First of all, IPX3 does not mean waterproof. You cannot submerge an IPX3 device in water and expect it to survive. But what can You do with it?
Keep reading, and you will learn what kind of protection against ingress of water an IPX3 rating provides and what you can do with a device with an IPX3 rating.
Furthermore, I will discuss possible use scenarios for audio equipment with an IPX3 rating and offer a few tips on what to look for when buying water-resistant headphones, earbuds, and speakers.
Why You Need to Pay Attention to IPX Ratings
This one is easy. You need to pay attention to IPX ratings because they guarantee some level of protection against water ingress, meaning your device will last longer and will not get damaged if it gets in contact with water.
IPX-rated headphones, earbuds, and speakers are usually more rugged and robust than regular non-IPX audio gear. This allows you to use these devices outdoors, in the shower, during workouts, or even while swimming.
Not all IPX ratings provide the same level of protection. They are not all suitable for all the activities listed above. Depending on the activity, you will look for a specific IP or IPX rating.
For example, IPX4 is good for the shower or workouts but it’s not good for swimming. IPX8, on the other hand, is good for swimming but may not be resistant to powerful water jets.
If a product doesn’t have an IPX rating and is meant for outdoor or even underwater use, the lack of an IPX rating doesn’t automatically imply that a product is falsely advertised as waterproof.
Some manufacturers simply prefer to conduct water resistance tests on their own, and that’s why their products don’t have an official IPX rating. GoPro cameras are the perfect example. They don’t have an IPX rating but are certainly waterproof.
When it comes to audio gear, devices advertised as splash-proof, water-resistant, or waterproof usually have an IPX rating to confirm those claims.
Who Defines IP and IPX Ratings?
Two international standards define the form of an IP rating and different levels of protection.
What Does an IP or IPX Rating Look Like?
Both standards adopt the same basic form of an IP rating. Each rating starts with the letters IP, which stands for Ingress Protection.
IP is usually followed by two digits. The first digit describes the protection against the ingress of dust (or solid objects), while the second describes protection against water ingress.
IEC recognizes 7 levels of dust ingress protection (0-6) and 10 levels of water ingress protection (0-9). If you see the letter X instead of the first or the second digit, it means the device was not tested for dust or water ingress protection.
ISO recognizes some additional levels of protection against water ingress. Those additional levels include IPX4K, IPX6K, and IPX9K. While the IPX9K provides the same protection as IEC’s IPX9, the other two ratings (IPX4K and IPX6K) are not recognized by the IEC standard.
IP Ratings – Meaning Behind Each IP Rating
Rarely, two letters describing dust and water ingress protection are followed by a supplementary letter that gives you more information about testing conditions or resistance to other substances.
What Does IPX3 Mean?
While IPX1 and IPX2 ratings offer protection against dripping water, an IPX3 rating offers protection against water sprays. This implies that an IPX3 device has a more robust and more water-resistant enclosure than IPX1 and IPX2 devices.
However, even IPX3 devices are not resistant to water sprays from any angle.
For the IPX3 test, certified labs use either spray nozzles with counterbalanced shields or oscillating tubes. The same equipment is used for IPX4 tests.
When a nozzle is used, the test is divided into two 5min segments (10min in total). The device is sprayed at angles up to 60° on a vertical axis.
The water pressure is 50-150kPa, while the amount of water equals 10 l/min. After the first segment, the device is rotated (horizontally) by 90°, while all the other parameters remain the same.
When an oscillating tube is used, the device is left on a stand for 10mins, and the volume of water is 0.07 liters/min for each hole. The tube oscillates around the object down to a 60° angle (measured from the vertical axis).
If water doesn’t enter the enclosure or enters it in amounts that are not big enough to interfere with the normal operation of the tested device, the device receives an IPX3 rating.
How Waterproof Are IPX3 Devices in Practice?
Now that you know how an IPX3 test is conducted, let’s discuss practical applications. So, what can you do with IPX3 devices?
Similar to IPX2 devices, IPX3 devices are suitable for everyday outdoor use. If you’re looking for IPX-rated earbuds/headphones for the gym or for outdoor sports activities, IPX3 should provide decent protection.
Technically speaking, IPX-rated devices are not sweat-resistant or sweat-proof since IPX tests are done with fresh water. IPX-certified labs don’t test devices for sweat resistance.
However, in practice, IPX-rated devices usually offer better protection against all kinds of liquids, not just water. So, while there’s nothing to prove their sweat resistance, IPX-rated devices tend to be more durable than non-IPX devices.
