Devices with an IPX5 rating have enclosures so sturdy they can survive water jets. They can easily handle sweat, light rain, and even downpours, at least for some time.
In this post, I will try to explain what an IPX5 rating tells you about the durability and water resistance of a device. The focus will be on audio equipment and activities you can and cannot do with IPX5-rated audio gear.
Let’s start with some basic terminology.
Why Are IP and IPX Ratings So Important?
We need IP and IPX ratings today more than we needed them before. In the past, terms water resistance and waterproofness, as well as IPX ratings, were related to industrial or electrical equipment.
Today, numerous electronic devices we use every day have some kind of IP or IPX rating. Most smartphones, Bluetooth earbuds, headphones, and speakers offer some level of protection against water and dust ingress.
Since we depend on these devices so much (especially phones and laptops) and we take them with us everywhere we go, it’s only natural to look for something durable. Something that could survive an accidental drop, spilled water, rain, or sweat.
That’s why we all look for IPX-certified equipment. You don’t want your earbuds to fail after the first workout, and you certainly don’t want your phone broken after accidentally spilling water on it.
IP and IPX ratings reassure us that our devices will survive occasional mishaps.
So, if you care about your equipment, you will look for an IP or IPX rating that matches your needs and specific use scenarios.
Who Defines IP/IPX Ratings?
The first international standard that classified different levels of dust and water ingress protection and defined tests for each level of protection was the IEC 60529, brought by the International Electrotechnical Commission in 1976.
Besides the IEC 60529, there’s another international standard, ISO 20653, defined by the International Standardization Organization. ISO 20653 is based on the IEC, but there’re some subtle differences.
IEC introduced 7 levels (0-6) of protection against the intrusion of solid objects and dust. Level 0 provides no protection against the intrusion of solid objects, while level 6 provides protection against dust ingress (six means dustproof).
The IEC standard defines 10 levels (0-9) of protection against the intrusion of water. Level 0 means no protection, while level 9 provides protection against the intrusion of water when the enclosure is hit by high-temperature, high-pressure water jets.
Levels 7 and 8 are often referred to as waterproof since devices with these ratings are suitable for immersion or submersion in water.
ISO standard is very similar to the IEC standard, but there are three ratings with the letter K in the end that don’t exist in the IEC nomenclature – IPX4K, IPX6K, and IPX9K. Of those three, the first two do not exist in any form in the IEC standard, while the third (IPX9K) is the equivalent of IPX9 in the IEC nomenclature.
The letter K in those IPX ratings defined by the ISO standard stands for increased pressure.
IPX Ratings Explained
What Is the Form of an IP/IPX Rating?
Each IP rating has the same form. As defined by the IEC, the rating starts with an abbreviation IP (Ingress Protection). The first digit after the abbreviation represents dust ingress protection, and the second digit represents water ingress protection.
If a device was not tested for either dust or water ingress protection, a letter X will replace the first or the second digit. For example, if a device was tested for water ingress protection and received the rating 5 but wasn’t tested for dust ingress, the rating will be IPX5.
For some devices, usually industrial equipment or electrical equipment designed for use in special conditions, there will be an additional letter following the digits. This letter gives you additional information about the device’s resistance or testing conditions.
IP and IPX ratings always have the same form. There must be no hyphens or spaces between the IP and digits representing ingress protection. If you see a hyphen or a space, it’s either a typo or a false advertisement. In any case, pay attention to this detail when buying IPX-certified equipment.
Below, you have a list of all IP ratings defined by the IEC and short explanations for each rating.
Who Tests Equipment for Water and Dust Resistance?
A device can receive an IP or IPX rating only if it’s tested by a certified lab. Manufacturers can test their equipment, but they cannot use an IPX rating to describe their devices’ water or dust resistance.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that a device can’t be waterproof or even used underwater if it doesn’t have an IP or IPX rating. Some manufacturers simply prefer doing everything, including testing, on their own.
Take GoPro cameras, for example. These tiny devices have proven to be extremely rugged and durable. Some GoPro cameras (Hero11 Black, Hero10 Black) are even waterproof down to 33ft, which is a higher level of waterproofness than the IPX8 rating, Still, they don’t have an actual IP/IPX rating.
What Does IPX5 Mean?
