Water Resistant vs Waterproof: Behind the IP Rating - Audiostance

Water Resistant vs Waterproof: Behind the IP Rating

We have all seen references on our electronic equipment titled ‘waterproof’ and ‘water resistant’. These labels are usually attractive because it gives us a sense of security that our devices will be safeguarded against the weather or a dreaded watery submergence. However, water resistance and waterproof are two very different things and play a very influential role in the capabilities of your product. If you’ve wondered what the difference between water resistant vs waterproof ratings are, then you’ve come to the right place! The following are short definitions to the rather broad topic that we will discuss further in the article:

  • Water Resistant:Water-resistance is regarded as the lowest level of water protection a product may have. The label suggests that the device may be built in such a way that it is difficult for water to get inside, or that it has been coated with a light substance that improves the devices’ likelihood of surviving an encounter with water. Water-resistance labels are commonly seen among watches, giving it the capability of withstanding a light rain shower or hand-wash
  • Water Repellent (a better form of water resistance):Water repellent devices possess the properties to, you probably guessed it, repel water, making it hydrophobic. These products stand a good chance of being coated with some form of thin-film nanotechnology and stand a much better chance against water than your average ‘water resistant’ device. Water resistant and water repellent are very similar in nature but overall they are not impervious to water.
  • Waterproof:The definition to waterproof is pretty straightforward, water shouldn’t be able to enter the device or it shouldn’t be affected by any water contact. There is currently no industry standard that has been established in order for a device to classify as waterproof. The closest thing we have to a waterproof rating is the Ingress Protection Rating scale or IP Code, but we will discuss this in much greater detail further in the article. It can be briefly described as a scale that assigns devices a rating from 0 to 8 in terms of how effective that unit is at keeping water from entering it.

Water resistance and waterproofing are in effect differing acceptance of manufacturer liability. If a manufacturer labels something as ‘waterproof’ and it leaks or breaks due to water, they are liable for a replacement. On the other hand, if a manufacturer states the device is water resistant, they mean they have made efforts to waterproof it, but they limit the liability by calling it water resistant and then qualifying it with depths and times.

This may be the reason we don’t see a ‘waterproof watch’ as often as we see a ‘water-resistant watch of up to 200 meters.’ Labeling a product as waterproof is simply too risky for most companies because it usually communicates the idea that this is a permanent condition, and whatever has been ‘waterproofed’ will never malfunction due to water. However, some companies are willing to take that risk, in this article we will go in-depth with waterproof ratings and what you should look out for when buying a water-friendly device.

IPX Ratings Explained

IP Rating Infographic - Audiostance

Thanks to the advancement in Bluetooth technology, more and more electronics are becoming mobile. Speakers and electronics which previously had to stay home can now be taken with you on your outdoor adventure. While this can be seen as a vast leap in luxury and entertainment, consumers need to be wary of the degree of protection offered by their Bluetooth-enabled devices against the elements. Indeed, it would be a rather unfortunate event if your new speaker accidentally fell into the pool and it wasn’t actually ‘waterproof.’

To aid us in our confusion manufacturers have put some information on their device descriptions such as water-resistant, water repellent and waterproof as previously discussed above. However these terms can sometimes be too vague for customers, and in reality, protects the manufacturer from liability. Do not fear fellow consumer, you might have noticed a little statement labeled “IPX7”, these values are the actual degree of protection against intrusions and the ensuing description will help you better understand it.

IP can be described as Ingress Protection or International Protection and is the global standard by which devices are measures in relation to their waterproofing and solid objects. The letter ‘X’ in IPX is a placeholder, one that is filled a numerical level depending on how much water a designated item can be exposed to without it malfunctioning. A practical example can be explained as follows:

  • If a product has a water rating of 7, the rating will be displayed as IPX7.
  • If a product has a dust rating of 6 and a water rating of 7, the rating will be displayed as IP67.
  • In very rare cases, the dust and water ratings are the same, let’s say both are 4, then the rating will be displayed as IP4.

