We all know what it means to be ‘waterproof’… or do we? Does it mean your electronic device can be submerged in water, or that it can withstand a spilled drink? And by submerged in water, what kind of water are we talking about? A kiddie pool, toilet, frigid lake, or 100 degree hot tub?
Thankfully there’s a way to know for sure. There’s a rating system that ‘officially’ measures and rates electronic devices for things like water resistance and dirt or dust.
What’s an IP Code or IP Rating?
Something called an “IP Code” or International Protection Marking or Ingress Protection Marking rates how well protected your electronics are against incursions.
An IP Code will have a series of letters and some numbers (such as IPX5 or IP67), and here we’ll look at what these mean and how they describe your electronic devices.
The letters IP stand for Ingress Protection or International Protection.
An “X” indicates there is no data for a certain criteria.
The numbers correspond to levels of protection. A ‘0’ is used where something has no protection.
How to read an IP code rating
The first digit or letter after the letters IP rates how well protected a device is against solids or objects getting inside; think dust, dirt, sand, fingers, pens. In many of the speakers we’ll be looking at, they have not been rated for solids intrusion, so you’ll see the designation “IPX” and then a number. It’s not that there isn’t any barrier against this kind of intrusion, it’s just not been formally rated.
The second digit measures liquid intrusion protection. For the most part this tested with basic fresh water, and can’t necessarily apply to ice cold Coke, hot chlorinated water or a very dry martini.
There are some other considerations for water resistance, like the duration of exposure to the water and the distance that it originates from (think a jet of water sprayed from a hose a foot away, versus a water gun shot from across the yard) but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll skip some of those technicalities, since the chances you’re going to get out a tape measure and calipers to measure what happened to your speaker is pretty small anyway.
IPX1-IPX6 are basically water resistant, meaning they resist water intrusion. Anything above that can be considered waterPROOF.
Here are the different levels of water resistance and waterproof protection:
IPX0 – No water resistance
IPX1 – Protected against vertical water falling from above.
IPX2 – Protection against vertical water dripping, even when the device is angled up to 15°.
IPX3 – Water falling on your device won’t harm it, even when it hits from an angle of up to 60°
IPX4 – Splashed liquid from any direction likely won’t get inside
IPX5 – Protection from water jets from any direction, projected from a nozzle up to 6.3mm.
IPX6 – Protects from more powerful water jets from a nozzle of up to 12.5mm, coming in from any direction.
IPX7 – Your device can be fully immersed in water and withstand pressure up to 3 feet or 1 meter.
IPX8 – Your device won’t be harmed by ending up in water over 3 feet.
With those numbers in mind, let’s look at a few speakers and what their levels of protection are.
The Bose SoundLink Color II Bluetooth speaker (photo at top) is portable and has a water-resistant design, plus enough juice for up to 8 hours of listening on a single charge. This speaker has both Bluetooth and Near Field Communication or NFC pairing plus an Aux input so you’ve got options to connect.
Monster’s Superstar Firecracker wireless speaker also has options for connecting via Bluetooth or an Aux jack so you can pump out music from your smartphone, tablet, or any Bluetooth-enabled device. Rated IPX4, it’s shockproof, splashproof, and the rechargeable battery lasts up to 7 hours. There’s also a built-in LED flashlight.
You’ll get power and portability plus more water resistance with Sony’s SRS-XB3 Bluetooth wireless speaker. Built with Sony’s proprietary EXTRA BASS technology you can expect powerful sound with deep, rich bass, while its small size makes it easy to bring anywhere.
There’s both NFC and Bluetooth connectivity for easy connections plus speakerphone for handsfree calls outdoors or in.
If you want the specs, Sony says the SRS-XB3 has been “tested and found to remain functional after exposure to direct jet streams of water using a nozzle of 6.3mm internal diameter from any direction where roughly 12.5 L/min of water is applied for more than 3 minutes from a distance of about 3m. Waterproof performance specifications apply to fresh water, tap water, and sweat, and are not applicable to any other liquids (soapy water, pool water, seawater, etc.).
Ted reviewed this speaker — check it out here to read more details about it.
Another great option from Sony is the SRS-XB2 Bluetooth speaker. I reviewed this little gem and absolutely love it.
Though I wasn’t able to test the review model by splashing it with water, I did enjoy the sound, the full bass, and the range.
Now on to the waterproof versions…
This speaker boasts a lot of features: incredible sound with deep bass in a multi-directional 360-degree design. It’s got a 100 foot range and 15 hour battery life so it’s super versatile. NFC, Bluetooth, or Aux connections are all options.
With the IPX7 rating the speaker is waterproof but Ultimate Ears also says it’s dirt-proof (though you’ll see it’s not technically rated for it), and shockproof.
Another high quality speaker with great water protection is the JBL Charge 3. This speaker also includes a USB power bank to charge your other devices, a speakerphone, and the battery should hold enough charge for up to 20 hours of music.
You can also combine multiple JBL Connect-enabled speakers to amplify a single source and create an even bigger listening space.
By now we’ll know from our research that these next speakers are fully rated for both solid and liquid ingression. Since we skipped a class and didn’t detail the specifics of solids ingression in a chart (that’s another blog), suffice to say the 6 rating for solids means no ingress of dust at all, giving complete protection against contact following an 8 hour immersion test.
The Altec Lansing Jacket H2O II Bluetooth wireless speaker is made for the outdoors. That IP67 rating means it will withstand water, dust, and impacts. This baby even floats in the water so you won’t lose it.
Finally, one last workhorse; the FUGOO Tough Bluetooth portable speaker. Made with a fibre-reinforced resin shell and solid aluminum casing this speaker was made to handle almost any situation.
At the same time you can count on it for rich bass, crystal-clear highs, and 360-degrees of sound within a 33-foot range.
Thanks to that IP67 rating, it’s the best choice for rugged activities like mountain biking, hiking, and even rock climbing since the casing and shell absorb impact on all 8 corners. It’s even got iOS’s Siri and Android’s Google Now digital assistant compatibility.
Choose your speaker based on your lifestyle
As you can see, the speaker you choose will have a lot to do with the kind of places you’re likely to be and the kinds of activities you’ll do. And if you’re just the klutzy type, maybe go with as much protection as you can afford.