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A divers scuba regulator serves as a means for reducing the pressurized gas in your air tank into ambient pressure that is delivered to the divers mouth. A regulator is an essential piece of equipment that allows divers to breathe from a tank of compressed, high pressurized air, allowing the diver to experience greater depths.
Researching and finding a quality regulator, it can be argued, is the most important decision in choosing your scuba diving equipment. For this reason, most divers make a regulator their first piece of equipment to purchase and for which they conduct the most extensive research. However, with the huge number of designs and manufactures, the process of finding a quality regulator can be challenging.
This article is intended to provide you with our recommendations of the five best scuba regulators, along with a buyers guide to assist in your search. So let's get started; here are our recommendations of the top scuba regulators for your consideration and review:
Best Scuba Regulator Reviews
1. Scubapro MK25/A700 Regulator
The Scubapro MK25 regulator is an excellent choice that is extremely reliable. This regulator is suited for recreational divers, as well as technical divers. It is designed to be used in cold water and extreme conditions. The Scubapro is a higher end cost regulator, however the quality of design and construction, and the features offered makes this our top choice. This regulator features a superior airflow system ensuring quality performance in all temperature conditions and is constructed to provide effortless performance. The Scubapro features an air balanced piston regulator that has an environmental seal.
2. Aqua Lung Calypso QC Regulator
The Aqua Lung Calypso regulator is a compact and lightweight regulator that is manufactured by Aqua Lung, which has over 70 years of experience. The Calypso is a budget friendly, yet high quality regulator that is ideal for beginner divers. The compact design makes maintaining and cleaning the regulator very manageable. The Calypso features an unbalanced piston first stage and a second stage regulator.
3. Hollis 200LX DCX Regulator
The 200LX is described by Hollis as it’s “flagship regulator” that is “designed for extreme conditions.” Hollis is a company with over 40 years of designing and manufacturing life support systems. The lifetime warranty offered backs up Hollis’ claim that it will “outperform and outlast” other regulators. The 200LX features a balanced diaphragm regulator, with an environmental seal.
4. Apeks MTX-R Regulator
The Apeks MTX-R regulator has a unique over-balanced diaphragm design. This specialized design supports superior performance at any depth and is engineered for diving under cold water conditions. Apeks states that the “MTX regulator was developed in accordance with the United States Navy Experimental Dive Unit” requirements. The MTX features a balanced diaphragm regulator, with an environmental seal.
5. Mares Abyss 22 Navy II Regulator
The Mares Abyss 22 is a compact, lightweight and a high performing regulator. The regulator is constructed using polyurethane on inner brass that protects the inner components. The Mares is designed for use in extreme conditions and utilizes a patented Tri-material valve technology. This regulator features a balanced diaphragm, with an environmental seal.
Buyers Guide: Scuba Regulator
When you begin your search for the best scuba regulator, understanding the regulators parts, features and capabilities will be essential to ensure you’re purchasing equipment that will satisfy your personal needs. A variety of factors will impact your final choice including how often you’ll be diving, the type of diving you’ll be doing, where you’ll be diving, the environment you’ll be diving in and even your personal taste and preferences.
The following information covers the essential components, features and factors you will need to consider during your search for the right scuba regulator for you personally. A quick point of emphasis, is that you should keep in mind that the best regulator for one individual is not necessarily the best regulator for another person.
Understanding a dive regulators components and the capabilities of each part will be important in getting the best equipment for you. The foundation of a regulator consists of a first stage and second stage. Additional components are necessary to complete the air delivery system.
Two Stage Regulator: The purpose of the two stage regulator is to reduce the high pressure of the air tank to deliver air to the diver’s lungs at ambient pressure, so the diver can breathe at any depth. The first stage regulates air pressure as it leaves the air tank, prior to entering the air hose. The second stage consists of the mouthpiece and purge valve, which delivers air to the diver and removes unwanted or excess air or materials.
First Stage Features: This component of the regulator attaches to the air tank. Air pressure in the tank is approximately 3,000 PSI. The first stage serves as a means to lower the tank pressure and pass it along to the second stage. The first stage is attached to the air tank using either a DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm) or a Yoke connection.
