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Are Waterproof Headphones Better Than Water Resistant?

Last updated: 9 months ago
3 min read

Here’s how waterproof headphones differ from water-resistant, water-repellent, and weatherproof.

Please read carefully so you don’t ruin your earbuds by exposing them to too much water.

Waterproof vs water-resistant headphones infographic

Here’s a table of comparing water-resistant vs waterproof headphones:

ActivityWaterproof
headphones
Water-resistant
headphones
SweatSafeSafe
Light rainSafeSafe
ShoweringSafeSafe (only IPX5)
SwimmingSafeNot safe
Submerge
underwater
SafeNot safe

What Are Waterproof Earbuds and Headphones

Waterproof earbuds and headphones are fully enclosed and completely protected against submersion in water. They’re rated at IPX7 and higher. They’re protected by a special hydrophobic coating that blocks water intrusion.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo are IPX7 water-resistant
IPX7-rated earbuds can be washed under tap and also submerged underwater.

They feature sealed ports and casing openings that withstand submersion in water. This is the highest level of water protection.

Most of the top workout earbuds are fully waterproof, so you can wash them under tap water after use.

Activities you can do with waterproof headphones

Waterproof headphones are safe against sweat, rain, showering, swimming, bathing, submerging in water for a short duration, and all types of water sports.

They’re not suitable for diving because the water protection of waterproof earbuds isn’t strong enough at higher depths. You can only submerge them up to a depth of 3 ft (1m).

Also, over time and with use, the protective coating becomes thinner and loses its waterproofing properties. It’s not uncommon, even for fully waterproof earbuds, to stop working after a couple of years.

What Are Water-Resistant Earbuds and Headphones

Water-resistant earbuds and headphones are protected against water but to a lower degree. They’re rated from IPX4 to IPX6. Different levels of water-resistant headphones can withstand different levels of water. It’s determined by their IPX rating.

1MORE ComfoBuds Mini water resistant
IPX5-rated earbuds, 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini, can safely be sprayed with water.

Activities you can do with water-resistant headphones

IPX4 water-resistant headphones are protected against sweat and light rain, but you can’t wash them under tap water or use them in a shower.

IPX5-6 water-resistant headphones are also protected against a higher pressure of water. You can wash them under a tap and use them for showering, but you can’t submerge them in water.

P.S. IPX5 is right at the limit of protection for showering. If you have IPX5-rated headphones, it’s best not to use them for showering too often.

What Are Water-Repellent Headphones

Water-repellent headphones are often another name for water-resistant headphones with a protective coating that repels water. A thin layer of hydrophobic coating makes water bead up and prevents water intrusion.

But it doesn’t tell the level of protection. To know what level of protection your water-repellent headphones have, check their IPX rating.

The difference between water-repellent vs waterproof/resistant

Water-repellent headphones have a thin layer of waterproofing material that makes water bead up and roll off the surface instead of absorbing into the material.

Water-repelling coatings are typically made from silicones, epoxy, and other hydrophobic materials that repel water.

  • Waterproof coatings are thicker and stronger, so they can prevent liquid intrusion under water pressure. Waterproof earbuds are suitable for exposure to heavy moisture.
  • Water-repellent headphones are suitable for occasional and light moisture.
Water resistance testing
Waterproof JBL Reflect Mini NC earbuds submerged in water during our test.

Water wicking headphones

Water-wicking headphones is another name for water-repellent headphones. The “wicking” describes the effect of a hydrophobic coating. It draws water away from electronic components, similar to the water-repelling effect.

So, to find out the water protection of your headphones, check for their IPX rating. If it’s not given by the manufacturer, assume a very low level of protection (IPX4 and lower).

Weatherproof headphones

Weatherproof headphones are protected against different weather conditions like heavy rain, air humidity, dust, and extreme temperatures. Typically, they’re more rugged and durable than standard headphones. But check their IP (IPX) rating for the exact dust and water-protection level.

Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless earbuds
Bose Sport earbuds are marketed as sweat and weather-resistant. They have IPX4 rating.

Rainproof headphones

Rainproof headphones are specifically protected against rain, and outside moisture, so they’re safe to use during bad weather. They often have a higher level of water protection than weatherproof headphones. But check first.

Usually, this is just a fancy way of saying the product has some level of water protection.

Check the IPX rating if available, or assume a low rating of IPX4 or lower.

FAQs

Are Bose SoundSport waterproof?

Bose SoundSport in-ear headphones are not waterproof, according to Bose. Instead, they’re water-resistant and protected against sweat and splashing water. But you can’t submerge them or use them for showering.

Can you shower with water-resistant earbuds?

Yes, you can shower with water-resistant earbuds if they have IPX5 or higher water protection. IPX5 protection is rated to be safe against a 15-minute jet of water, so a light, low-pressure shower spray is safe.

Conclusion

There’s a lot of ambiguity between the meaning of the term waterproof and water-resistant earbuds. It’s wrong to think they’re both the same.

Many people break their headphones, assuming they’re safe from heavier water exposure. To avoid problems yourself, check the IPX rating of your headphones and what it means before seriously exposing them to water.

If you’re looking for fully protected headphones, check the best waterproof wireless headphones, and the best headphones for swimming, which you can use for shallow diving.

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