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IPX4, IPX5, IPX6, IPX7, IPX8: What Do They Mean?

Last updated: 9 months ago
9 min read

IPX is a classification standard that tells how resistant an item is against water. It’s part of the IP code (ingress protection) which also tells protection against dust. But there are differences…

IP stands for “ingress protection” and is an internationally accepted standard. It’s used in standards IEC 60529 (International Electrotechnical Commission), ISO 20653:2013 (International Organization for Standardization), and others. It’s also known as the “IP Code.”

Waterproof Bluetooth headphones and earbuds have an IP or IPX rating. We explain the difference and the different levels of protection below.

Quick IPX Rating Explanation

(Click the infographic to enlarge.)

IPX ratings from IPX1 to IPX9 explained: infographic

Understanding the numbers will prolong the lifespan of your headphones. Let’s dig in further.

CONTENTS (click to show more)

    IPX Ratings Explained

    The IP rating system consists of the letters “IP” and two numbers. 

    Quick example: IP57

    The first digit (5) stands for particle protection like dust (0-6)

    The second digit (7) stands for water protection (0-9)

    • If there’s a number 0, it means an item was tested and has zero protection against that element.
    • If there’s a letter X, it means an item wasn’t tested against that element.

    IPX ratings and protection at different levels:

    How different IPX levels protect against rain, sweat, showering and water submersion.

    RainSweatShowerSubmersion
    IPX9KYesYesYesYes
    IPX8YesYesYesYes
    IPX7YesYesYesYes
    IPX6YesYesYesNo
    IPX5YesYesYesNo
    IPX4YesYesNoNo
    IPX3YesYesNoNo
    IPX2YesYesNoNo
    IPX1YesYesNoNo

    What each IPX rating means:

    • IPX0 means no moisture protection of enclosures
    • IPX1 means minimum protection from dripping water (equals to rainfall of 1mm/minute)
    • IPX2 means ingress protection from vertically dripping water (equals to rainfall of 3m/minute)
    • IPX3 means ingress protection from sprayed water (5-minute spray of low-pressure water jets from 50 to 150 kilopascals)
    • IPX4 means ingress protection from water splashes (10-minute spray of low-pressure jets of water from 50 to 150 kilopascals)
    • IPX5 means ingress protection from water projected from a spray nozzle (15-minute jet of water from a distance of 3 meters, at a pressure of 30 kilopascals)
    • IPX6 means ingress protection from strong pressure water jets (3-minute jet of water from a distance of 3 meters, at a pressure of 100 kilopascals)
    • IPX7 means ingress protection from continuous immersion in water up to 3ft (1m) for 30 minutes
    • IPX8 means better than IPX7, usually deeper depth or time in water (submersion that’s at least 1 to 3 meters deep, for the unspecified duration)
    • IPX9K means ingress protection against the water spray of hot water (using a high-pressure spray nozzle at the temperature of 80°C or 176°F)

    You can read more about the waterproof vs water-resistant difference.

    IPX4

    What does IPX4 mean?

    A device with an IPX4 rating can be classified as water-resistant or sweatproof.

    IPX4 devices can withstand 10 minutes of water splashing and spraying, mimicking heavy sweating and moderate rainy weather conditions.

    They offer decent protection for daily use, indoors or outdoors. This is also one of the most common IP ratings in workout headphones and earbuds for running.

    • Heavy rain: Pouring rain could be too much for a device with an IPX4 rating to handle. It protects only against light and moderate rain.
    • Showering: Not advisable. Sprays aren’t equal to water jets that come out of the shower head. Though the device might survive a rare water exposure.
    • Swimming: No, a device isn’t tested for full submersion. It won’t survive going underwater.
    man running with earbuds
    Electronic devices with an IPX4 are resistant to sweaty workouts and rain but not much more.

    IPX5

    IPX5 waterproof meaning: The tested device survives 15 minutes under a jet of water (12.5 liters per minute at a pressure of 30 kilopascals, from a distance of 3 meters).

    It’s considered splashproof or sweatproof but not fully waterproof.

    • Heavy rain: Yes, it survives heavy rain situations with ease.
    • Showering: While it’s not advisable, you can shower with IPX5 earbuds. However, don’t be surprised if they stop working after a while. But you can wash them under tap water.
    • Swimming: No, IPX5 is not a high enough rating to endure underwater submersion.

    IPX6

    IPX6 waterproof meaning: This is the first protection rating for headphones that survive powerful jets of water for 3 minutes straight (100 liters of water per minute at 100 kilopascals, from a distance of 3 meters).

    • Heavy rain: Yes (with ease).
    • Showering: Yes. It’s safe to shower with IPX6 earbuds.
    • Swimming: No. IPX6 devices aren’t suitable for swimming. The water might still penetrate inside the headphones.

    IPX7

    IPX7 waterproof meaning: The headphones can fully immerse in water, up to 1-meter (40 inches) depth, for at least 30 minutes.

    A headphone or even a waterproof speaker with this rating has a fully waterproof enclosure and can be used for showering, in heavy rain, and even dropped in shallow water. You can wash the device under tap water too.