DIN Connection - A DIN is generally considered a safer connection compared to a Yoke, due to the fact it secured by screwing it into the tank valve, so it does not protrude. The DIN has less bulk, a tighter seal, and handles higher pressures, resulting in the majority of divers viewing it as a superior system to theYoke.
Yoke Connection - The Yoke fits over the tank valve and is secured using a screw clamp.
Environmental Seals - All dive regulators will operate in warm waters (water temperatures above 50 degrees fahrenheit/10 degrees celsius). When compressed gas is cooled it will expand, which can cause regulators without environment seals to freeze open in water temperatures below 50 degrees fahrenheit. The environmental seals prevent materials and cool water from entering the first stage, to reduce the potential of freezing.
Unbalanced or Balanced - An unbalanced regulator is the most basic design, least expensive and typically found on recreational and/or rental equipment. It operates based on the tank pressure and will result in some modest resistance taking in air as the tank pressure drops.
A balanced regulator is a little more costly but is found in the large majority of regulators beyond the most basic ones. Balanced regulators are not impacted by decreasing tank pressure, delivering a more consistent and even air pull throughout a dive.
Piston or Diaphragm - Piston regulators have a very basic design, utilizing a hollow metal piston, as opposed to a metal spring. There are less moving parts and a modest edge in performance at greater depths.
Diaphragm regulators are a more complex design with the diaphragm functioning as its own environmental seal. This design is better for deep, cold water dives as the internal parts are not exposed to the water.
Ports - All dive regulators have a minimum of at least one high pressure port with most having multiple ports (low or medium pressure) for the purposes of having an additional pressure gauge or air integrated computer providing increased flexibility configuring your regulator.
Second Stage Features: The second stage is connected to the first stage by a hose. This component of the dive regulator is the portion that is inserted into the divers mouth. It consists of a mouthpiece, exhaust valve and an emergency purge valve. When the diver exhales the exhaust valve allows the air to escape into the water. The purge valve, when pressed, forces air to flow uninterrupted into the second stage chamber forcing any existing water out the mouthpiece through the exhaust valve.
Unbalanced or Balanced - Unbalanced regulators are operated utilizing tank pressure, resulting in a modest resistant for air intake when tank pressure drops.
Balanced second stage regulators reduce the minimum pressure required for the regulator to function and reduces the pull to take in a breath when tank pressure decreases.
Dive/Predive Control - On the second stage regulator there is a control switch labeled with either a Dive/Predive, On/Off or a +/-, which controls air flow making breathing easier or more difficult. Some regulators are designed to take advantage of what is referred to as the Venturi Effect. Liveaboutdotcom describes Venturi Effect as, “when air is forced through a constriction, such as the tiny valves inside a regulator second stage, the speed at which the air particles travel will increase. When air exits the constriction, it is moving very rapidly in comparison to the surrounding air particles.” Regulators that take advantage of the Venturi Effect have this switch that either enables or disables this effect.
Nitrox - Nitrox is an enriched air that mixes nitrogen and oxygen. The benefits of using nitrox are: longer bottom times, longer dive times, less fatigue and surface time to remove nitrogen from your body. There are risks including not being suitable for dives over 100 feet and the potential for oxygen toxicity. If you choose to use nitrox, you should seek out specialized training for its use.
Hoses - The design and materials hoses are constructed from varies. For ease of use and transporting, as well as durability the type of hoses used with your regulator should be given serious consideration. Hoses have been designed to be lighter, more flexible and user friendly making transporting and routing hoses much more manageable and help to reduce jaw fatigue. Additionally, utilizing swivel hose connectors enhances these benefits.
Factors to Consider
When you start your research to find the best scuba regulator, you’re likely to get various recommendations based on who you seek advice from; the regulator you choose should be greatly impacted by the environment you’re going to dive in and what is most practical for this type of diving. There are some additional factors or considerations that you should explore before making your choice:
Choosing a Regulator Mouthpiece: Your comfort while diving should, especially as it relates to your regulator mouthpiece be an important consideration. The mouthpiece comfort impacts the enjoyment of your dive, as well as potentially impacting how much air you consume. If you’ve ever experienced jaw fatigue you’ll understand the importance of having a good fitting mouthpiece.
