Audio devices with an IPX7 rating are often advertised as waterproof, but do you know what WATERPROOF means in this context? What can you do with an IPX7 device? Can you swim or shower? Can you use it in the gym? You’re about to find out!
In this post, I will try to explain the meaning behind an IPX7 rating and clarify what to expect from a device with this IPX rating.
IPX Ratings – Basics of Water Ingress Protection
Let’s start with the basics. The whole point of IP ratings is to provide you with information about protection against the ingress of solid particles and liquids. IP in IP/IPX ratings actually stands for Ingress Protection.
The IP rating usually consists of two digits following the abbreviation IP. The first digit describes protection against solids or dust, while the second describes protection against water ingress.
If a device wasn’t tested for dust or water ingress, there will be a letter X instead of the first or the second digit. For example, a device with an IPX4 rating wasn’t tested for dust ingress. Similarly, a device with an IP6X rating wasn’t tested for water ingress.
An IP rating will occasionally have the third symbol, usually a letter, following the first two digits. This third symbol describes additional testing conditions (increased temperature, increased pressure, etc.).
Ingress Protection Ratings Explained
International Ingress Protection Standards
Two international standards define levels of ingress protection in slightly different ways. Both standards use the same basic form of an IP rating, but some ratings are not recognized by both standards.
The first one is the IEC standard. This standard differentiates 6 levels of ingress protection against solids (seven if you include IP0X) and 9 levels of ingress protection against water (or ten if you count IPX0).
The second is the ISO Standard (IS0 20653). This one recognizes all dust and water ingress protection levels previously recognized by the IEC, but it also introduces one additional level that doesn’t exist in the IEC standard – IPX6K.
IPX6K is similar to the IEC’s IPX6 rating. The only difference is the increased water pressure.
ISO standard also recognizes the IPX9K water protection level, which doesn’t exist in the IEC nomenclature. However, in terms of testing conditions, there’s no difference between the IPX9 rating in the IEC nomenclature and IPX9K in the ISO nomenclature.
Levels of Water and Dust Ingress Protection
As explained above, there are 7 levels of dust ingress protection (IP0X to IP6X) and 10 levels of water ingress protection (IPX0 to IPX9).
When it comes to protection against solids, a greater number always means better protection. For example, IP1X offers protection against solid particles greater than 50mm, while IP6X means fully dustproof or dust-tight.
When it comes to water ingress protection, a greater number usually means better protection (but not always). For example, an IPX1 rating offers protection against dripping water falling vertically on the device’s enclosure, while an IPX5 rating offers protection against water jets hitting the device at all angles.
IPX7 and IPX8 are special ratings in this nomenclature. Devices with ratings IPX7 and IPX8 are considered waterproof or submersible in water. The previous 7 ratings don’t guarantee protection against water ingress when a device is submerged in water.
IPX7 and IPX8 ratings are not necessarily backward compliant with all the previous ratings. More precisely, they are usually compliant with ratings IPX1, IPX2, IPX3, and IPX4, while they don’t have to be compliant with IPX5 or IPX6.
So, if someone wants to advertise its device as submersible in water and resistant to water jets, it will have to test it for both ratings – IPX6 and IPX7 (or IPX8). In this case, you will see two ratings in the specs.
Below, there’s a list of IP ratings with their meanings, as defined by the IEC.
One more thing – IP and IPX tests are never performed by the manufacturer itself. They have to be performed by a third-party certified lab.
IPX7 Waterproof Rating
Colloquially, devices with an IPX7 rating are considered waterproof. But this term doesn’t tell you much about testing conditions or the type of protection you can expect from an IPX7 device.
There’s a strictly defined test for every IPX rating, including IPX7. No IPX rating provides unlimited protection against water ingress. The duration, as well as water pressure and depth, are always precisely defined.
If water doesn’t enter the enclosure, or if it enters the enclosure in quantities that don’t interfere with the normal operation of the tested device, the device will receive an IPX7 rating.
So, an IPX7 device can withstand submersion in water, but not forever. There’s no guarantee that an IPX7 device can withstand depths greater than 1m or stay fully operational after being submerged for more than 30 minutes. It might, but you don’t know that.
Waterproof Devices Without an IPX Rating
If a device doesn’t have an IP or IPX rating, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not waterproof. Some manufacturers simply prefer doing tests on their own. Some of these manufacturers actually make great waterproof equipment.
GoPro, for example, makes highly durable waterproof cameras that can withstand depths up to 15 or 30ft, and none of these cameras have IPX ratings. GoPro’s reputation proves that its cameras are indeed waterproof.
However, you should still be careful when there’s no IP or IPX rating to confirm the manufacturer’s claims, especially if the manufacturer doesn’t have such a good reputation.
You should also pay attention to the form of an IPX rating. The only correct form is the one explained above. If there’s a space or hyphen between the IP abbreviation and digits, the IP/IPX rating is not valid.
IPX7 Vs. IPX6
IPX7 doesn’t offer better protection against water ingress than the IPX6. At least, not by default.
An IPX7 device can survive submersion in water, while an IPX6 device can survive strong water jets. An IPX7 device is not resistant to water jets by default. It must pass the IPX6 test if the manufacturer wants to advertise its device as resistant to water jets.