    An IPX7 rating means the electrical equipment inside the headphones is protected against immersion in water for up to 30 minutes in shallow water. Going deeper or longer in water is not advised and can damage your headphones.

    • Heavy rain: Yes (with ease).
    • Showering: Yes. (with ease).
    • Swimming: Yes. IPX7 devices are suitable for swimming. All waterproof swimming headphones have a minimum IPX7 rating. Just be careful not to go too deep since it’s only tested for a 1-meter depth (40 inches).
    Swimming in lake
    Swimming requires special headphones with a minimum IPX7 rating.

    IPX8

    IPX8 devices are fully submerged in water between 1 and 3 meters (3.3-10 ft) and can resist water for an indefinite time (determined by a manufacturer).

    This is an improved protection level that upgrades the time and depth the headphones can stay underwater. These are fully waterproof and are suitable for all activity in water.

    • Heavy rain: Yes (with ease).
    • Showering: Yes. (with ease).
    • Swimming: Yes. IPX8 devices are suitable for swimming. You can go deeper since they’re tested in 1-3 meter depth (3.3-10ft).

    IPX9K

    An IPX9K device can survive a pressurized jet of hot water from at least 4 angles. You can steam clean it.

    This is the highest rating for water resistance. At the moment, it’s still rare, with only a few devices rated for it.

    Remember that while tests try to mimic real-life situations, they’re still executed in a controlled environment.

    • Heavy rain: Yes (with ease).
    • Showering: Yes. (with ease).
    • Swimming: Yes. IPX9K devices are suitable for swimming.

    Here’s a video of an IPX9K ingress protection test:

    IPX9K Ingress ProtectionTest

    IP Dust Protection Ratings

    Dust ingress protection code follows a similar numeral structure. The degree of protection that the enclosure (earbuds) has against the ingression of solid foreign objects is rated from 0-6 (a “6” represents completely dustproof).

    Jaybird Vista 2 covered in dirt
    It’s nice to know from the IP codes that, despite heavy abuse, earbuds will still work.

    IP0X means no protection from the ingress of small particles (dirt, dust, etc.) or incidental contact.

    IP1X means protection against objects larger than 50mm, little protection (> 50 mm)

    IP2X means protection against contact with fingers and similarly sized objects (> 12.5 mm)

    IP3X means protection against thick wires, small screws, etc. (> 2.5 mm)

    IP4X means protection against small bugs, ants, tiny wires, etc. (> 1 mm)

    IP5X means protection against dust. It’s solid particle protection but not fully dust-tight. Some dust is let in but can’t do damage.

    IP6X means complete protection against dust. Dustproof and complete protection against contact with solid objects (test duration of up to 8 hours, where the dust is forced into the device using a vacuum).

    Here’s a video showing how they test dust protection:

    IP Level (Ingress of Solid) Test Procedure

    Why aren’t all water-resistant headphones tested for dust protection?

    Manufacturers skip the additional testing to cut down costs.

    The logic is that if headphones survive full submersion, they probably also deflect the bigger dust particles, thus being at least a little bit dust resistant.

    Many headphones have an IPX4 (water-resistant) or IPX7 waterproof rating but don’t have official dust protection.

    No dust IP rating doesn’t mean earbuds have no dust protection. It just means it’s not tested.

    It’s safe to assume at least some level of dust protection. But since most people aren’t willing to pay more for it, manufacturers save money by not testing it.

    Even with dust protection, you shouldn’t roll your headphones in dirt.

    Keep in mind that if you get IP6X rated product, it doesn’t mean it’s protected against all solid particles in all situations. Ratings are always tested in controlled environments.

    In the best dust-tight rating, these devices undergo exposure to windblown dust for a test duration of up to 8 hours.

    What happens to that intrusion protection if you drop your headphones on the floor or expose them to dust for longer periods?

    Nobody knows. Even if the device has a max IP rating for dust, it can still get damaged by it in real life.

    How a Device Gets an IP Rating?

    To put an IP code rating on a device, the manufacturer has to put their device through various testing. Tests are performed by a certified and independent company using standardized testing methods.

    1. At the facility, the manufacturer decides for what IP rating they want to test their product.
    2. Then, a product is placed on a dedicated rig where it undergoes special testing for that exact IP rating, blasting the product with water from different angles and using specific pressures.
    3. If it passes the test, it receives the rating. If the water/dust finds its way into the housing, it fails the test.

    Each test costs a lot of money, which raises the price of a device. So manufacturers carefully decide for which IP rating they want to test their devices.

    Sometimes a device is unofficially water-resistant, but the manufacturer decides not to test it. Like OnePlus 7th generation smartphones. OnePlus stated that if those phones would have been IP tested, they would cost $30 more.

    Here’s a video showing a water IP test:

    IP Level (Ingress of Liquid) Test Procedure

    Is a device with an IPX7 rating also tested for the IP ratings below?

