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A Guide To IP Ratings And How They Affect Speakers

While many of us enjoy spending time outdoors with our electronic devices e.g speakers, in our possession, we often assume that they are designed to withstand whatever conditions they encounter whether this is dirt or water. 

The IP rating of a product illustrates its robustness and durability against these elements. You may likely now be questioning what an IP rating actually is and how important it is for electronics such as speakers. 

Below we have compiled a guide to inform you of IP ratings and how they affect speakers. 

What is an IP rating?

When it comes to IP ratings, there is lots of information to digest. An IP rating is an abbreviation for an Ingress Protection Mark and is classified by the IEC standards. Used to identify the product’s resistance to unwanted intrusion e.g. dirt and dust particles or water, an IP rating applies a two-digit grade that defines the durability of the product’s enclosure. 

Although this explanation may appear rather confusing, simply put an IP rating is a measurement that discusses the enclosure of the electrical product’s ability to prevent any unwanted items from entering. This may be items as small as dust particles, water, dirt, and rain or items as large as tools or hands, etc. 

An IP rating can be broken down into the 3 following categories. The first being a code that identifies the protection against electrical parts to the user, how much protection the enclosure offers the internal parts of the device, and the resistance of the product against the collection of moisture.

Following the letters IP there will be two digits. The first digit represents the product’s resistance to dust and solid particles and the second represents the product’s resistance to water and other liquids. A higher IP rating is preferred because this means that the product has a higher resistance to the intrusion of these substances. The first digit ranges from 0 to 6. A rating of 0 illustrates that the product has no protection against solids. A first digit rating of 3 illustrates that the product has more protection but only against objects with a diameter of 2.5mm or larger. If the product has a first digit rating of 6, it is fully protected against intrusion from dust and other solid particles. The second digit ranges on a scale from 0 to 8. A second digit rating of 0 means that the product is not protected against contact with liquids. A rating of 4 illustrates that the product can withstand splashes of water regardless of the direction in which it is coming from. A second digit rating of 8 means that the product can withstand submersion in water with a depth of 1mm or more. Both of these digits combined can have a maximum IP rating of IP68 and as such, products with this rating will be protected from dust and liquid ingress. 

How are IP ratings tested?

The Ingress Protection Standard commonly conducts tests using specialized, calibrated equipment e.g immersion tanks and dust, to determine the product’s resistance when exposed to a range of conditions. 

How do IP ratings affect speakers?

If you intend to use your speaker outdoors whether this is to provide the entertainment at a pool party or to accompany you as you exercise, you don’t want it to get damaged by the elements e.g the rain from an unexpected downpour or accidental dropping in the pool or onto concrete. Speakers that are used outdoors are also likely to be exposed to a range of extreme temperatures so they need to be enclosed in a casing that can withstand these elements. 

A speaker that has a higher IP rating is going to offer the durability that is required for long term use in an outdoor environment. The material that has been used to construct the speaker is also going to influence how effective the enclosure is in preventing these particles from entering. For example, a casing that incorporates wooden elements is going to be prone to rotting. However, a fiberglass casing with stainless steel elements is going to offer much more strength and durability against exposure to higher temperatures and unexpected contact with the elements. Some brands manufacture specific waterproof speakers that can endure contact with different types of water without becoming damaged. 

What is an IK rating?

For those who are prone to accidentally dropping their electronic devices causing them to come into direct contact with the ground below, it is worth considering the IK rating, essentially the impact protection of the device. An IK rating is presented very similarly to an IP rating except the measurement ranges on a scale of 1 to 10 and the resistance is identified by joules. An IK rating of 0 indicates that the enclosure has no impact resistance. However, an IK rating of 10 indicates that the enclosure can withstand 20 joules of impact. If your speaker has a higher IK rating it is going to be more effective in resisting unwanted damage caused by impact with tougher surfaces. 

Why are these ratings important?

There are several reasons why products come with an IP rating. Not only do they allow manufacturers to make claims about the durability of their products as they have been backed up by testing, but it also provides the users with more confidence regarding the safety of their devices when used in different environments and exposed to different elements. While some manufacturers may claim that they are waterproof, an IP rating provides specific evidence to prove this. Awareness of an IK rating is also important in informing you of the impact resistance of your device.

If your speaker is likely to be used outdoors frequently in an environment where it is going to be exposed to solids like dust and dirt or liquids like water, knowing the IP rating is useful in understanding whether it is going to become damaged easily. 

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