For the purposes of the article concerning water resistance and waterproofing, liquid and moisture defenses range from IPX0 to IPX8, and are displayed in the chart below:

IP RatingWater Protection (liquids)
IPX0The device has no protection against water or moisture.
IPX1The device can resist water that vertically drips onto it.
IPX2The device is protected from vertically dripping water when it is tilted at 15 degrees or less.
IPX3The device is protected from spraying water when tilted up to 60 degrees vertically. At this rating the item will most likely survive spring showers.
IPX4The device is protected from splashes and sprays from all directions.
IPX5The device is protected against low pressure projected water (for example a nozzle or jet) from any angle.
IPX6The device is protected against high pressure sprays of water from any angle.
IPX7The device is fully waterproof and can be immersed under water for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 metre.
IPX8The device is fully waterproof and can be submerged deeper than 1 metre. The exact depth would be specified by the manufacturer on the labelling of the product.

Additionally we have also included an IP rating chart in regards to solid particle protection levels:

IP RatingDust Protection (Solids)
IP0XThe device has no protection against solids.
IP1XThe device is protected against a solid greater than 50 mm, for example a hand.
IP2XThe device is protected against a solid object greater than 12.5 mm, for example a finger.
IP3XThe device is protected against a solid object greater than 2.5 mm, for example a screwdriver.
IP4XThe device is protected against a solid material greater than 1 mm, for example a wire.
IP5XThe device is protected against dust, limited ingress. Dust will not interfere with the operation of equipment of up to two to eight hours.
IP6XThe device is dust tight, no ingress of dust, will not interfere with equipment for two to eight hours.

It is important to note that IPX ratings do not necessarily stack one another. For example, if a product is certified IPX6, this does not mean that it has also been certified at a lower level of IPX 5. The rating IPX6 only means that it has passed tests for level 6. If it has been tested for lower levels, there should be a double mention on the packaging of IPX5/IPX6 for example. There are also additional considerations to keep in mind when deciding on your next purchase. An IPX rating does provide protection but other factors might arise.

If you plan on venturing into the sea with your device, saltwater may interact differently with your device when evaporated compared to freshwater. Furthermore, when submerging a device completely in water, you have to start thinking about the atmospheric pressure at deeper levels. The further you plunge into the sea, the more force will be exerted upon you and everything attached to you. However the concern of pressure shouldn’t deter most of us, it is unlikely you will be taking your Bluetooth speaker with you into the depths of the Mariana Trench.

But what if the device you are about to buy has no IP rating? You might immediately presume the manufacturer is selling you an inferior product or one that offers no resistance to dust or water. Fortunately, this might not always be the case, companies can go through a different certification or rating standard. There might still be ‘waterproof or water resistant’ labeling on your packaging, and if your product is faulty due to water, you should be issued a refund within the prescribed warranty period. It would, therefore, be in your favor to buy ‘waterproof and water resistant’ items from reputable brands and stores to guarantee warranty exchanges and prevent quarrels with third parties.

Waterproof speaker

IPX and Speakers

The different components used to assemble your regular speaker system, and those that can be deployed outside without the fear of water damage are not particulars vast. All speakers in these categories are comprised of three main parts: crossovers, drivers and housing or the cabinet. Where the differences begin to distinguish themselves are in the materials used and associated with the manufacturing process. Indoor speakers will usually have steel as internal framing, whereas water-resistant or waterproof speakers use materials such as aluminum, brass and even stainless steel that aren’t susceptible to corrosion or rusting. In regards to diaphragms, which can be described as the membrane inside your speaker that moves to produce sound, water resistant or waterproof speakers will have one made from substances such as rubber or mylar, while household speakers will regularly use only paper.

To build a waterproof case for your speaker, manufacturers will need to use robust materials such as a plastic covered in a polypropylene finish sealed together using liquid leakage preventing, watertight Teflon or an analogous product. Your speaker needs to follow a simple standard to maintain its waterproofing capabilities: use durable waterproof components that are sealed away in a shell that is completely isolated from any outside contact.

But how is the sound quality from water-resistant and waterproof speakers? The answer lies with what you plan to buy and how you propose to use the speaker. If you don’t mind splurging on a top of the line speaker, made from premium materials, you’re unlikely to hear any difference at all. That’s because the manufacturing process for building both indoor and outdoor water-ready speakers are very similar. However, this isn’t the reality for most of us, and we all want to save some money. If you decide to go for a cheaper low-end model, be prepared for the audio to sound less than fantastic and the possibility that the device isn’t as ‘waterproof’ as it seems. In addition, most waterproof speakers use Bluetooth-enabled technology to connect your audio source, and sound degradation over long distances remains an industry-wide problem.

