Stop and think about how many things can cut a pair of headphones’ life short, from random drops to broken cables, or even just the normal wear and tear of being thrown into your purse or backpack on a daily basis.
But the biggest danger to your earphones or headphones? That would be water, the bane of all electronics and the one element aside from air that your personal listening devices are bound to come in contact with at some point.
That’s why you see so many headphones today labeled as “water resistant,” or even “waterproof.” But what do these descriptors mean, exactly? Sadly, on their own, they don’t tell you much. What you need to know is exactly how much water your headphones or earphones can resist, and in what conditions. To find that out, you need to know their IP rating.
IP (or Ingress Protection) ratings are part of a rigid standard, published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, and backed by stringent laboratory testing. Those tests result in two digits, the first of which tells you how well-protected a product is against solid matter (dust, dirt, your toddler’s prying fingers); the second lets you know exactly how well it can stand up to liquid ingress. And if a product is only rated to withstand one form of ingress or the other, the digit representing the untested foreign intruder will be represented by an X, just like in algebra class.
As you can see on the chart below, when it comes to IP ratings, the higher the number the better. So, while an IPX1 rating might mean that your earphones won’t get wrecked if you stand under the edge of a drippy awning during a light rain shower, an IPX9 rating means your personal listening device is probably safe if someone accidentally power washes your head.
IPX Rating Chart
But which rating is the right rating? Sure, bigger is better, but designing and manufacturing headphones that can pass more stringent and demanding IP ratings tests costs more. As such, those headphones and earphones sell for more.
If you’re looking to strike the right balance between price and protection, IPX4 is probably your best bet. IPX5 protection might come in handy if you’re in the habit of wearing your earphones while driving your convertible through your local carwash with the top down. But for the rest of us, the resistance against splashing water, sweat, and the occasional unexpected downpouring of rain provided by earphones like the BT 120 NC neckband earphones or Bonobuds is exactly what’s needed.
By Dennis Burger
June 12, 2018