Two terms that are often encountered when dealing with outdoor speakers are “Weatherproof” and “Water Resistant.” At first glance, they might sound like they are the same thing, but this is actually not the case and can be a costly mistake to make if you confuse the two. In reality, the electronics of the speakers remain pretty much the same, but it is the case housing all the parts that make the difference. Let’s take a closer look at what the two terms really mean and what you can expect from waterproof speakers that bear these labels.
Shortcut: What’s the best protection rating?
The IPX rating you need ultimately depends on your intended uses; if you plan on using a speaker next to the pool, an IPX4 (Splash-Proof) rating would be required, but if you want one that can survive being submerged underwater, even briefly, an IPX7 would be ideal, though the fairly recent IPX8 rating allows for deeper and longer submersions.
If you want a speaker that can resist water as well as solid particles such as snow, dust, or sand, an IP67 or IP68 is necessary. The IP68 grade is another newly-released rating, which was mostly used for smartphonesat first, but is now commonly seen on Bluetooth speakers, and generally earns a speaker an ‘everything-proof’ rating.
Weatherproof speakers do just what their name implies; protect your speaker from the elements. The speakers’ functions the same as normal speakers, but are usually made from different materials because they will be exposed to the elements. Material such as steel that is prone to rusting is replaced by stainless steel, brass or aluminum instead.
Diaphragms in the drivers, which are usually made from paper in normal speakers, are replaced by Mylar diaphragms instead. Finally the speaker housing is typically given a polypropylene finish to protect against the elements and temperature changes. Although the cabinets can be sealed with a watertight finish, a speaker rated as weatherproof is not necessarily water proof and should not be submerged in liquids unless it has the appropriate IPX rating. For such extreme conditions, an IPX8 rating would be ideal. The IPX8 rating is fairly recent, and deems the speaker capable of being submerged for extended time periods, in water that can be considered ‘deep’.
Water Resistant Speakers
When a speaker is listed as water resistant this doesn’t mean that you can automatically go and submerge it in liquid and still expect it to work afterwards. The level of resistance against water ingress is referred to as the IP code and gives you an indication of just how water resistant the speaker is.
A clear IP rating is preferred over vague marketing terms such as waterproof which doesn’t specify just how resistant the speaker is to water. IP is rated on a scale from zero to nine with higher numbers indicating greater water resistance. For example, IPX0 (the “X” indicates the solid particle protection level) means that the speaker is not protected against water at all and should be kept away from moist areas.
At level 1 the speaker is protected from water drops, provided these fall vertically on the speaker. Moving on to level 2 provides resistance against drops even if the speaker is tilted up to a maximum angle of 15 degrees. Level 3 means the speaker can operate even if hit by water falling as a spray up to sixty degrees from the top of the speaker.
At level 4 the speaker can be splashed from any direction with no harm. For protection from water sprayed by a nozzle of no more than 6.33 the speaker requires at least level 5, but more powerful jets require at least level 6. Your speaker can be immersed in at least 1 meter (3 feet) of water at level 7 and at level 8 it can probably fall in the pool and still survive.
Beyond the 1-8 numbered system is the combination of solid particle resistance and water particle resistance. In audio devices like portable Bluetooth speakers, this is generally, and ideally, an IP67 rating. The IP67 rating means the speaker can withstand almost anything you throw at it, and I can tolerate it for a long time. For outdoor speakers and portable Bluetooth speakers, the IP67 rating is our favourite, since it provides an entirely stress-free listening experience, while you can confidently use your speaker anywhere you like, knowing practically nothing will harm it.