The are more wireless sport headphones than ever to choose from. And that’s great! There are the obvious things to look for in a pick, like a secure fit and good sound and more extreme features like Jabra’s earbuds that can coach you through runs or specific workouts or Jaybird’s athlete-sponsored buds with curated different workout playlists.
But one of the most features of any workout earbud, and one that is all too easy to overlook, is its IP (Ingress Protection) rating, which tells you how durable they are against things like water, salt and dust. Given that you’re going to be sweating in these earbuds, they need to have a good IP rating, otherwise, they’ll die real quick and you’ll be in the market for new wireless earbuds again.
All workout buds will bill themselves as sweat or water resistant, but the IP ratings will tell you exactly what kind of abuse your buds are rated to take. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that buzzwords don’t always tell the whole story.
Here’s a quick rundown. Every IP rating starts with “IP,” and the first number after it represents the dust resistance (rated on a 0-6 scale) and the second number represents the level of water resistance (rated on a 0-7 scale). The higher the number the more resistant to dust or water the headphones are. If there’s an “X” after “IP” it simply means that the headphones are not resistant to dust.
With earbuds or headphones, the most important number in the IP rating is the last one — the water-resistance rating. Yes, dust can be harmful to electronics but we all know water is the real killer. And considering that these are wireless sport earbuds, almost every time you’re putting them on, you know you’re putting them in clear and present danger.
The most important water-resistance rating is “4” — think of that the cutoff point. IPX4 means that the electronic is splashproof in all directions, while anything less than that means the earbuds are only splashproof from one side. For reference, the AirPods Pro are IPX4 rated. Normal AirPods don’t have an IP rating — so work out with them at your own risk.
But if you sweat buckets, or run in inclement weather, that might not be enough resistance for comfort. IPX5 and IPX6 are the next steps up. An IPX5 rating means that the wireless earbuds are resistant enough to withstand a sustained low-pressure water spray, while IPX6-rated earbuds can withstand a sustained high-pressure spray. The new Sony WF-SP800N (IP55) and Master & Dynamic MW07 Go (IPX6) are two examples of such-rated wireless earbuds.
IPX7 is the highest water-resistance that wireless earbuds can have. It means that they’re essentially waterproof, as the earbuds can be submerged in up to three feet (or one meter) in water for 30 minutes. For reference, the Jaybird Vista and the Jabra Elite Active 75t are some of the few IPX7-rated wireless earbuds that you can buy.
If you’re looking to dive even deeper into IP ratings, check out Jabra’s website.
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