    Not necessarily. A manufacturer usually decides at what IP level they want to start the test. Some start from the toughest level, while others start from the lowest level.

    Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

    Waterproof and water-resistant are different. Due to vague marketing terms, customers tend to misunderstand the terms. While both talk about water resistance, they represent different levels of protection.

    In short: Waterproof is better than water resistant.

    Water-resistant levels

    Water-resistant levels are usually considered from IPX4 to IPX6.

    SoundPEATS Sonic water-resistant
    SoundPEATS Sonic earbuds have an IPX5 rating, making them water-resistant.

    Devices that are water-resistant (or splashproof) can prevent some amount of water from getting inside but can’t survive full underwater submersion.

    Such devices work fine when they get in contact with sweat or get soaked in heavy rain. You can even take them under a shower.

    Enclosures with IPX6 or below are considered water-resistant.

    Some devices use special hydrophobic nano coatings to repel water. Essentially, when such a coating gets drizzled with water, the water forms into droplets and slides off.

    The coating can be on top of the housing or inside. This prevents water from causing damage (corrosion/short circuit) to internal parts if the water gets inside.

    However, the IP international standard isn’t testing this. So, it’s an extra feature.

    Waterproof levels

    Waterproof levels are the highest protection against water ingress from IPX7 to IPX9K.

    JBL Reflect Mini NC waterproof
    JBL Reflect Mini NC boast an IPX7 rating, which means they can survive full submersion.

    Waterproof means that the product stops the water from getting inside (it’s impervious to water).

    Devices with at least an IPX7 rating can go underwater for up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) or 3 meters (10 feet) if they have an IPX8 rating.

    Such water resistance is great if you like keeping your device clean and washing it under a tap.

    Read more: The difference between waterproof and water-resistant headphones

    How Do They Make Things Waterproof?

    Manufacturers use different methods for protecting devices with electronic components.

    • Adhesive. This is the most common technique for waterproofing smartphones and headphones. The adhesive is applied at the main seams of a device (like between a phone screen and housing). This method allows for easy access to the internals since you only have to heat it up to lose its grip.
    • Rubber gaskets. Rubber or silicone lips are usually added around ports and buttons to prevent liquids from entering the internals.
    • Conformal coating. The internals are sprayed with a thin layer of acrylic or silicone to prevent accidental contact of the liquids from creating a short circuit.
    • Potted enclosure. The most rigorous water protection method is filling the internals with epoxy or silicone. While that provides the best protection from water and drops, it’s also impossible to repair and also prevents normal heat dispersion from electronics.

    How do they protect drivers against water?

    Waterproof headphones (mostly earbuds) still require a hole to let the sound from a driver into your ears. 

    The solution is to cover the driver with a mesh that’s fine enough, so it doesn’t let the water through (under ideal specific conditions).

    Waterproof smartphones use a similar solution to cover their speakers.

    Waterproofing durability standards

    The most known is the MIL-STD-810G military standard. With this standard, the US Department of Defence determines the ruggedness of equipment.

    Some headphones, such as Jaybird Vista 2, are certified to have the MIL-STD-810G durability standard.

    Jaybird Vista waterproof case
    Jaybird Vista 2 have an IP68 rating and MIL-STD-810G standard on the buds and an IP54 rating on the case.

    Testing involves exposing products to extreme temperatures (hot and cold), drops, acids, funguses, and even bullets.

    However, the main problem is that these tests aren’t standardized. So, two devices with the MIL-STD-810G standard aren’t necessarily equally durable.

    Read more:

    (FAQ) Frequently Asked Questions about IPX

    What does IPX mean?

    IPX stands for Ingress Protection and is a water protection rating. IPX1 is the lowest, IPX9 is the highest level of protection against water. IPX4 products are sweat-proof, min. IPX7 are waterproof.

    Is IP rating the only water resistance standard?

    There are different rating systems for water and particle protection, but the IP is the most recognized worldwide. NEMA rating is similar to the IP rating, though NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) is primarily used in North America while the rest of the world uses the IP code.

    What is the highest IPX rating?

    The highest IPX rating is IPX9K which means protection against hot, high-pressure water intrusion from 4 different angles. It also protects against water submersion.

    What’s the minimum water resistance if I want to shower with my headphones?

    IPX5 is the minimum water protection rating you should look for. It means the headphones are protected from shower water. Higher IPX is better, get IPX6 or IPX7 to safely use in a shower.

    Can you swim with IPX7 waterproof headphones?

    You can swim with IPX7 headphones up to the depth of 3 ft (1m). They’re fully protected against water and you can safely submerge, though Bluetooth won’t work underwater.

    What is the difference between IP and IPX?

    The difference between IP and IPX is that the IP rating has dust and water protection, like IP68 (6 for dust, 8 for water) while IPX is a rating against water only. The “X” replaces the dust protection number which is unknown in the IPX’ case.

    Is IPX7 better than IP68?

    IPX7 is not better than IP68 because it has a lower water protection rating and no dust protection at all. IP68 rating is equivalent to IPX8 and IP6X, which is the highest dust protection level.