My daughter’s heading to the beach for some camping and I want to buy her a waterproof speaker. I am completely confused by IP5, IP6, and IP7 ratings. What are these IP ratings and what’s the best for a beach speaker?
That’s a great question, actually, because while manufacturers love to list their “IP” rating, they don’t do much to help us consumers understand what it all means. IP stands for “ingress protection” and is actually a formal standard with specific tests required. Ingress is defined as “the unwanted introduction of water, foreign bodies, contaminants, etc.”
At its most basic, the IP rating consists of two numbers. The first indicates protection against solids, rated by size, and the second protection against liquids, rated by depth and duration. For example, IP00 means that there’s no protection of any sort, and like, say, a postage stamp, the slightest exposure to anything is going to cause trouble.
On the other extreme, an IP68 device is basically impervious to everything, including dust, sand, water, it can even be immersed for a long period of time. The first digit only ranges from 1-6, while the second is 1-8, which is a bit confusing.
The way to think about these IP ratings is that the higher the first number, the better the device can withstand being in dirt, dust, gravel or sand. The higher the second number, the more impervious it is to water and other liquids.
Your laptop, for example, is probably susceptible to even a tiny spill, while it might do okay against dust and dirt, suggesting an IP41 or similar. That rugged, outdoor, “waterproof” speaker? It might well be an IP45, which means it’s “protected against solid objects over 1mm” and “protected against low-pressure jets of water from all directions. Limited ingress permitted.”
For example, I just reviewed an iHome outdoor bluetooth speaker on my YouTube channel and it had a rating of IP67. That’s a great rating because it means it’s completely protected against solids (dust, dirt, sand) and is protected against immersion in water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Even better: It floats!
A speaker like this unit would be ideal for your son because it can be plopped down in the sand without any adverse impact at all. If a wave gets it, no worries, he can rinse it off and it’ll be fine. It’ll even keep working throughout that experience.
Worth noting is that some companies don’t test both solids and liquids, in which case they’ll use an “X” to indicate no rating. Apple’s AirPods Pro earbuds have an IPX4 rating, for example. Just think of “X” as being lower than 1 and you’ll know it doesn’t mean the product is great, it means it hasn’t been tested.
If you want to learn more, Wikipedia has an exhaustive explanation too: IP Codes.
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