If you enjoy scuba diving, but thus far have been borrowing or renting equipment, investing in your own stuff will help you to enjoy this hobby even more. A dive regulator is one of the most important pieces of equipment you need to be safe while diving, alongside scuba diving masks, wetsuits, and dive computers. The issue is that because there are so many different regulators out there on the market these days, you can find it difficult choosing the best one for your needs. You may even be tempted to just choose an incredibly expensive one or a dirt-cheap one just so you have one with your scuba gear. Either could leave you in hot water…or stuck in any body of water, whether it’s cold or hot.
It really doesn’t need to be that difficult, you just need to know what you’re looking for and what makes a good dive regulator. that’s what we aim to do with this post. We’re going to highlight what we believe are the best diving regulators available right now. Rather than buying one that is far too advanced for your ability or experience or not even suitable for the type of waters you’ll mostly be diving in, you need to pick out the best one that meets your needs and budget.
If you don’t have time to read the full post, here are our 3 most popular dive regulator picks:
- NCC System
- Double DFC System
- Balanced Diaphragm Design
- State-of-the-Art Design
- Effortless Airflow
- Titanium Inlet Tube
- Superb Inhalation Sensitivity
At Ocean Scuba Dive, because we’re committed to providing the best information we possibly can, if a better product is released, we will try and update this post to include it. We want to guide you towards the best scuba diving gear. As well as reviews of each of the 10 best dive regulators, you will also find a guide to buying dive regulators and everything you need to consider when doing so.
Let’s not waste any more time and get stuck right into looking these great diving regulators!
Top 10 Best Dive Regulator Reviews
Our Review Score
Mares is a very popular manufacturer of scuba diving equipment and accessories and one we’ve featured on Ocean Scuba Dive many times before. Although the Mares Rover is available in two varieties, with the same 2nd stages and different 1st stages, we’re going to focus here on the 15X. It may cost a lot more than the 2S, but it offers a 1st stage balanced diaphragm that makes it perfect for supporting you in various diving conditions.
There’s also a degree of flexibility with regards to the configuration of hoses thanks to the 2 HP and 4 LP ports that have been pre-oriented. Control of airflow and durability are aided by the inclusion of exclusively patented Mares technology. The 2nd stage is also balanced and includes a mesh grid. For the extra money and with the assistance of an approved diving regulator technician, you can even expand the Rover 15X to suit colder water.
Our Review Score
One of the most popular sets in the world is undoubtedly Scubapro’s MK2 R195. As it’s available at a relatively low price, it’s an excellent choice for anyone just taking up diving. However, the much newer combination of the MK11 and the stunning C370 all-purpose 2nd stage gives you even more without breaking the bank too much more.
The MK11 has a balanced diaphragm that is ideal for colder waters, and the fact that two of the LP ports (there’s four in total) are classified as high flow and deliver 15% more air than the other two, this is one regulator you should give serious consideration to. The 2nd stage is the C370 that’s been air-balanced and designed to be both lightweight and compact, but robust and rugged. When you factor in that the C370 is just 171g and the MK11 only 490g, the combination of the two is perfect for travel and one of the most lightweight regulator kits on the market.
Our Review Score
With the second Mares product on our list, the Mares Abyss 52X regulator, you get a 2nd stage constructed entirely from metal and featuring most of the same spec as the Rover series, such as the VAD tube for air bypass that balances the 2nd stage no matter what depth you’re diving for easier and more sensitive breathing. The 1st stage has been designed to handle diving in cold water and has a very slick appearance with a balanced diaphragm and the Mares patented NCC or Natural Convection Channel provides a greater surface area for enhanced heat exchange.
Of the four ports included, two are DFC or Dynamic Flow Control ports that, during your breathing cycle lower the intermediate drop in pressure. The 1st stage and 2nd stage regulators are connected using an incredible light super flex hose.
Our Review Score
For many years now Scubapro’s 1st stage MK25 has been a go-to for technical and recreational divers alike, and this recent upgrade to it is no different. While the 1st stage balanced piston does not benefit from being environmentally sealed, the company have included patented anti-freeze protection and their own thermal insulating system that gives you the confidence that this regulator will perform efficiently regardless of how extreme the temperatures are. Mounted onto a swiveling turret is a total of five ports that are all low-pressure, high airflow ports.
There are also two HP ports at either side too. The S600 was always a reliable 2nd stage regulator, but with the S620Ti, it’s been upgraded and made it not only better but lighter and smaller. The titanium-barrel system uses the same size of a diaphragm and has been reinforced to bring the work of breathing rate by 37% compared to the S600. Included in this kit as standard is the Venturi assist lever and easily adjustable knob for inhalation effort.
Our Review Score
Although considered to be an entry-level regulator, the Apeks ATX40 DS4 regulator definitely offers a lot more than you’d expect. The 1st stage DS4 has an over-balanced diaphragm design and has been environmentally sealed. As the 2nd stage features a reliable and high-performance heat exchanger, considering the price, it’s perfect for diving in colder waters. As Apeks is a British-based company, you can imagine that this is something of a specialist area for them.
