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Understanding IP Ratings

If you’ve just purchased a new speaker or headphones, or perhaps you’re still wanting to buy it but you don’t quite know if it’s waterproof or not. You notice an IP Rating – but what does that mean exactly? Is it fully waterproof or just water-resistant? In this quick guide, we’ll break down exactly what the difference between the two are, as well as what each IP rating means. Let’s get into it!

Water-Resistant

Water resistance is a level of water protection that typically protects against light rain showers and hand washes. Devices with this rating are usually built to be difficult for water to get inside or have been coated with substances better capable of surviving an encounter with splashes of water.

Waterproof

The definition of waterproof is pretty straightforward: water should not be able to enter the device. However, there isn’t an industry standard that has been established in order for a device to qualify as “waterproof.” The closest thing we have is the Ingress Protection Rating scale or IP Code.

What is Ingress Protection (IP)?

An Ingress Protection (IP) rating, also sometimes referred to as an “international protection rating”, is a standard set out by the International Electrotechnical Commission. An IP rating is a number that determines how well a product can withstand various environmental conditions such as dust and moisture. The higher the number, the more protection the product has from those elements. 

What do the IP rating numbers mean?

First Digit

The first number represents the level of protection offered against solid objects (like dust).  

Second Digit

The second number represents the level of protection offered against liquids (like water). 

IPX

When an “X” is used, it represents a placeholder for a value that has not been tested. 

Solid Protection

IP CodeProtectionObject Size
0No protection.N/A
1Protection from contact with any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand. But no protection against deliberate contact with a body part, such as a finger.Less than 50mm
2Protection from fingers or similar objects.Less than 12.5mm
3Protection from tools, thick wires or similar objects.Less than 2.5mm
4Protection from most wires, screws or similar objects.Less than 1mm
5Partial protection from contact with harmful dust.N/A
6Protection from contact with harmful dust.N/A

Moisture Protection

IP CodeProtectionTest durationUsage
0No protection.N/AN/A
1Protection against vertically dripping water.10 minsLight rain
2Protection against vertically dripping water when device is tilted at an angle up to 15 degrees.10 minsLight rain
3Protection against direct sprays of water when device is tilted at an angle up to 60 degrees.5 minsRain and spraying
4Protection from sprays and splashing of water in all directions.5 minsRain, spraying and splashing
5Protection from low-pressure water projected from a nozzle with a 6.3mm diameter opening in any direction.3 mins from a distance of 3 metersRain, splashing and direct contact with most kitchen and bathroom faucets
6Protection from water projected in powerful jets from a nozzle with a 12.5mm diameter opening in any direction.3 mins from a distance of 3 metersRain, splashing, direct contact with kitchen and bathroom faucets, outdoor use in rough sea conditions
7Protected from immersion in water with a depth of up to 1 meter (or 3.3 feet) for up to 30 mins.30 minsRain, splashing and accidental submersion
8Protected from immersion in water with a depth of more than 1 meter (manufacturer must specify exact depth).At least 30 minsRain, splashing and accidental submersion

Water-Resistant vs Waterproof: Which Do I Need?

The answer to this relies solely on what your intended use is. If you’re just looking for a poolside speaker, something that can keep the music flowing on a hot summer’s day, then a water-resistant speaker will do the job just fine. It can handle the odd splash of water without any issue. However, if you’re wanting a speaker you can throw into the pool, then a fully waterproof speaker is needed.

Similarly, if you’d like to listen to music while you shower – a water-resistant speaker will do the job if you plan to have the speaker outside of the actual shower. If you’re wanting to bring it into the shower, you’ll need to opt for waterproof. 

For outdoor use, like a patio section, you will be able to get away with water-resistant if your patio section is covered. Weather-exposed patios or speakers on a boat, for example, will need to be fully waterproof.

Finally, when looking at headphones and earphones, particularly for working out, you’ll want to ensure that they are at least water-resistant which means they are “sweat-proof”. If you are are wanting to go swimming with your earphones, then fully waterproof earphones will be needed.

Understanding IP Ratings Infographic 2 - Speakers Reviewed

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