Back in 1998, we at Diver did a regulator comparison test which left the people at certain manufacturers smarting from the exposure.
Some sent lawyers letters threatening me with bankruptcy and worse, but Cressi-sub, a company that was dismayed to hear that one of its sample regulators had failed to get to 50m on the ANSTI machine, invited me to visit its factory in Genoa to enjoy the hospitality of Antonio Cressi and his family.
There were some back home who thought that I would, at best, wake up with Bernard Eatons head in my bed. Others suggested I should go wearing something suitable for a funeral.
However, well-travelled as I am, I was not going to confuse the gentlemanly northern Italians with any Corleone capos. I set off full of confidence.
Naturally, during the initial moments of my visit, some of the lower management made impassioned pleas to me about the need to feed their families. However, during my first formal meeting with Mr Cressi, I was allowed to make my case for an independent opinion.
I told a shocked audience that, while I believed that Cressi-sub made a lot of rather fine products, its regulators could not be numbered among them.
Mr Cressi listened patiently to what I had to say, then calmly turned to his assembled lieutenants and stated that if that was the situation, and these were the findings of Diver Magazine, then Cressi-sub would simply have to make a better regulator.
The Cressi AirTech is it.
Gone is the rather old-fashioned, tall-turret, piston first stage. In its place there is a compact diaphragm design that can be fitted with a dry-sealed coldwater kit should you require it.
The four medium-pressure and two high-pressure ports that we now come to expect on top-of-the-range regulators are arranged around a tapered barrel, reminiscent of that of the Aqua-Lung Titan, and that means the hoses get routed just where you want them.
Instead of that toy-like second stage made of shiny plastic, there is now a business-like effort, pneumatically balanced, in matt-black plastic with rubber and titanium inserts.
The front face unscrews in a satisfying way to reveal the heat-exchanger, which is positioned at the point where the hose meets the regulator. This extends, with a large vane, well into the breathing chamber.
The venturi  switch operates another vane positioned directly in the path of the air that comes from the air-jet facing directly into the users mouth. Its a very effective arrangement.
A representative of another manufacturer recently remarked to me that no regulator-maker wanted buyers unscrewing the fronts of their expensive purchases and discovering that they contained little to impress them!
Cressi has no worries in this case. I was also able to put the thing back together properly in a moment, neither cursing nor searching for tiny locking-pins, so if you do accidentally drag this regulator in the sand, it will be a simple matter to clean out any grit.
The AirTech, in common with most other top-range regulators, has a breathing-resistance adjustment knob. Everyone seems to want them, though I see no point in them and left it set at minimum effort.
However, this one is well-engineered and has an easy-to-grip knob that takes lots of turns from ÒMinÓ to ÒMaxÓ. I am sure some buyers will enjoy happy hours under water fiddling with theirs.
The unit is quite large compared to some of the mini-sized second stages available these days, and the mouthpiece is fairly soft and positions the exhaust port well forward of the chin.
This means that the AirTech second stage feels relatively heavy in the mouth when tried in the dive store, though I found no trace of this effect in the water.
However, I wondered why the designers had not made the rigid plastic casting for the exhaust port more like that of the Apeks ATX range, so that it sits on your chin.
In the water, the AirTech breathed faultlessly and I used it deep and in strong currents.
Well done, Antonio! Well done, the men of Cressi-sub! Welcome to the first division of the regulator market.
What a pity it did not arrive in time for our recent mid-price regulator comparison - it would have been a contender!
The AirTech costs£275, or£299 with dry-sealed coldwater kit.

  • Cressi UK 01484 310130, www.cressi-sub-agents.co.uk

  • Divernet Divernet
    + First-division regulator
    + Flawless breathe
    + Suitable for use in British waters

    - For some, the large second stage