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IP ratings – the code behind keeping headphones safe and sound

July 26, 2017

Manufacturers often describe their products as being “weatherproof”, “dust resistant”, or “moisture proof.” Some will claim “water resistance”, or say that their product is “sweat proof.” To back these claims up, products are tested and classified, often being given an IP rating. But what does that actually mean?

At Jabra, our products are engineered to deliver sound solutions you can count on. We understand sound like no other audio specialist, but we also understand how – and where – you listen to it. You might need a product that can handle getting wet when you’re caught outdoors in the rain, or you might want to listen to music as you sweat your way through a tough workout in the gym.

Whatever your needs, we have headphones that offer incredible sound for calls and music, and that are capable of working in the toughest conditions.

Is your water-resistant phone as well protected from rain as your Bluetooth wireless or true wireless headphones? Can you take them on a long run and not worry about failure due to damage from the salt in your sweat?

What is an IP rating?

IP stands for “Ingress Protection” and measures how well a device is protected from both solid objects and liquids. An IP rating may look something like this:

IP56

The first digit tells us how well the product is protected from solid items, and the second digit references its resistance to water. The higher the rating, the better a product is protected. To get an IP rating, a product has to undergo special testing by a certified, independent company.

Now let’s talk about exactly what each digit represents.

Protection from solid objects and dust

The first digit ranges from 0–6 and reflects protection from solid particles.

  • IP0X: The product is not protected against any physical contact or objects.
  • IP1X: Only protected from objects larger than 50 mm.You won’t accidentally stick your hand into this product, but you can still easily get, say, your finger in.
  • IP2X: Protected from any object larger than 12.5 mm. This now includes fingers.
  • IP3X: Protected from things above 2.5 mm, which includes most tools and thick wires.
  • IP4X: Protected from anything bigger than 1 mm.
  • IP5X: Dust resistant. Some dust may get through, but it won’t be enough to damage the product.
  • IP6X: “None shall pass!” This product is fully dust tight.

Protection from water

The second digit ranges from 0–9 and shows how well the product is protected from water.

  • IPX0: The product offers no special protection from water.
  • IPX1: Can resist water that drips vertically onto the product.
  • IPX2: Can resist water that hits the product at a 15° angle or less.
  • IPX3: Can take water sprays of up to 60°.
  • IPX4: Is resistant to water splashes from any direction.
  • IPX5: Can resist a sustained, low-pressure water jet spray.
  • IPX6: Can resist high-pressure, heavy sprays of water.
  • IPX6K: Can resist water jets of extremely high pressure. Rarely used.
  • IPX7: Can be submerged up to 1 meter in water for 30 minutes.
  • IPX8: Can be submerged deeper than 1 meter. The exact depth is specified by the manufacturer.
  • IPX9K: Resists high-pressure, high-temperature sprays at close range. A very special case that’s dictated by a separate standard. Rarely used.

So, for example, the Jabra Elite Sport is IP67 rated, meaning it’s fully sealed against dust, and can be submerged in water up to one meter deep, for 30 minutes. The Elite Sport also with a 3-year warranty against damage from sweat – making it an ideal set of true wireless earbuds for serious workouts – indoors or out. But as IP ratings only cover fresh water, and not the salty sweat that can erode electronics, we put our products through vigorous in-house testing against damage from sweat – and then back them up with a warranty.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t is IP56 rated – meaning that while it isn’t fully sealed against dust, it is dust resistant and so any such particles that get into the device won’t affect its use. These true wireless earbuds can’t be submerged in water (as the Elite Sport can), but they can withstand high-pressure, heavy sprays of water. The Elite Active 65t comes with a 2-year warranty against damage from sweat.

What if a product doesn’t have an IP rating?

“Hang on – there’s no IP rating on this product! Does it mean the company is lying to me? Are they trying to sell me junk?”

Not necessarily. All it means is that the product in question didn’t go through the specific IP test. It’s not unusual for a product to get tested for water resistance, but not against dust resistance. In this case, it may literally have a rating like “IPX7” on it. Here, “X” is not the same as “0.” It simply means that the manufacturer didn’t specifically test the product for protection against solids.

An IP rating can also be missing if the company went for a different certification or rating standard. Look for other quality marking that proves the product is water- or dust-resistant.

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