The days of sucking treacle through a straw seem to be gone forever thanks to CE-certification, better quality control and the fact that those manufacturers that made rubbish seem to have gone out of business.
That said, we still tend to buy the brands with which we feel comfortable. We would rather trust our breathing to a well-known company, even if a sub-contractor in Asia or Mexico makes its products and its only the label that comes from the manufacturer we trust.
We also live in a one-market economy, so the manufacturer itself might not be the one we think it is, but we are less inclined to trust a brand we dont know.
Take Beuchat, for example. This long-established French manufacturer has been making regulators under its own name and also many bearing other brands for almost as long as scuba has been around, yet it has little in the way of brand recognition in the UK.
Thats because it does little in the way of brand-building. I have just been away using a new Beuchat VRT80 on a Y-valve alongside an Atomic T2. The Atomic is probably the best and certainly the most expensive regulator made, yet it was the Beuchat that drew the attention of other divers. They simply hadn't heard of it.
The VRT80 is the latest cold-water spec regulator from Beuchat, and it is an economically priced unit.

First Stage
A completely new VRT Iceberg diaphragm-style first stage is intended for use in the coldest water. It has a ribbed heat-exchanger concealed under a plastic end-cap, and water is allowed to flow past it through a number of large entry holes. Its a compact yet heavy item. The medium-pressure ports are arranged evenly in two pairs around its barrel, which can lead to some tortuous hose routes.
The single high-pressure port has extra space each side to allow for easy fitting of an air-integrated computer pressure transmitter, for example. For single-regulator diving, I would have preferred the option of an analogue gauge fitted alongside the transmitter, but this was not to be.

Second Stage
This is a neat yet simply designed item that has the integrity of a product that is not pretending to be cleverer than it is. It has a typical moveable vane that can disrupt the air-flow and diminish the chances of an exponential free-flow caused by cleanly moving air producing a pressure drop behind the front diaphragm. This can be operated easily by a gloved hand if need be.
A boldly designed heat exchanger is composed of vanes of metal that sit around the hose where it joins the second stage.
The mouthpiece is adequate but nothing to write home about, in that it is a little small, though not atypical of others currently supplied with regulators.
It also has a well-placed diffuser directly in line with the mouthpiece, to prevent those tonsil-chilling blasts of cold air that can occur with over-enthusiastic use of the purge button.
Sneaking the front off the unit to peek inside, I was not disappointed to find that the valve mechanism and control lever appeared to be made with a degree of precision not always evident in some other regulators.
The watertight diaphragm looked a little flimsy, and I noted that the all-important gasket that stops the diaphragm membrane from getting twisted as the front is screwed up looked a little crimped.

Purge Control
This is a well-defined button sited in the centre of the second stages hard front. Its easy to find, and works in a definite and progressive manner.

Comfort
Although the mouthpiece was nowhere near as good as that of the Atomic I used alongside it, it proved comfortable enough. The regulator always gave me enough air, and there was no sign of hesitation or flutter, no matter how hard I heaved on it.
Exhaling took little effort. The exhaust-T is small, but it seems to work adequately. Exhaled bubbles seemed to be well routed away from my eyes.
The hose seemed a little more inflexible than some others. If I owned it, Id use this regulator on almost any dive, but Id probably fit a different mouthpiece and a modern lightweight braided hose.

COMPARABLE REGULATORS TO CONSIDER:
Oceanic Alpha 8 CDX5, £195
Mares MR12 Prestige, £220
Aqualung Titan LX, £276

SPECS
PRICE £204
FIRST STAGE Diaphragm
PORTS 4mp, 1hp
SECOND STAGE ADJUSTMENTS Venturi plus/minus
CONTACT Alpha Distribution, www.beuchat.fr
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