If a device has an IPX5 rating, it means it’s resistant to water jets. But that would be a simplified answer. As you already know, IEC defines the exact conditions for each IP/IPX test.
In the case of IPX5, the test is done with a 6.3mm nozzle. It’s a very similar nozzle to the one used for the IPX6 test, but with a smaller diameter.
Is IPX5 Worse than IPX7?
You would assume that a higher IP or IPX rating means better protection but it’s not that simple.
I can only explain this by comparing the water pressures for the IPX5 and IPX6 tests against the hydrostatic pressures in IPX7 and IPX8 tests.
The water pressures for IPX5 and IPX6 tests are 30 kPa and 100 kPa. On the other hand, the hydrostatic pressure 1m below the water surface (IPX7 test) is 9.81 kPa, while the hydrostatic pressure 4m below the water surface is 39.2 kPa.
This difference in water pressures could explain why IPX7 devices are not always compliant with IPX5.
On the other hand, IPX7 tests last significantly longer than IPX5 tests, and the hydrostatic pressure is constantly applied to the device’s enclosure. That’s why you can’t say that an IPX7 rating is better or worse than an IPX5 rating.
Is IPX5 a Good Rating for Audio Gear?
IPX5 is a pretty good rating for outdoor audio equipment, particularly earbuds and Bluetooth speakers.
In my previous articles about IPX ratings, I have compared what you can and cannot do with IPX1, IPX2, IPX3, and IPX4 devices. IPX4 and IPX5 are way better than the first three, mostly because they protect devices from water hitting the devices’ enclosures at any angle.
The IPX5 rating protects your device from water jets, while the IPX4 protects it from water sprays. So, IPX5 definitely provides better protection than IPX4. But does that mean there are more use scenarios for IPX5 audio equipment than for IPX4?
Well, not exactly. Just like IPX4, IPX5 devices can be used in the shower or for workouts. IPX5 is a perfectly acceptable rating for outdoor use. But you still cannot use IPX5 for swimming or underwater.
An IPX5 device will survive heavier rain than an IPX4 device. The chances of surviving accidental drops in water are also higher. That’s the advantage of IPX5 over IPX4.
So, if you’re choosing between IPX4 and IPX5 speakers, earbuds, or headphones, I’d suggest going for IPX5. If you’re choosing between IPX5 and IPX7 or IPX8, you should think about the intended use and choose appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Is IPX5 OK for the shower?
- Answer: Yes, IPX5 is great for the shower. IPX4 is the lowest rating I would recommend for shower use, while the IPX6 is the best choice for this purpose.
- Question: Can IPX5 be used in heavy rain?
- Answer: IPX5 could withstand heavy rain for some time. Have in mind that the duration of the IPX5 test is usually just 3mins. Water pressure for the IPX5 is much higher compared to rain, so it will survive significantly longer in the rain.
- Question: What are the requirements for IPX5?
- Answer: The exact requirements for the IPX5 test are listed in the table below.
- Question: What does IPX5 mean on earbuds?
- Answer: It means that earbuds can handle lots of water and sweat. They are suitable for gym use and for general outdoor use. I don’t think they will be good enough for swimming.
- Question: Is IPX5 waterproof or water-resistant?
- Answer: Both these terms – waterproof and water-resistant are just marketing terms. The term water-resistant is often used for IPX5 and IPX6 devices, while waterproof is used for IPX7 and IPX8 devices because they can be submerged in water.
- Question: Is IPX5 good for sweat?
- Answer: Sure, IPX5 can handle sweat easily.
- Question: Which IPX is good for swimming?
- Answer: Ideally, you should get an IP68 device for swimming. It won’t hurt if the device has an IPX8 rating. IPX7 devices should also be able to handle swimming, but not as well as IPX8.
- Question: Is IPX5 the same as IP65?
- Answer: Both ratings provide the same level of water resistance. However, an IPX5 device was not tested for dust ingress protection, while an IP65 was tested and is dustproof. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the IPX5 device is worse than the IP65.
- Question: Which is better IPX4 vs IPX5?
- Answer: IPX5 is resistant to water jets, while IPX4 is resistant to water sprays. So, IPX5 is better than IPX4.
Hopefully, this post helped you understand the level of protection an IPX5 rating provides. I did my best to explain what an IPX5 device can and can’t survive and compare it against lower and higher IPX ratings.
Hope you enjoyed it.