TL;DR -- SoundSwell headphones are the first to receive both an IPX8 and IPX9K certification, making them the most waterproof headphones of all time. For more on what that means, continue reading.
There are two things to consider when buying, or in our case designing, a pair of waterproof headphones:
- The first is the waterproof rating.
- The second is the waterproof source of the audio. (More on that in our next blog post)
SoundSwell’s commitment to maximum performance in these two areas is the reason we are confident that we’ve built the best waterproof headphones on the market.
Waterproof Ratings - What does IP waterproof mean?
It’s easy to get caught up in the jargon of waterproof, or water resistance, certification that is defined by the IP code.
The IP in the IP code stands for “Ingress Protection.” The IP rating of a product classifies the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion primarily to dust and water.
Ok, that’s great and all. But even with that clear, there’s still so much to be confused about. For instance, what does the X mean in the IPX4 rating of AirPods? What does the 8 mean in IP68 waterproof? What is the highest IP rating?
Numbers in the IP Scale
Now that you know what IP stands for, it’s important to know what the digits after IP mean.
The first digit in the IP Scale
The first digit (0 through 6, or X for no data) indicates the level of protection that the enclosure provides against solids.
A zero here means there is no protection against contact with solid objects, and a 6 means complete protection against contact with dust, or “dust-tight.” The higher the number, the smaller the solid.
Many waterproof or highly water resistant products use an X here because they test only for water protection, and water molecules are smaller than dust particles.
The second digit in the IP Scale
The second digit (0 through 9 or X for no data) indicates the level of protection that the enclosure provides against water. Each number refers to a specific type and intensity of exposure to water.
0 through 6 are for varying degrees of splashing room temperature water, from dripping to powerful spraying. Products with these certifications are typically referred to as “water resistant.”
Example: Apple AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating, which means they are not tested for protection against solids, but can survive splashing against water.
A 7 or 8 in the second digit of the IP scale refers to submersion in water for a certain period of time. Products with these certifications are typically referred to as “waterproof.” The ratings for protection against water are no longer cumulative at this point.
IPX7 testing involves submersion in up to 1 meter of water in depth for 30 minutes.
IPX8 certification involves any test parameters greater than IPX7. Generally this takes place up to 3 meters for 30 minutes, but the duration and depth can be specified by the manufacturer.
Example: GoPro Hero 9 is waterproof up to 10 meters (33ft). Technically, this is an IPX8 rating since the depth is greater than 1m and specified by the manufacturer, even though the test duration is not.
IPX9 and IPX9K
There is one more “second digit” to cover, the 9 in an IPX9 or IPX9K rating that has been elusive in the headphone market until now.
So, what is IPX9K? Products with this rating are protected against close-range high pressure, high-temperature spray downs, 80–100 times more powerful than the jets in an IPX6 test.
If you’ve ever wondered what is better than IP68, it’s IP68 with an additional IP69K rating. The notation for having both certifications is IP68/IP69K. Because the certifications are no longer cumulative, this must be specified.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant
The technical definition of water resistant is that a product is able to resist the penetration of water to a certain degree, but not entirely. For this reason, IPX1 to IPX6 products are technically “water resistant.”
Waterproof technically means that a product is impermeable to water. Hence, IPX7 and IPX8 rated products are referred to as waterproof, and depth/duration is specified for greater degrees of waterproofing.
The World’s Most Waterproof Headphones
Now that you know which waterproof ratings are the highest, which headphones are the most waterproof?
The most waterproof headphones on the market are SoundSwell waterproof action sport headphones (that’s us). They are the only waterproof earbuds to earn an IPX8 and IPX9K rating.
When building our headphones with extreme water sports in mind, it was important to us to test our product in even more extreme conditions than the ocean has to offer. But if you just want to shower with waterproof headphones because you can’t take your AirPods in the shower, we’ve got you covered there too.
Ultimately, IP certification and waterproof ratings are all about earning consumer trust. And to launch the most waterproof headphones ever, we needed our customers to have the utmost confidence in taking their music where it's never been before.