What are the Weatherproofing options and IP ratings for JBL install loudspeakers?
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What are the Weatherproofing options and IP ratings for JBL install loudspeakers?

Matthew Watt, Application Engineering Manager

One of the questions I often get back after sending an estimate over is “what are these bits?” usually in references to a few lines tucked away at the end of the spec with SKU’s (and price points) that don’t immediately make it obvious what they are. These will be your PC3’s, your MTC-WMG25’s… but what are they? Weatherproofing!

JBL have a myriad of accessories available, from the many bracket options for the Control Contractor series through to paintable weatherproof grilles and glands which make many speakers suitable for exposed use outside (or indoor wet areas). Aside from the JBL lines designed specifically for this environments - such as the Control 80’s and All Weather Series - many of the ranges have high IP ratings out of the box, and with the addition of the PC2/3 gland this can be raised to IP55 or IP56.

Let's take a look at what IP rating means. IP stands for Ingress Protection, so the prevention of external objects getting into the unit (and ultimately stopping/corroding it until it stops working… bad times!). 

The first digit covers the Solid Foreign Object Protection and the higher the number the better the protection is. The example I often use for this is dust. An IP rating of IP60 would give total protection against ingress from dust but no protection for the second digit. 

The second digit (as I’m sure you have guessed… based on this article's topic…clever you) is Water Ingress Protection. Where solid protection runs from 0 to 6, water protection runs from 0 to 8, with 8 being complete protection if the unit is continuously submerged in water. In the real outdoor world I would want to be using a water rating of 5+. This is defined as protecting against low pressure jets of water from any direction… so think driving rain with the unit wall mounted… with a rating of five you're good. 

A rating of 4 protects against splashes from any direction, which is fine for indoor use and perhaps some high-up wet area use (swimming pool café?) but I would up-spec for areas where that isn’t in your control. There are many and varied versions images of this data online, so give it a look if you want to see lower/higher definitions.

That out of the way, let's look at OUR speakers. We will start with the Control 23-1. This is an every day, bread-and-butter, point-source install speaker. As standard it has an IP Rating of IP44. So protected pretty well against solid ingress and good against splashes, absolutely designed for indoor install. For these we have a couple of weatherproofing additions which I want to break down individually:

Firstly is the MTC PC2 & PC3. These are weatherproof cable glands that screw onto the back of JBL Control Contractor and CBT series speakers. The PC2 is a straight connector, the PC3 is right angled (for flush install against a wall – and being a square can go left, right, up or down!). The cable runs in through a rubberised gland and prevents any water getting to the wiring terminals. When used with a CBT column it takes its rating up to IP55 (so ideal for outdoor use), when used with the Control 23-1 you also need to use the MTC-23WMG-1 (Weather Max Grille) to protect the drivers and get an IP55 rating.

The Weathermax Grilles are sized per speaker and are available for the Control Contractor 23-1, 25-1 and 28-1 as well as the Control 10 series ceiling speakers. As ever with Control Contractor series they are available in Black and White and can be painted. For ceiling speakers you need to ensure the rear of them is safe from water, so if outside (say a train platform) you want them well away from the edges. With Weathermax Grilles these are then suitable for outdoor or wet area use, although don’t come with an official IP rating.

We also have certain models rated for EN-54 Life Safety use, these follow a different standard (EN54-Type B) which means they are also rated for use outdoors and are certified for life safety purposes. Examples of these are our Intellivox V90 and H90 units as well as the CBT 50-LS, 100-LS and Control 25AV. Keep an eye out for a future article on our EN-54 ranges.

I cant talk about outdoor speakers without mentioning my favourite JBL loudspeakers, the CBT range (see our extensive CBT Overview Blog). I won't go into the range details again, but check out the CBT blog for specific unit details. To keep it brief these are a column speaker with a wide variety of applications and have out-of-the-box weatherproofing and -LS life safety versions. They are a versatile solution to MANY outdoor situations with examples of our uses being: concourses, stadia, shopping centres, leisure parks, swimming pools…

So these are  great and all, but what about if we are talking about THE ‘great outdoors’, big wide areas that need sound coverage. Examples we see of this on a regular basis are theme parks, outdoor stages, big outdoor screens, outdoor concerts… football stadia! JBL have you covered, of course!

For your screen and stages the CBT 1000 (which I can’t speak highly enough about) is IP55 rated when used with a PC2/3 gland. This means you can have a slim, unobtrusive gig ready solution that can comfortably throw 102dB (and the rest!) at 30m that, and can withstand the elements (and for really not that much ££). Add in the CBT1000E bass extension and you have an excellent solution to tricky outdoor problems.

Need bigger? The AW (All Weather) and AWC (+Compact) series speaker offer IP56 outdoor-ready solutions with integrated brackets, starting at 6.5” (AWC62) and running all the way to high power 15” boxes (AW595) suitable from school fields up to stadiums.

You need it to blend in? The Control 80 Landscape speaker series has two (5.25" and 8”) ‘mushroom’ speakers, in a rather dashing forest green. These are designed to be placed over a buried cable run and blend into scenery providing background music and paging with 360 degree dispersion. Commonly seen frequenting bushes and planted areas these speakers are also ideal for shopping malls, theme parks, sports venues, hotels, casinos, resorts, restaurants, hospitality and leisure venues…

Of course JBL also have a wide range of stadium specific boxes that are rated to be used in a shielded position (hung under the seating canopy). I won't go too deep on the detail here as it’s another blog in itself. These ranges include the PD 500, 6000 and 700 Series and the powerful VLAC Compact Line Array (seen being used to great effect at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Marketing… fancy graphic please!).

(Marketing over-delivers with a video instead! ... )

Where the VLA-C is rated at IP55 out of the box, the PD series requires a bit of work. JBL’s solution to that is to offer special weatherproof coating options. Conveniently these are also available on all of the Application Engineered (AE) and AE Compact series speakers…. so the outdoor club of your dreams is just an order away! There are two levels of coating:

WRC: Covered/Protected Outdoor Areas, IP55 Rating

WRX: Direct Exposure or Extreme Environment, IP 56 Rating

The default finish on both is a pale grey, but there are additional options for having them painted or supplied in the standard White and Black. See the detailed JBL document for more information: https://jblpro.com/en/site_elements/wrc-and-wrx-configurations-for-ae-pd-vla-series

Lastly we arrive at the large format performance PA. Our VTX A12 and A8 systems are IP55 so can be used outside with a bit of consideration - namely ensuring the front face is at 0 degrees or greater downward angle (to allow the cabinet to drain water). The suspension components are fully weather rated for indoor or covered outdoor conditions where humidity is nominally under 50%.

IP Rating Reference Table

As you can see, there are a wealth of options from JBL for specifying outdoor speakers, ranging from small format Control Contractor Speakers right through to top of the line stadium arrays. So next time you have an outdoor project, keep us in mind and get in touch with the Sound Technology Application Team for advice and assistance.