To compensate, however, some manufacturers have decided to use digital solutions like aptX, which is a compression system that works to avoid data loss over wireless signals. These factors shouldn’t deter you from investing in a waterproof speaker, as outdoor speakers are still competing against interior speakers whose focus can be sound first and durability second. Therefore when taking the leap of buying a waterproof speaker, try to reach a middle ground with a product that is made from durable materials, has a recent Bluetooth version and provides enough sound for specifically what you intend it to do. There is really no need to drop hundreds and thousands of dollars on an enormous speaker, whereas in reality you just need it to play some classical music in your morning shower.

Salt Water vs Fresh Water Resistance and Waterproofing:

Salt Water Speaker

As previously stated, saltwater and freshwater are very different in how they interact with your device. Saltwater is highly corrosive and eats away at anything made out of metal resulting in malfunction. Considering you may be spending a few hundred dollars on your next speaker purchase you would want it to last some time. The solution to the saltwater v freshwater dilemma is marine speakers. Marine-grade speakers are designed to be resistant to the harsh salt air and saltwater nature. Not only are they waterproof and water-resistant, but they are also created using anti-corrosive components. However, the ocean is unforgiving, and even with a marine-grade device, your product will require constant upkeep and maintenance to perform at its best and prevent it from perishing. Therefore when deciding whether you would like to buy a water resistant or waterproof product, think about if it’s going to be spending some time near the sea.

Water resistant vs Waterproof: Which Do You Need?

The issue of water-resistant and waterproof hinges on the answer to a question you’ve probably been thinking throughout this article: Do you need your speakers to be waterproof? While this question may seem simple, there’s no definite answer on the internet or anywhere else. Whether or not you want water resistant or waterproof speakers and devices is entirely up to you. Your time spent surfing the internet for an answer would be way better spent searching for a speaker with the best battery life because you’re certainly not going to charge it in the shower. In most cases, however, waterproof is just not necessary because most speakers are never completely submerged in water. Your device will most likely be somewhere in a corner picking up some drops of water as guests walk by, or to the side of your shower never actually exposed fully to the showerhead.

Waterproof Guide

As such water resistant products are usually just fine for those who don’t wish to go swimming with their electronics. Consumers who insist on buying waterproof items are probably buying into the old saying “better safe than sorry.” That’s fine too, and their devices will be better protected against water, but this decision should be with the understanding that their product is likely to be completely submerged. The price differences in a water resistant and waterproof speaker can be dramatically diagonal, so if you’d prefer to save some money, be sure what you want the device to do and the probable water risks involved.

So What’s The Ultimate IP Rating?

For a portable Bluetooth speaker, we generally prefer those with an IP67 rating. This is, of course, a combination of IP6X, and IPX7, allowing the speaker to be exposed to solid particles for extended periods, as well as handle a submersion period. An IP67-rated device can almost be considered ‘everything-proof’.


Water resistant and waterproof speakers are an exciting advancement in our current times. It opens the door for more possibilities and enjoyment from listening to your favorite music in the shower to powering an entire pool party. Consumers should always be wary of labels such as ‘water resistant’ and ‘waterproof’ and understand their key differences when choosing a device. ‘Water resistance’ is capable of resisting the penetration of water to some extent but not entirely, whereas ‘waterproof’ is impervious to water. These levels of protection can save you from accidentally throwing your ‘water resistant’ speaker into the pool at your next party, and expecting the music to continue.

IPX or Ingress Protection is a global standard that displays a devices water protection and can also be found on products. IPX0 being the lowest form offering no protection, to IPX8 being fully submersible in water. While we may not have the technology entirely perfected, and various prices apply limitations, nothing should stop you from picking up a speaker that best suits your budget for those sunny pool days.

Audiostance Author - Zach Scheepers
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Zach is a South African-based writer, audiophile, and PC enthusiast. When he's not writing for Audiostance, you'll find him reading and re-enacting scenes from the Lord of the Rings.

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