When it comes to scuba diving the regulator is the essential piece of equipment that really needs to work to dive safely. This is one piece of gear that you want to own and not rent from a scuba shop especially when diving internationally. Who knows how old rented regulators are or when the last time they have been serviced. There are best practices but there are no laws saying how often a regulator needs to be serviced or inspected. For some people it is not a safety issue they just do not like the idea of sharing a mouthpiece with hundreds of other divers and would rather have their own scuba regulator.
Scuba regulators have a first stage and second stage. The first stage is the metal device that attaches directly to the scuba tank via a DIN or yoke connection. The first stage changes the pressure from high pressure to low pressure that can be used for breathing and BCD inflation. The second stage controls when the low pressure air is released via a diaphragm opening and closing the second stage valve.
When it comes to regulators there are two main connection types a DIN or a Yoke. The first stage regulators contain either a piston or diaphragm regulating valve. The system can be balanced or unbalance. If you want a wireless transmitter to send tank pressure to the dive computer the regulator will need to have enough high pressure ports. Some regulators also come with environmental seals for diving which is beneficial for diving in dirty or cold water.
There are a lot of good brands of scuba regulators, Cressi, ScubaPro, Oceanic, Aqualung and Atomic Aquatics. All of these brand have high end and low end models. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out which brand and model regulator is the best to purchase. Personally I think Cressi regulators are good value and work great for most recreational diving. For high end regulators I like the Aqualung Legend which I own and the Atomic Aquatics T3 Regulator which is probably the best regulator on the market today if cost is not a factor.
Cressi AC2 with XS compact
This regulator is rated number one because it is a low cost, durable regulator that requires little maintenance. For the average diver that dives a few times a year this is all that should be needed. The AC 2 first stage is a simple, reliable and robust unbalanced piston design. The XS compact second stage has and adjustment for the venturi effect, low noise semi rigid case and a case closer with cam-lock. An XS compact octopus also makes a great secondary regulator. The durability of this setup is why this regulator is often used as rental gear for dive operations. The average breathing effort is 1.4 J/l.
Cressi XS compact octopus for the backup regulator.
The regulator also needs a pressure gauge or have a integrated dive computer. Having an pressure that also has a depth gauge is a good idea. The depth gauge is in meters which is not idea but works. Typically you are going to read the depth from the dive computer.
Cressi air gauge with integrated Leonardo 2 dive computer. It is about the same price to get the dive computer integrated with the air or as a separate wrist computer. The computers is shown here in the regulator reviews to remind you that you do not need an air gauge if you have an integrated dive computer. For non technical diving most people use the wrist computer with the standard analog air gauge.
Cressi Leonardo wrist computer. Having a wrist computer is great for non technical diving.
The Cressi AC2 with XS compact also comes as a DIN regulator rather than a yoke regulator. You only difference between this regulator and the yoke regulator above is how it is connected to the scuba tank. If you have a DIN regulator you need to then dive with DIN scuba tanks. Most DIN scuba tanks can also be dove as regular scuba tanks. Yoke scuba tanks can be dove with a DIN regulator if you by a yoke adapter for the DIN tank. An adapter is shown toward the bottom of this article.
Cressi MC9 Regulator
For the diver that wants a little more performance than the AC2 the MC9 is a great option. The MC9 first stage is a diaphragm hyper balanced system. The first stage also has an anti-pressure drop pneumatic spring and high capacity filter. The second stage has adjustments for Venturi effect, a low noise rigid case and a cam-lock case closer. Average breathing effort is .95 J/l.
Cressi Ellipse octopus for the backup regulator.
Cressi pressure and depth gauge. The depth gauge is in meters which is not idea but work. Typically divers read the depth from the dive computer.
Cressi air gauge with integrated Giotto dive computer and USB dive stand for easy data download. This computer is a step up from the Leonardo 2. The three button interface makes it easy to program and change settings.
Cressi Giotto wrist computer. This also has the three button interface for adjusting settings.