Number of Ports: We covered ports previously but feel it’s worth mentioning again, as it can be easily overlooked and potentially later causing some regret. First stage regulators all come with at least a single high pressure port. It is worth considering choosing a regulator with a minimum of two ports. In doing so, it provides you with the ability to incorporate a dive computer, as well as an air and depth gauge.
Try It Out: Whenever possible, we recommend trying out any significant purchase before making a fiinal decision. This will allow you to identify regulators you may want to look into further or ones that you can take off your list. It also gives you some experience with specific designs and features that help to better inform you. Find a friend who will let you try out their regulator or go to a dealer or retail store that has demo models for you to try.
Another step is to check out the reviews online. You’ve taken a good step by reading this article to gather information. Additionally, ask other divers, do your research at local dive shops and check the models used at local rental shops. Every little bit of information can help.
Regulator Cost: This should not be your primary consideration, as you need to find the right regulator for you. Humans cannot breathe underwater. This makes getting the best regulator for your needs pretty high on the priority list.
The cost of a regulator can range from a couple hundred dollars to over $1,200. Typically, the more you spend the better quality and the more you get in a regulator. However, there are quality regulators that can be purchased at a very reasonable price. Just do you due diligence then consider the cost as a factor in your final decision.
Environmental Conditions and Water Temperature: If you intend to dive in waters that are colder than 50 degree Fahrenheit, you will need to get a regulator that has an environmental seal to avoid having the first stage from freezing up. You may also want to consider a metal second stage versus a plastic one, due to metal having greater thermal conductivity. If you are going to be diving in only warm water (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit) any regulator will be appropriate.
Regulator Weight: Although not high on the list of considerations, if you are traveling and transporting your equipment, a significant amount of the times, the weight of each component will become an issue.
Adjustable Air Flow: If you are intending to extend your diving experiences to more challenging and difficult conditions you will want to consider a regulator that provides for adjusting the amount of airflow. Regulators with adjustable airflow provide you the ability to access additional air in stressful conditions, reducing fatigue, or conserve air in less demanding conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to do to maintain my regulator?
The importance of maintaining your regulator cannot be overstated, as it is your lifeline while underwater. Fortunately, it is a pretty straightforward process:
Completely dry and replace the dust cap;
Soak regulator and rinse with clean, fresh water;
While soaking, work all the levers with the exception of the purge button;
Run a stream of water through first and second stages;
Dry thoroughly before storing (out of direct sunlight);
And store in a dry and controlled temperature environment out of direct sunlight.
When should I have my regulator serviced?
If during your dive or during your pre or post inspections of your equipment you notice something isn’t working properly or you observe any wear or deterioration, you should have your regulator serviced.
As a standard part of maintaining your regulator, some will debate the necessity of having the manufacturer conduct a certified inspection and maintenance service. Again, it’s important to be conscious of the fact that this piece of equipment provides you with your only access to air while you are underwater. An extra measure to ensure your regulator is operating as it is intended may be a wise step. Additionally, you will want to review and consider annual maintenance as it may be required by the manufacturer's warranty.
What are the main causes of divers running low or out of air?
Instances where divers run low on or out of air are generally the result of poor air management techniques, becoming distracted or some sort of mechanical failure. Divers need to establish a routine for monitoring their air supply to avoid a low air situation. Additionally, their dive plan should ensure the necessary air supply and reserve for the conditions and environment they will be diving in. A predive inspection should also be part of any dive routine. Another consideration is to carry a secondary air supply.
Guide your search with your primary consideration being the environment and water conditions in which you plan to dive. If you intend to dive exclusively in warm tropical waters, all the regulators on the market will be suitable. However, if your plan is to dive under more extreme conditions, in cold and deep water, you will need to purchase a regulator designed for these environments.
Cost is obviously a factor. Choose wisely and remember a regulator is one of the most critical components for your enjoyment and safety while diving. Based on your research, purchasing the best regulator you can afford will pay dividends and is a wise decision. Just remember, there are reasonably priced regulators that will provide you with a high quality component. Making a smart decision on the front end can save you money in the long run, ensure your safety and add to the enjoyment of your diving experiences.
Good luck and let us know in the comments section about your search and what regulator you decide to go with.
For more of our top scuba diving gear recommendations, please visit the following articles.
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.