Since its release in 2002, there’s been a more advanced system, the XTX range, released, but it’s with good reason that people still look to the ATX range, and this model in particular, for a high quality, low price dive regulator.
Our Review Score
As it has been used extensively as plating for the regulator’s brass body to enhance its resistance against corrosion, it makes sense that the Z refers to Zirconium. The 1st stage regulator is piston-based balanced and has a special factory-fitted environmental seal and utilizes Atomic’s own Jet Seat as additional extras, if necessary. A whopping seven LP ports and two HP ports is a lot more than you get with most regulators available, particularly at a similar price point.
The LP ports are not on a swiveling body, but instead a fixed cap, which gives you the option of hose routing. In the balanced 2nd stage the company’s own AFC or Automatic Flow Control is utilized to allow for a consistent level of breathing with minimum effort and the titanium-coated seat-saving orifice prevents wear and tear on the valve seat when used repeatedly. This, in turn, extends the periods of time between necessary services up to 300 dives or 2 years.
Our Review Score
One of the most recent additions to Tusa’s growing collection is the RS-1001 with the balanced R-1000 diaphragm 1st stage is lightweight and compact. While it does not benefit from environmental sealing, it does utilize Tusa’s very own cold-water insulator.
Four LP ports are included with two of those being high flow and providing 15% more air for every breath. The S-0001 2nd stage is unbalanced and has a compact case design with the option of either right- or left-hand configuration, mouthpiece especially designed to limit the amount of jaw fatigue experienced and the Venturi adjustment level.
Our Review Score
Zeagle’s philosophy towards Tech and Rec diving is very clear with their entry-level regulator, this Envoy II. This underwent a redesign back in 2015 offering a brass-bodied, balanced diaphragm 1st stage with two HP pots and five LP ports.
Thanks to the precision engineering involved in the manufacturing of this regulator, the high-quality port performance and the balanced 2nd stage, the Envoy II has a great reputation of providing easy, consistent breathing. The compact and nicely presented package comes complete with a simplistic predive/dive Venturi control.
Our Review Score
This is an incredibly high performing regulator which has been specifically designed with hose routing optimization firmly in mind. The special HP ports are positioned at 45-degree angles to keep the gauges much closer to your hips, while the LP ports are angled at 30 degrees to make sure there’s the optimal amount of trim by guiding the hoses over your shoulder.
The 1st stage has an over-balanced diaphragm which has been environmentally sealed and finished with polished stainless steel. Whereas the balanced 2nd stage is one of the best in class when it comes to work of breathing rate. It’s coupled to the 1st stage using a 75cm Miflex hose and features a Venturi switch and adjustable airflow control.
Our Review Score
It may seem rather forward-thinking and slightly presumptuous to name your product Legend and Supreme, but Aqua Lung was first established by Jacques Cousteau, and let’s face it if anyone ever knew anything about diving, it was that man. for the last 15 years, the company has constantly proven that the Legend name is apt.
With the LX supreme, you get an over-balanced diaphragm 1st stage that is environmentally sealed and utilizes the exceptional ACD or Auto-Closure Device that seals off the regulator when it’s being disconnected from a tank. The 2nd stage is pneumatically balanced and features the company’s own MBS or Master Breathing System which uses one knob to control the cracking pressure and Venturi assist.
Dive Regulator Buying Guide
Generally speaking, when you hear divers referring to dive regulators, they normally mean a full set of regulators, that usually consists of a 1st stage, hoses, 2nd stage, redundant 2nd stage (or Octopus) and some kind of instrument console (often featuring a compass, depth gauge, pressure gauge and even a dive computer).
While it’s obviously possible to buy these components separately, manufacturers combine appropriately matched pieces together to offer pre-arranged packages that are designed to meet the needs of technical and recreational divers.
The main consideration you need to make when choosing a dive regulator is the type of diving you will be doing and where you will be diving. For instance, if you are only going to dive within the normal recreational parameters during holidays in tropical waters, you do not need as demanding a regulator as someone diving to depths of 50m in temperatures several notches below 10 degrees Celsius, or what is considered as cold-water diving.
The 1st stage is the real worker of the regulator package, that converts cylinder pressure, to a maximum of 300 bar, down to around 10 bar as quickly and as safely as possible so that you have a consistent airflow. There will also be one to two special bypass ports that supply the pressure gauge or dive computer with cylinder pressure. This helps you monitor the air you have left.
Piston and Diaphragm
1st stage is divided into two different types, piston, and diaphragm. Piston, because it has fewer moving parts, is higher performing and more efficient. Piston 1st stages, therefore, which are also more simplistic in design are normally found in flagship models and entry-level models. While piston 1st stage regulators are not generally used in cold water diving, due to developments in environmental sealing, insulation, and coatings on the high-end models, it has become increasingly popular for lower temperature diving.
