PETER SCOONES, THE DOYEN of underwater video cameramen, once told me that his ideal dive site would be only 10m deep with gin-clear water, no current and lots of big and dramatic marine creatures. Of course, it doesn’t exist, but the point he was making is that we go beyond those limits only because we have to.
Forgive me for wondering if we often over-egg what we do. Too often, friends of mine who would love to spend their holidays diving get into conversations with keen divers, inevitably tekkies.
They tell them all about gas-switches, helium mixes, gradient factors and the like, and send the guy, who simply wants to go under water and look at the fish, scurrying away in retreat.
It’s the same with equipment. Post a simple question on a diving forum as to which BC or computer would be good for a beginner, and you’ll be instructed to buy a stainless-steel backplate and wing plus a multi-mix helium computer, because that’s what you’ll need one day so you might as well buy it at the start.
Ask what constitutes a good inexpensive regulator, and you’ll be told to buy a top-of-the-range product.
This new regulator from Cressi is remarkably inexpensive to buy, but it doesn’t look cheap. Years ago I shocked management while in Genoa by telling Antonio Cressi that his men needed to build a better regulator than the one they were making at the time. And I’m proud to say that he took my advice.
The Cressi XG Compact is the latest in a long succession of top-performing regulators that have arrived on these shores since then.
However, they have yet to attain the reputation of a brand such as Apeks, which also had a dramatic turnaround in the way its regulators were perceived, but a little earlier. Timing is everything.
It was a Cressi Ellipse regulator with an MC9 first stage that I gave my wife to use for her bottom gas (air) at 65m on the wreck of the San Francisco Maru in Truk Lagoon (we enjoy a very happy marriage, thanks for asking!)
There I go, over-egging what we do. But if a regulator performs well with the densest gas we’re likely to breathe at the maximum depth at which we’re ever likely to breathe it, it will do fine for those leisure dives that most of us typically do with a single tank.

First Stage
The MC9 first stage is a tried and tested diaphragm-type design shaped like a compact barrel, though it weighs more than you’d expect.
This accounts for the greater part of the all-up weight of the regulator. Its six ports, four mp and two hp, are arranged around it so that they don’t crowd the hoses.
A medium-pressure hose of a conventional rubberised material connects it to the second stage via a half-hearted heat-exchanger that I think needs bigger fins to be totally effective.

Second Stage
This is a little jewel. It’s really small but has sufficient diffusing holes in its front to let plenty of water through to the pressure-sensing diaphragm without getting a free-flow effect when head-on into a strong current.
There is a venturi plus/minus lever that doesn’t appear to do very much at all, so I ignored it. There was very little if any tendency to free-flow at the cusp between water and air.
I gave it a good try.
The exhaust port is tiny, and although the mouthpiece was not one of my favourites, the second stage is so light in the mouth that it really didn’t matter.
It has no method of turning up the “cracking pressure” needed to pull open the valve when you inhale.
These devices are designed to increase the work of breathing, but can sometimes be used
to save the day when you get to a dive-site and find that your recently serviced regulator has been set up too finely, and it betrays this with a gentle and permanent hiss.
The XG Compact has no such emergency device, so I suggest that if you buy it and later get it serviced, you check it carefully.
This apart, I cannot understand why anyone would want to make a regulator perform any less well. No doubt I’ll get letters giving me all sorts of good reasons!

In The Water
While it’s not a regulator so sublime that you forget it’s even there, the XG Compact with MC9 first stage breathed well enough for me to use it at 40m with total confidence.
The purge seemed easy to access and was progressive in that it didn’t try to blow my tonsils down my throat.
Using it tended to beg the question: is there any point in spending more money than this
It’s certainly good enough for any leisure-diving scenario in the sort of water in which a travelling diver might find himself swimming.
I didn’t try it in an inland site during mid-winter, however.
This regulator wasn’t better than I expected, but it certainly lived up to expectations.

Mares Instinct, £250
Oceanic Alpha 9, £250
Scubapro R395 MK17, £249

PRICE £209
FIRST STAGE Diaphragm-type
PORTS 4mp 2hp
SECOND STAGE Venturi plus/minus
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%