water.

What Is IPX Rating?
What Is IPX Rating?

FAQs About IP Ratings

What are the different IPX ratings?

IPX0: The product provides no additional water protection. IPX1: Can withstand water dripping vertically onto the product. IPX2: Can withstand water striking the product at a 15° angle or less. IPX3: Can withstand water sprays up to 60°.

Which is superior, IPX7 or IP68?

IP67 is superior to IPX7 because it is completely dustproof and waterproof. IP67 can also be submerged in water for 30 minutes at a depth of one meter and is suitable for use in dirty environments. In IPX7, “X” indicates that the device has not been tested for protection against solid objects (dust).

Which IPX rating is best?

If you want the best possible protection, look for an IPX7 rating (fully waterproof device) or even an IP67 rating (fully dustproof, fully waterproof). Even if a speaker is IPX7 certified, it does not float in water. That is a completely different matter. Before I go, there are two more things I’d like to mention.

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