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 speakers that bear these labels.
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.
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.