Do you know what IPX6 rating and term water-resistant mean? Is IPX6 good enough for workouts or swimming? Can you use an IPX6 device in the shower or in the rain?
Keep reading, and you will find out what kind of protection to expect from an IPX6 device. My focus will be on speakers and earbuds, but most of the story applies to all IPX-certified devices.
What Are IPX Ratings?
An IP rating is a confirmation of device’s dust and water resistance. It is an international standard used for all kinds of equipment – industrial machines, devices used in the oil and gas industry, electrical devices, car parts, and even everyday electronics.
If a device is not IPX-certified, that doesn’t necessarily mean the device doesn’t offer any protection against water ingress. But if it is IPX-certified, you will know exactly what to expect based on its IPX rating.
Since we use our phones and portable audio equipment more than ever before, we tend to pay more attention to things like IPX ratings. Why? Because these ratings guarantee our equipment will last longer and won’t get damaged if some liquid gets spilled over it.
To understand what kind of IPX rating is adequate for your needs, you need to know what each IPX rating means.
Who Defines IPX Ratings?
First of all, the actual term is IP rating. IP stands for Ingress Protection. The international standard that ranks levels of ingress protection (IP ratings) is defined by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), and it’s called IEC 60529.
ISO 20653 is the second international standard that ranks levels of dust/water ingress protection. This international standard is based on the IEC’s standard. Most of the IP ratings appear in both nomenclatures (IEC and ISO).
The form of an IP rating is defined by the IEC, and it’s the same for the ISO standard. It consists of two letters (IP) and two numbers. The first number gives you info about dust ingress protection. The second number represents the level of protection against the ingress of water.
A device doesn’t have to be tested for both – dust and water ingress. If it wasn’t tested for one of the categories, there will be a letter X instead of a number.
IEC standard also defines an optional (supplementary) letter as a third part of an IP rating. This letter gives you some supplementary info about testing conditions or the device’s resistance. As far as I know, this letter is never used for portable audio equipment.
IP tests are performed by certified labs. The manufacturers can test their equipment, but they can’t publish IP and IPX ratings on their own. If they want to advertise their equipment as IPX-certified, they need to send the equipment for testing to a certified lab.
Having in mind what I have just said, a device doesn’t need an IPX rating to be waterproof or water-resistant. Some manufacturers simply choose not to send their equipment for IPX certification, even though their equipment is waterproof.
GoPro, for example, makes very rugged and fully waterproof cameras, but the cameras are not IPX-certified. You won’t find any information about IPX ratings in the specs, even though they certainly are waterproof.
Levels of Dust and Water Ingress Protection
IEC grades the levels of water ingress protection on a scale from 0 to 9. Zero obviously means no protection, while rating 9 describes protection against high-temperature and high-pressure water jets.
Levels of protection against the ingress of solid objects and dust are graded on a scale from 0 to 6. The rating 6 is given to dust-tight/dustproof devices.
It’s important to make a distinction between level 0 and the letter X. While 0 means no protection, X means not tested.
A device that was given some water ingress protection rating, but wasn’t tested for dust ingress, will probably offer some level of protection against the ingress of solids. But since it wasn’t tested, there will be a letter X instead of a number.
Ratings IPX1 and IPX2 provide protection against dripping water, but only when the water is dripping at specific angles. IPX3 protects against spraying water, while IPX4 offers protection against splashing water from any angle.
IPX5 and IPX6 ratings are very similar. They both provide protection against water jets. The difference is in water pressure and volume. These two ratings are usually referred to as water-resistant.
Ratings IPX7 and IPX8 offer protection against submersion in water. The difference between the two is in water depth (1m Vs. up to 4m) and duration of the test (30 mins Vs. 30+ mins).
Devices with IPX7 and IPX8 are usually advertised as waterproof.
As discussed earlier, the ISO standard is mostly the same as the IEC standard. However, three ISO ratings don’t exist in the IEC standard. The ratings are IPX4K, IPX6K, and IPX9K. The letter K at the end of these ratings means increased pressure.
The level IPX9K in the ISO nomenclature is exactly the same thing as the IPX9 in the IEC nomenclature. The other two ratings with the letter K do not exist in the IEC nomenclature in any form.
IPX6 Water-Resistant Rating
IPX6 rating is given to devices that can withstand powerful water jets. The exact conditions for each IPX test, including IPX6, are strictly defined by the IEC.
The iPX6 test is done with a 12.5mm nozzle. It’s the same-looking nozzle as the one used for the IPX5 test, but with a bigger diameter (6.3mm Vs. 12.5mm).
The distance between the nozzle and the tested device is 3 meters. The jet hits the enclosure at all angles for at least 3mins (or 1min per m2 for bigger devices).