While IPX3 is good enough for the gym or for casual outdoor use, I wouldn’t recommend it for the shower or other activities that include water coming from all angles. Also, immersing or submerging an IPX3 device in water will most probably result in damage. So, swimming with IPX3 headphones is not an option.
I also wouldn’t use an IPX3 speaker around the pool and wouldn’t bring it with me to the beach. While it can probably survive a few splashes, there’s no guarantee. Remember, the device is resistant to spraying water, but not to sprays coming from any direction.
So, Is IPX3 Acceptable IPX Rating for Audio Gear?
IPX3 is good enough for some activities but not others. For example, you can use IPX3 headphones and earbuds in the gym or for various outdoor activities, but you cannot swim with them.
When it comes to IPX3 Bluetooth speakers, they are ok for outdoor use. A few raindrops won’t cause any damage, but a heavy rain or storm will probably damage them.
IPX3 is not good enough for use in the shower. Also, IPX3 audio gear cannot survive submersion in water or water jets.
If you want a speaker you can bring everywhere, I would suggest going for a higher IPX rating. Depending on the specific activity, you should look for something between IPX4 and IPX8.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Which IPX rating is best?
- Answer: This is not an easy question. When it comes to IPX ratings, a higher rating doesn’t always mean better protection. It all depends on the activity you want to use your device for.
- IPX7 and IPX8 devices are often considered waterproof, which means they can be submerged in water. IPX7 devices can survive temporary submersion, while IPX8 devices can withstand continuous submersion.
- However, waterproof doesn’t mean resistant to water jets or powerful water jets. A device can receive an IPX7 rating and still not be durable enough to withstand water jets.
- Having an IPX7 or IPX8 rating doesn’t automatically imply that a device is compliant with lower IPX5 or IPX6 ratings. If a device is compliant with both IPX6 and IPX8 ratings, it will have two ratings written in the specs – IPX6/IPX8.
- So, the “best” IPX rating depends on the type of activity you want to use your device for.
- If you, for example, want a shower speaker, the best rating would be IPX6. Ideally, you would find something with an IPX9 (IEC) or IPX9K (ISO) rating, but there are no such speakers.
- Question: What is IPX3 waterproof?
- Answer: IPX3 waterproof is a misleading and confusing phrase. IPX3 doesn’t mean waterproof. Waterproof is a marketing term usually used for devices with IPX7 and IPX8 ratings.
- Waterproof is not the official term recognized by the organizations (IEC and ISO) that created IP standards. Instead of using these vague and confusing terms, IP standards define the exact criteria a device must meet to receive an IP rating.
- In the case of IPX3, a device must remain fully operational after being sprayed for 10 mins from directions ranging from -60° to +60° (measured from a vertical axis).
- IPX3 rating basically means that a device can survive light rain for 10mins.
- Question: What is the recommended IPX rating for a shower?
- Answer: You should be looking for an IPX4 rating, at least. Ideally, you will get an IPX6 speaker for the shower.
- Question: Is IPX7 safe for showering?
- Answer: It is. IPX7 is perfectly capable of surviving shower use.
- Question: Is IPX5 OK for swimming?
- Answer: No, it’s not. For swimming, you should go for IPX7 at least. IPX8 or IP68 is perfect for swimming.
- Question: How deep is IPX8 waterproof?
- Answer: The exact depth for the IPX8 test is defined by the manufacturer and can vary. It’s always deeper than 1 meter (3.3ft), which is the predefined depth for the IPX7 test. It usually goes down to 3m, but it can be even deeper than that if the manufacturer requests greater depth.
- Question: Which is better IPX8 or IP68?
- Answer: IPX8 means that a device can survive continuous submersion in water, but wasn’t tested for dust ingress. IP68 device was tested for dust ingress, and it’s been given the rating 6, which means fully dustproof.
- The letter X doesn’t mean a device doesn’t offer protection against dust ingress. It just means the device wasn’t tested.
- Still, while IPX8 isn’t necessarily worse than IP68, I would suggest going for IP68.
- Question: What is IP63 waterproof?
- Answer: IP63 means a device is fully dustproof and resistant to water sprays. An IP63 device is not resistant to water jets and is not submersible in water.
There you have it. Now you know exactly what to expect from an IPX3 device. While some protection is better than none, I would advise you to look for IPX4 or higher for most activities.
For more info about waterproof and water-resistant audio equipment and IPX ratings, read through the FAQ section. If there’s something you want to ask or share your experience, there’s a comment section at the bottom.