IPX Rating System Explained: What Does it Mean?

IPX Ratings System Explained

The IPX (Ingress Protection) rating system refers to the level of protection provided by electric devices (including headphones), against dust and water.

The IP and IPX ratings are defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) under IEC 60529. They are tested by third-party IPX-licensed laboratories or by the manufacturers (but, they can’t use the IPX rating).

An IP rating is written as IP followed by two numbers, the first number indicates the level of protection from dust, while the second number indicates the level of protection from liquids (water).

What is the IPX Rating System?

The Ingress Protection (IP) rating system is an international code that measures the durability and weather resistance of a device and tells you how well the device will perform under certain conditions.

IP rates how much resistance the enclosure of electrical devices has against dust and water intrusion and grades the product based on the IP chart.

While IP measures a product’s resistance to dust and water, IPX only measures its water resistance.

The most common IPX ratings are listed below.

  • IPX0
  • IPX1
  • IPX2
  • IPX3
  • IPX4
  • IPX5
  • IPX6
  • IPX7
  • IPX8
  • IPX9

You’ll find IP and IPX ratings on your mobile phones, headphones, earbuds, power banks, and Bluetooth speakers.

Since we rely heavily on these devices and take them everywhere, it’s common to drop or splash a drink on them every now and then. To ensure these devices can withstand daily use, manufacturers test them under different conditions.

Each condition exposes the device to a different level of water pressure and gives it a rating based on its level of resistance. The higher the IP rating, the higher the level of external protection.

Why are IP And IPX Ratings Important?

IP and IPX ratings are important because they measure the durability and performance of a product under different conditions. These numbers indicate what you can do with the device and the conditions safe for you to use it. IP and IPX also tell you if a device is fit for outdoor use or not.

For instance, if you need a phone to record underwater videos, you must use one with a high IPX rating, so you can be guaranteed your device can be submerged in water without damage.

IP and IPX ratings are also important because they tell you how best to maintain your product. Since you know the resistance levels of the device, you wouldn’t expose it to elements more than its IP rating. This ensures your device keeps working at optimum levels.

Who Defines IP/IPX Ratings?

The IP and IPX rating of a device is defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) under IEC 60529. IEC 60529 is the first international standard that classifies and grades the level of protection electrical devices have against dust, particles, and water ingress.

The IEC revealed 7 levels of protection against dust and particle intrusion, where IP0 offers no protection and IP6 offers the maximum level of dust protection.

IEC also revealed 10 levels of water resistance, where IPX0 offers no protection and IPX9 offers the highest level of protection. Most electrical devices have a water resistance IPX rating between 0 and 8. IPX9 offers protection against high pressure from hot water at any angle.

Aside from the IEC, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also measures the IP and IPX rating of electrical devices under ISO 26053. ISO 26053 is based on the IEC but there is a minor difference – ISO 26053 introduces the letter “K” in some IP ratings to measure the level of resistance the electrical device has against increased pressure.

Who Tests Equipment For Water And Dust Resistance?

IPX-licensed laboratory tests equipment for water and dust resistance. The lab subjects the electric device to different conditions and grades its resistance based on the IPX rating chart.

To get an IP or IPX rating for your electric device, you have to take the product to a third-party certified laboratory for testing.

Manufacturers often test their own devices themselves against water and dust intrusion. In this case, the manufacturer can advertise their product as being water-resistant or dustproof if it passes the in-house test, but they can’t use an IP or IPX rating.

This doesn’t mean the electric device isn’t waterproof or dustproof as advertised. It just means the test was carried out by the manufacturer and not an IPX-licensed laboratory.

What is the Form of an IP/IPX Rating?

An IP rating is written as IP followed by two numbers. The first number ranges from 0-6 and it measures dust and particle protection while the second number ranges from 0-9 and measures water resistance.

For example, headphones with an IP rating of IP56 have a dust protection score of 5 and a water resistance score of 6. If you see a hyphen or space between the letters and figures, it indicates false information or a typographical error during packaging.