In practice, IPX7 devices can usually withstand rain, shower, and even water jets, but there’s no guarantee.
So, IPX7 is not automatically better than IPX6 just because 7 is greater than 6.
Waterproof Vs. Water-Resistant
Both waterproof and water-resistant are marketing terms. Waterproof is the term used for IPX7 and IPX8 devices, while IPX5 and IPX6 devices are usually considered water-resistant.
Other often used marketing terms include weather-resistant, splash-proof (usually IPX4), rain-proof, sweat-proof, etc.
All these terms don’t mean much if they are not backed by a valid IP or IPX rating.
IPX7 Vs. IPX8
IPX8 devices are considered waterproof and submersible in water, just like IPX7 devices. However, IPX8 devices are “more waterproof” than IPX7 devices.
An IPX8 device must survive greater depths (usually up to 3m) than an IPX7 device. Also, the test duration is usually longer for the IPX8 test. The duration is not strictly defined – it is a matter of agreement between the manufacturer and the testing lab. If the manufacturer requests, the depth can also be greater than 3m (9ft).
|IPX7 and IPX8 Test Requirements
|Determined by the manufacturer
Is IPX7 a Good Rating for Audio Equipment?
Generally speaking, IPX7 is a pretty good IPX rating. Things can’t get much better than that.
Devices with this rating can survive temporary submersion in water (30mins max), while devices with lower ratings are not designed for submersion. It’s not like you are going to use your IPX7 speaker underwater, but it’s good to know that you won’t damage it if you drop it accidentally into the pool or ocean.
While IPX7 devices are not necessarily compliant with lower IPX5 and IPX6 ratings, they are usually resistant to water jets. So, IPX7 is usually better than IPX5 and IPX6.
Devices with an IPX7 rating usually offer a high level of dust resistance (either 5 or 6) but are not tested for dust resistance. If you are choosing between an IPX7 and IP67 device, it’s probably safer to go for the IP67. However, you won’t make a huge mistake if you buy an IPX7 device.
Another thing to have in mind when buying waterproof equipment is that regular tap water is used for all IPX tests. Tap water doesn’t have the same composition as ocean water. To be more specific, ocean water contains much more salt, and prolonged exposure to salt can damage the enclosure. Over time, salt will cause corrosion and make the speaker less waterproof.
What Can I Do with IPX7-Certified Audio Equipment?
The number of use scenarios for IPX7-certified audio equipment is huge. IPX7 speakers and earbuds can be used for all kinds of activities that include water, rain, sweat, dirt, mud, etc.
You can use IPX7 equipment in the shower or gym. You can use it in the rain. IPX7 audio equipment is generally a good option for all kinds of outdoor events, including pool parties.
IPX7 earbuds may be a good choice for swimming, but I would still go for IPX8 or IP68 rating.
One thing you may want to pay attention to when buying a waterproof IPX7 Bluetooth speaker is whether the speaker can float or not. Floating is a nice additional feature that can prolong the life of your speaker.
If your Bluetooth speaker can float, it won’t go straight to the bottom if it gets dropped into the pool or ocean.
IPX7 Bluetooth earbuds can be used for workouts or in the shower. You can use them outdoors, in the rain. IPX7 earbuds are probably good enough for swimming, but I would go for a higher IPX rating when looking for swimming earbuds.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Is IPX7 a good waterproof rating?
- Answer: When it comes to waterproofness, things can’t get much better than IPX7. IPX7 devices can survive submersion in 1m deep water for 30 minutes. The only better IPX rating, if you are looking for something that can be submerged in water, is IPX8.
- Question: Can you shower with IPX7?
- Answer: Yes, you can. IPX7-certified speakers and earbuds are perfectly capable of surviving shower use.
- Question: Is IPX7 waterproof or water-resistant?
- Answer: IPX7 is considered waterproof. The term waterproof is also used for IPX8 devices. Devices with ratings IPX5 and IPX6 are usually advertised as water-resistant.
- Question: Is IPX7 rating good for swimming?
- Answer: IPX7 is probably good enough for swimming. However, if you can, go for IPX8 or IP68 when looking for swimming equipment.
- Question: Is IPX7 better than IP68?
- Answer: No, it’s not. IP68 is better than IPX7. IPX7 devices are not tested for dust ingress, while IP68 devices are dustproof. Also, IPX7 is waterproof down to 1m depth, while IP68 is waterproof down to 3m or more.
- Question: Is IPX7 good for the gym?
- Answer: Yes, it is. You can use IPX7 equipment in the gym without worries.
- Question: Which is better – IP or IPX?
- Answer: Generally speaking, you will get better information about the device’s characteristics if the device was tested for both – dust and water ingress. So, an IP rating gives you more information than an IPX rating.
- However, that doesn’t mean that a device with an IP44 rating is better (more resistant to dust and water ingress) than a device with an IPX7 rating.
I hope this article helped you get a better understanding of an IPX7 rating and the level of water ingress protection it provides.
If you have any questions regarding the IPX7 rating and waterproof audio equipment or want to share your experience, leave a comment below.