The water pressure is 100 kPa, while the volume of water is 100 liters/min.
If the device under test survives this powerful water jet and remains fully functional, it will receive an IPX6 rating.
Is IPX7 Better than IPX6?
This is one of the trickiest questions. You would assume that a higher rating provides better protection, but that’s not true. At least, not always.
So, a device can be submersible in water (rated IPX7 or IPX8) but not resistant to powerful water jets (not compliant with IPX6).
If a manufacturer wants to advertise its device as fully waterproof (IPX8) and resistant to powerful water jets (IPX6), the device has to pass both tests. In that case, there will be two IPX ratings in the specs written like this: IPX6/IPX8.
To sum things up, IPX7 is not necessarily better than IPX6. It all depends on the intended use. In certain scenarios, IPX6 might actually be a better choice than IPX7.
What Can I Do with IPX6-Rated Audio Equipment?
So, you can use IPX6 earbuds for workouts or any type of outdoor activity. You can use them in the rain. You can also place a speaker next to a pool and play your favorite tunes while swimming without worrying about the speaker. Water splashes won’t cause any damage.
However, I don’t think that IPX6 devices are suitable for swimming or underwater use. If you are looking for something that could survive continuous immersion or submersion, go for IPX7 or IPX8.
IPX6 devices might survive a few swimming sessions, maybe even more than that, but they are not designed for that.
Also, if you want to use earbuds or headphones for swimming, the IPX rating is not the only thing you should be concerned about. You should also think about the type of earbuds or headphones.
The big issue with Bluetooth equipment is that Bluetooth signals don’t travel well through water. Water is Bluetooth’s enemy. So, Bluetooth earbuds and headphones are not a good choice for swimming.
Ideally, you would use battery-powered headphones with built-in storage. All the most popular swimming headphones and earphones also have a headband/neckband.
Is IPX6 Audio Equipment Any Good?
I noticed something strange about the audio equipment with this rating. The number of available IPX6 speakers and earbuds is very limited.
I wasn’t able to find any reputable brand with this rating. Only some generic budget brands, usually Chinese. I’ve seen TREBLAB (speakers) and TOZO (earbuds) before, but that’s all. I have never had a chance to test them.
So, there are no earbuds made by Sennheiser, Bose, Sony, or JBL with an IPX6 rating. Also, there are no UE, JBL, Bose, Sony, or even Anker speakers.
I’m not trying to say that all the available IPX6 speakers or earbuds are bad. I cannot say that since I’ve never had a chance to test them, but the lack of popular brands with an IPX6 rating makes me wonder.
Ok, maybe the IPX6 test is too hard to pass, and that’s the reason behind such a limited number of available IPX6 speakers and earbuds, but how did these cheap speakers and earbuds pass the test? I honestly don’t know.
There are numerous speakers and earbuds with IPX4 and IPX5 ratings. Also, a number of Bluetooth speakers and earbuds have IPX7 and IPX8 ratings. But IPX6 is simply not as common as those other IPX ratings.
I did that for the TREBLAB HD-MAX, and I was pleasantly surprised. This speaker can definitely survive splashing and spraying water. Check out the video below – the water resistance test starts at 8:50.
TrebLab HD Max Review
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Is IPX6 waterproof good?
- Answer: The IPX6 test is quite demanding. It requires devices to endure powerful water jets (100l/min, 100 kPa) for at least 3 minutes. Those water jets can only be compared to violent storms. So, yes, I consider IPX6 to be a pretty good rating. However, the term waterproof is rarely used for IPX6 equipment. The more common term for IPX6 equipment is water-resistant.
- Question: Can you wear IPX6 in the shower?
- Answer: Yes, you can. IPX6 will handle everyday shower use with ease. Just one piece of advice – always wipe the speaker off after you finish showering.
- Question: Can IPX6 be used in rain?
- Answer: Yes, it can. IPX6 can be used in the rain.
- Question: Which is better IPX6 or IP68?
- Answer: As discussed in this article, ratings IPX7 and IPX8 are not backward compliant with IPX5 and IPX6. So, if a device has an IPX8 or IP68 rating (dustproof and submersible in water), it doesn’t have to be compliant with IPX6. An IP68 device might not be able to withstand powerful water jets. In reality, IP68 devices are usually better than IPX6 devices.
- Question: What IPX can you swim with?
- Answer: I would recommend IPX8 or IP68 for swimming. IPX6 devices might withstand a few swimming sessions or even continuous swimming use, but there’s no guarantee.
I hope this post helped you fully understand the meaning of the IPX6 water-resistant rating and learn a few things about the IPX certification process.
If you have additional questions or want to share your experience with IPX6 speakers and earbuds, leave a comment below.