REGULATOR Apeks ATX200 Tungsten
REMEMBER WHEN BMW MADE BUBBLE CARS The German manufacturer started selling in the UK with some very modest offerings, as did Apeks 20 years ago. Now the diving products of Blackburn are thought of in their field as the equivalent of the motoring products of Munich.
     And just as there are BMW owners out there who wanted something extra to make their motor look a bit special, Apeks Marine can supply its top-of-the-range regulator with the equivalent of colour-coded skirts and mirrors.
     It started with the ATX200 Black Pearl. It was offered experimentally in a limited edition and had a finish achieved by physical vapour deposition. Its tougher than normal anodised brass. People liked the idea of something unique.
     I suppose it stopped bickering over who owned what on crowded dive boats, or it could simply have been the reason people buy those Mercedes with enormous engines that they will never use other than for winning advantage at their golf club bar. Its a classic case of the buyer asking: Havent you got something more expensive
     Im told that people almost broke the arms of Apeks dealers to get their hands on the Black Pearl. Or was it just because Pirates of the Caribbean had captured their imagination
     Whatever the reason, if you were disappointed by the limited supply you need feel aggrieved no longer. Apeks has brought out an ATX 200 with the equivalent of lowered suspension and blackened windows, and metallic black throughout. Its finished in a hard and durable PVD coating that uses high-tech grades of titanium, zirconium and chromium (well, thats what they told me). The effect is quite fetching, and it works. When I unpacked my bag at a dive site, it elicited comments along the lines of: Trust you to have the best and Whats wrong with an ordinary regulator.
     Of course few stopped to think that the following week I might be using something quite primitive and likely to drown me. Then, I suppose, there are all the Black Pearl owners whose noses are out of joint because the Tungsten is a later model.
     What about its performance Well, its exactly the same as a standard chromed-brass version of the ATX 200, and that has been well-documented on these pages. I still feel that the exhaust tee is a little small, which puts exhaled bubbles up directly in front of my face when I am stationary and trying to concentrate on whats going on in front of my camera. Divers who constantly press ahead will never notice that.
     The ATX Tungstens inhalation characteristics cannot be faulted, although the fact that every manufacturer now has its own ANSTI machine means that there are those that can do better in the numbers game.
     But if a regulator can give you as much air as you need, whats the difference When the CE criterion for the work of breathing is 3 joules, do you really think you will notice the difference between a top regulator that operates at 1 joule, and one that operates at 0.7 of a joule You certainly wont be able to do that unless you have them side by side.
     The Apeks ATX 200 has all the characteristics and features you might expect of a top regulator. The first stage is an environmentally dry-sealed diaphragm design with four medium-pressure take-offs and two hp ports. These are spaced such that there are no problems routeing hoses or employing transmitters for integrated-computers. The second stage has the usual venturi plus/minus switch to reduce the chance of accidental free-flow at the surface, and a big knob so that you can turn up the cracking-pressure needed to open the valves as you inhale à just in case your life becomes too easy. The purge is an easy-to-find, solid button at the front.
     I was castigated in 1993 for writing that I preferred an Apeks to a Poseidon regulator. The ATX 200 Tungsten has all the features and performance that has led to such fierce brand loyalty (certainly on Internet forums) that we used to see with Poseidon regulator users then.
The Apeks ATX 200 Tungsten has just that extra look demanded by those who can afford £437 for such items.
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