Diaphragm systems are more complicated and have lower level performances. However, due to recent improvements to the manufacturing process, materials and design diaphragm is actually more popular as a 1st stage with most mid-range and high-end models featuring it. Perhaps the biggest advantage of diaphragm 1st stages is that it can be fitted easily with an environmental sealing for use in colder waters.
1st Stage Fitting
There are two basic kinds of fitting used in connecting cylinders to regulators. A-Clap, which is also known as Yoke for up to 232 Bar and DIN for up to either 200 or 300 Bar. Of the two, DIN is newer and gaining steady popularity, especially with technical divers. DIN fittings provide a much safer connection to the cylinder, trapping the O-ring with the valve. Though permanent converters can be fitted at a later date if necessary, for converting from A-Clamp to DIN, the additional benefit of DIN fittings is that there are screw-on adaptors available that convert the fitting easily for areas where only cylinders suitable for A-Clamps are available.
Balanced or Unbalanced or Over-Balanced
1st stage regulators can be further divided into balanced and unbalanced. Balanced systems provide consistent performance levels, regardless of the cylinder pressure or depth, while unbalanced systems are affected by changes in depth and cylinder pressure. This makes them harder to breathe from as the cylinder depletes and depth increases. Although modern designs have corrected this somewhat, balanced systems are still better in this regard.
Over-balanced systems are similar to balanced systems with the difference being that they increase airflow more as there’s an increase in depth. The downside to this type of system is that you need to be more aware of free flow potential because of the regulator’s sensitivity.
The number of 1st stage ports required will depend on the diving environment, whether it’s cold or warm water. For warm waters, a regulator will normally consist of a gauge or console, Octopus, BCD inflator hose and actual regulator. One HP or high-pressure port and three-LP or low-pressure ports are needed for this setup.
As water conducts heat better than air does, you will become cold over the duration of your dive. This can be countered though when you are in warmer waters by wearing a wetsuit of an appropriate thickness. However, in cold waters, a dry suit is used, as it provides enhanced thermal protection. As a dry suit needs an inflator hose, another LP port will be needed for diving in colder waters, bringing the total number of ports to one HP and four LP.
Environmentally sealed is a feature that you’ll find in most cold water 1st stages. It is used to stop the surrounding water for having an effect on the 1st stage’s mechanisms.
In the 2nd stage regulator, intermediate pressure, of 10 bar approximately from the 1st stage is converted and lowers it even more to an ambient level to allow the diver to breathe.
Balanced or Unbalanced
Similarly, to the 1st stage regulator, 2nd stage regulators come in either balanced or unbalanced variations and offer benefits and drawbacks as they did in 1st stage systems. While unbalanced 2nd stage systems will be unable to keep consistent flow rates and performance as depth increases, balanced systems will.
It doesn’t matter whether the 2nd stage is balanced or unbalanced because there will be some way of controlling airflow inside the housing of the 2nd stage. The airflow is usually there to produce a vacuum or low pressure behind the 2nd stage diaphragm, to help open the valve open more or to just keep it open without you need to breathe more. Within this control, there’s normally a vane that is moved by a lever and directs airflow based on its location.
In ordinary diving conditions, the level will usually be set to Dive or + to offer the best level of performance. The pre-dive or – is often only used when entering the water or with a redundant 2nd stage, like an Octopus, where the vane is used to channel the flow directly towards the diaphragm, thus helping to close the valve by increasing the pressure.
Inhalation adjustment control is normally found in balanced 2nd stage systems and is used to adjust the effort required for opening the valve. This control is specifically practical when you are diving at deeper depths where a comfortable amount of resistance at the depth results in a free flow up at the water surface.
Octopus – Redundant 2nd Stage
The points we already covered for 2nd stages can be applied to an Octopus. However, there’s also another choice you need to think about. There’s actually a number of different octopuses to choose from. A normal octopus will feature a front cover in high visibility yellow and similarly colored hose to make locating it easier and the hose is much longer to ensure its donation reaches you, the diver. In the majority of circumstances, the preferred or best option is a model with a lower or equal performance level to the main 2nd stage regulator.
You will find that there’s also something called AAS or Alternative Air Sources available which combines a BCD Buoyancy control and redundant 2nd stage in one complete unit. The advantage of this kind of unit is that requires one fewer LP ports and is easy to find and readily available. The disadvantages, however, are that you have to donate your primary 2nd stage (in other words, swap your supply for AAS) and your movements are much more restricted thanks to the short length of the primary 2nd stage hose.
There you have it, folks, what we hope is a helpful guide to things you need to consider and understand about buying a dive regulator. If it seems too confusing or you need further help, check out some of our other guides we have available here at Ocean Scuba Dive. We also hope you are now able to choose an appropriate dive regulator form the selection we outlined above. All that’s left to say is, make sure all your future diving adventures are safe, but also enjoyable or else there’s no point!