If the electrical device is tested for only water or dust intrusion, the other number is represented with an X. For instance, if your headphone has an IPX5 rating, it means it was only tested for water intrusion and not dust protection, and had a score of 5 on the water resistance chart. If your power bank has an IP6X rating, it means it was only tested for dust intrusion and not water intrusion, and had a score of 6 on the dust protection chart.

Sometimes, IP ratings have additional letters included after the second number which indicate the electric device was tested under another condition aside from dust and water intrusion.

Here are other supplementary letters you might see on a device’s IP rating and what the letters mean:

  • M – indicates the device was in motion during the water test.
  • S – indicates the device was stationary during the water test.
  • F – indicates the electric device was tested for oil intrusion.
  • W – indicates the device was tested under weather conditions. Speakers and other electric devices that have this rating can be used outdoors.
  • H – indicates high voltage apparatus.

IPX Meanings

All the IPX scores are meanings are listed below.

What Does IPX0 Mean?

IPXO means the device has no protection against water intrusion. Devices with this rating should not be exposed to moisture of any kind.

What Does IPX1 Mean?

An IPX1 rating means the electronic device can withstand vertical water drops equal to 1mm/min rainfall for up to 10 minutes. Devices with an IPX1 rating are protected against minimal rainfall and sweat.

What Does IPX2 Mean?

An IPX2 rating means the electronic device is protected against vertical water drops equal to rainfall of 3m/minute for up to 15 minutes even when the device is tilted up to 15 degrees on either side of the vertical water drop.

What Does IPX3 Mean?

An IPX3 rating means the electronic device is protected against spraying water up to 60 degrees from either side for 5 minutes. During this test, the water is sprayed from low-pressure water jets ranging from 50 to 150 kilopascals.

What Does IPX4 Mean?

An IPX4 rating means the device is protected against water splashes. This test subjects the electronic device to water spray from low-pressure jets for up to 10 minutes from any direction. Most headphones, earbuds, and speakers have an IPX4 rating meaning you can use them in sweaty conditions and under light to moderate rainfall.

What Does IPX5 Mean?

An IPX5 rating means the electronic device is protected against water jets spraying around 30 kilopascals of pressure at a distance of 3 meters for up to 15 minutes.

Headphones and speakers with an ingress protection rating (IPX5) are advertised as water-resistant and can withstand moderate to heavy rainfall and may be used in the shower for a short period.

What Does IPX6 Mean?

An IPX6 rating means the electronic device has water ingress protection from strong water jets up to 100 kilopascals (or 15 psi) at a distance of 3 meters up to 3 minutes from any direction.

Headphones and earbuds with an IPX6 rating can withstand heavy rainfall and can be used in the shower. However, you can’t submerge them in water or swim with such headphones.

What Does IPX7 Mean?

An IPX7 rating means the electronic device can be submerged in water up to 1 meter deep for at least 30 minutes.

Headphones with an IPX7 rating can be used under heavy rainfall, in the shower, dropped in shallow waters, and even washed under a running tap. You can also go swimming with IPX7 headphones as long as you don’t go more than 1 meter (or 40 inches) deep.

What Does IPX8 Mean?

An IPX8 rating means the electronic device can be immersed in water up to 3 meters deep and can prevent water ingression for an indefinite time.

Headphones with an IPX68 rating are advertised as waterproof and can be used in any wet conditions without getting damaged.

What Does IPX9 Mean?

An IPX9 rating means the electric device can withstand pressurized jets of hot water from different angles. This is the highest rating of water resistance for any electric device and it’s rare to find headphones and speakers with this rating.

Devices with this rating are protected against water vapor and steam, meaning you can steam clean them without any problems.

What is the Best IPX Rating for Headphones, Speakers, and earbuds?

The best IPX rating for your headphones, speakers, and earbuds is IPX5 and IPX6.

But, always consider your waterproofing requirements when choosing listening devices. If you are using headphones for working out and running only, a rating of IPX4 is good enough since they can withstand sweat and light rainfall.

If you want to shower with your earbuds, use the ones with a higher IPX rating. Headphones, speakers, and earbuds with an IPX6 rating and above are considered top quality and can be used in different conditions, except swimming. If you want to go swimming with your earbuds, you’ll need a pair with IPX7 or higher.

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