Regulators are getting smaller. However, the last one I tried relied on a servo design that blew your tonsils down your oesophagus and at depth juddered like a pre-war Austin doing a handbrake start on Porlock Hill.
     The new, toy-like Proton XL has been designed without the need for any servo. In the tradition of all the other regulators bearing the Mares brand, it has no knobs or switches either. You just put it in your mouth and breathe without fiddling.
     Many Mares second stages have all the coldwater advantages of metal construction (the metal acts as a heat sink) but tend to be a little substantial, especially when balanced with the inadequate mouthpiece that comes with them.
     The new Proton XL uses an all-technopolymer design. Technopolymer is what my mother used to call plastic. Foregoing the coldwater aspect, it makes the Proton XL very lightweight in the mouth, and this has been married to a proper orthodontic mouthpiece.
     Orthodontic is what my mother would have called OK for sticking in your mouth. XL presumably stands for extra light.
     It has the ever-effective Mares venturi bypass tube, though this is now tucked away by being integrated with the whole design. Its effect is to feed air direct from the second-stage valve to your mouth, without causing the vacuum-cleaner effect that tends to suck in the front diaphragm. That can lead to those exponential free-flows you might experience with some other regulators, especially if they are not in your mouth, when you first hit the water.
     So where does the name Proton come from Well, in a world in which marketing giants such as Toyota can decide to call a car the MR2 (which, of course, is pronounced merde in France), you cant complain if your regulator seems to be named after an inauspicious car from Korea. A proton is an elementary particle of positive charge and uniform atomic mass. Its what my mother would have called very small.
     In its top-of-the-range form, this little gem has been married to the new V32 first stage, which is reminiscent of that impressive hunk of chrome-plated brass, the MR22 (not to be confused with the MR2 from Toyota) supplied with the Mares Ruby and Abyss.
     Like the MR22, the V32 has its six ports positioned so that hose routes are just where you want them. Impressively substantial as the MR22 might be, its weighty enough to make you have second thoughts about packing it when weight might matter, especially if you have to carry more than one.
     The V32 has been made lighter simply by trimming away unwanted metal from around the block but it is still heavy compared to some other regulators available. It has also been given an attractive coating of rubber to help it withstand rough treatment.
     So what was it like to dive with I got a little flak from some hairy-arsed French divers who thought such a small regulator couldnt possibly be any good but I found it performed remarkably well.
     One criticism was that at 50m, while breathing hard working my way against a current, it tended to feel as if it was getting a little out of control. It appeared to be giving a little positive pressure, just as a servo-type regulator might do, but then some people must like that, or such servo-type regulators would not be so popular with one particular group of deep divers.
     Another problem with this regulator was that it felt as if it projected a long way in front of my face, but direct comparisons with other models proved this not to be so. I think that, because the exhaust port is so small, it puts the bubbles up close to your eyes when you are not moving forwards through the water.
     The V32/Proton XL combination costs £270. The Proton also fills the gap left by the now discontinued V16/Epos and is available with the less expensive MR12 first stage at £200.
  • Blandford Sub-Aqua 01923 801572, www.mares.com

  • Divernet
    + Compact design with big performance
    + No unnecessary knobs

    - Exhaust bubbles in front of your face
    - Less smooth against a current at depth