Cressi T10 Regulator
If you want to get a high performance DIN regulator the T10 SC is a great option. The first state is a compact hyperbalanced diaphragm design. The regulator has two high pressure and four medium pressure ports. Comes with a anti-pressure drop pneumatic spring. The second stage has a adjustable Venturi pneumatically balanced system. Has a noise absorbing technopolymer body. Average breathing effort is .6 J/l. The only reason it is number three is because it is more expensive than the regulators above.
Cressi Ellipse octopus for the backup regulator.
Aqua Lung Legend Supreme
The Legend Supreme first stage is an over-balanced diaphragm design. An auto closer device on the first stage keeps corrosive water from entering the regulator when it is removed from the tank. The regulator had two high pressure ports and for low pressure ports. The second stage is pneumatically balanced. Comes with braided Aqua Flex hose. Overall work of breathing is .74 J/l.
Aqua Lung Legend Octopus as the secondary regulator.
ScubaPro MK21 Regulator
ScubaPro MK21 regulator has a compact balanced first stage and second stage. The first stage comes with two high pressure and four low pressure ports. The second stage had a Venturi-Initiated Vacuum Assist dive/pre-dive switch. The regulator is known for easy breathing regardless of depth. Average breathing effort is not published.
ScubaPro R193 octopus as the secondary regulator.
ScubaPro pressure and depth gauge.
Atomic Aquatics T3 Titanium
If cost is not a factor the T3 is the best regulator on the market. The regulator has a three year 300 dive service interval. The first stage and second stage components are milled from a solid bars of Titanium. This is a sealed piston first stage with two high pressure and five low pressure ports. The first and second stage weight only 1.7lbs which makes it the lightest regulator in the world. Average breathing effort is not published.
Atomic Aquatics Z2 octopus as the secondary scuba regulator.
Technical Details for Scuba Regulators
The first choice needed to be made when purchasing a regulator is whether to get a DIN or a yoke regulator. Any regulator can be a DIN or a Yoke but converting the regulator from one to the other cost about $100. In the USA and in North America most divers have yoke regulators and tanks. The rest of the world is dominated by DIN tanks and regulators. My advice would be if you know you are only going to be doing basic warm water diving in the USA to buy a yoke regulator. If you think you will be diving outside the USA or doing technical diving purchase a DIN regulator. If you do purchase a DIN regulator I would purchase the yoke adapter and use this when diving with dive shops in the USA. Dive shops in the USA do not like dealing with DIN tanks and regulators.
DIN to yoke scuba regulator adapter by Promate.
What is better the DIN or the Yoke connection? Most people agree that a DIN regulator is a better attachment method. The practical reason is that DIN valves do not have frequent little leaks from the o-ring that seals the regulator on the tank. When diving with yoke regulators you always have to be ready with spare o-rings. From a safety standpoint an o-ring on a yoke regulator can squeeze around the regulator and cause a major leak. The DIN o-ring is incorporated within the regulator and does not have this particular issue. There are still o-rings incorporated in the DIN regulator. This means the DIN connection does not eliminate all possible failure points and regulators should be inspected and serviced frequently. Some DIN regulators can be rated for higher pressure tanks up to300 bar which is around 4300 psi. This is not guaranteed however and some DIN valves are only rated 200 bar which is around 2900 psi. This difference between high and standard pressure DIN vales is the number of threads on the post. If you are buying a DIN regulator make sure it is rated to 300 bar which will properly thread on both 200 and 300 bar tank valves.
What is better a balanced or unbalanced regulator? The first and second stage can both be balanced or neither can be balanced. Unbalanced systems are simple and reliable. A balanced first stages makes it easier to breathe when at deep depths and when the tank pressure is reduced. A balanced second stage makes it easier to breath at deep depths. Personally I have dove wrecks at about 100 feet with an unbalanced regulator and did not notice any change in force level it took to breath.
Here are some fun videos of me diving with a great white shark and diving at night time.
Thanks for visiting Global Fishing Reports. I hope these suggestions help you purchase the best scuba regulator!
If you have any suggestions for top scuba regulators, leave a comment below!