There are plenty of choices for earbuds designed to cope with sweaty abuse. But you should know sweatproof and waterproof don’t mean the same thing.
We salute you if you can exercise with nothing but random huffs and grunts as your backdrop. However, popping earbuds in before a workout is habitual for most people and exercising without Jock Jam’s playlist is certainly unthinkable. Study shows that tunes can boost your performance by 15 percent. So we think the right pair of earbuds — namely, one that doesn’t interfere with your workout and still sounds good (is that too much to ask?) — is just as important as the weights you’re about to swing around.
Somehow, though, there aren’t many earbuds that are great for exercising. While any old in-ear or Bluetooth earbuds can be convenient on the go, most of them aren’t explicitly designed to shrug off sweat.
Decoding the IPX Rating
If you sweat more profusely, you might have to opt for sweatproof earbuds, as moisture affects the vibration of diaphragm and thus outright damages your earbuds; also prolonged moisture will corrode the internal parts.
While many earphones are “sweatproof,” what does that actually mean? Can these devices be used in the rain? What about in the shower, or even the pool? Sweatproof doesn’t mean the same thing as waterproof, so let’s break things down.
The first thing you need to look for is a device’s IP rating.
IP ratings are usually made up of four characters. The first two characters, I and P, stand for Ingress Protection or – in other words – how good it is at keeping stuff out. The third digit is the number that indicates how good it is at fending off dust and dirt, ranging from zero to six — with zero as no protection and six as completely dust-proof even under pressure. The last digit is the liquid or water resistance rating, with a max level of 8.
In other words, if you see IP68 somewhere, you know it offers the highest IP rating for both dust and water resistance. At least, when it comes to the IP-rating certification.
But what is IPX7?
The presence of the X in the rating does throw some people. It literally means the device hasn’t been certified for protection against dust, but doesn’t mean it’s not dust resistant.
As with any other rating with 7 at the end, it means the device can last up to half an hour in water up to 1 meter/3.3 feet deep.
For a breakdown of each individual possible IP-rating, check out the level-by-level chart:
The TaoTronics Wireless Earbuds are rated to IPX5 standards, which means they are sweatproof – an equivalent to splash proof in most respects.
Not too complicated, right? Unfortunately it’s not all cut and dried. Just because something is IPX7 rated, that does not mean it has passed tests for the levels below it.
For example, while the iPhone 8 has an IPX7 rating meaning it can withstand long periods of submersion, you shouldn’t take it in the shower or run it under the sink (levels 5 or 6), unless Apple specifically states otherwise.
Sweatproof ≠ Waterproof
The terms waterproof, water resistant and sweatproof get bandied around quite a bit in the world of consumer electronics, as their meanings have been blurred into marketing speak. But that doesn’t mean you chuck your earbuds into the nearest lake with impudence.
Broadly speaking, if something is waterproof, a dunk in the toilet isn’t going to kill the device. Waterproof devices are usually rated to IPX7 standards and will resist water ingress up to the pressure of being stationary under 1 meter/3.3 feet of water for 30 minutes. This is most important for those looking for swim-safe earbuds. But keep in mind that when moving through the water or impacting with it, say when you jump into a pool, the pressure can be a lot higher than simply being immersed in it. It might survive, but it also might break a seal, and at that point it’s probably game over for your expensive earphones.
On the other hand, sweatproof simply refers to IP second digit 4 up to 6, ranging from splashing water to water jets.
No IPX Rating?
If the IPX rating is not provided by a manufacturer, you should take their claims with a grain of salt.
The earbuds in question might be water resistant but you have no real way of knowing how water resistant they are. Perhaps the company didn’t want to pay for the testing and certification.
Other earbuds that don’t adhere to the common IP standards could be going for other certifications to determine how much pressure they can withstand underwater (and certainly read the manual very carefully to see what water resistance, if any, the earbuds are supposed to have).
And yes, if anyone ever tells you that the earbuds are waterproof but refuses to show any certifications, it’s a lie. You might be talking to a snake oil salesman.
Luckily for all electronics in the world, nano coating is the unsung hero that makes your earbuds completely water repellant. The nano coating, which is hydrophobic, causes water to simply bead up on contact and run off any treated internal components of the earbuds.
Many earbuds come with a water repellant nano-coating, but don’t offer a specific IPX rating. Keep in mind that they will probably be fine with accidental spills, light rain, or odd splash, but won’t survive being submerged or when faced with jets of water or heavy rain.
Put simply: don’t take them in the shower, and definitely don’t take them underwater on your vacation.
For the best sound from an exercise-oriented earbuds that isn’t outrageously overpriced, go with the TaoTronics Sports Earbuds. Not only is it sweatproof, but it also comes with an impressively strong, balanced sound, a good 8 hours of battery life, and freedom from any sort of cord tangling.
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