hspace=4 GIVEN THAT YOUR REGULATOR is not the heaviest item of equipment you might pack before an air-flight to an exotic diving destination, it could be argued that the weight-saving achieved by choosing a lightweight regulator is neither here nor there.
However, equipment manufacturers have latched onto the appeal of lightweight equipment when
it comes to excess-baggage charges, and there is now a wide choice of lightweight regulators on the market.
If you can save a kilo, thats worth quite a few extra T-shirts. As a diver often reduced to the minimum when it comes to packing clothes, that certainly appeals to me. Every little helps.
So we got hold of the 10 regulators that weigh the least in their given brand line-ups and tried them at depth, side by side.
Leisure divers rarely go deeper than 30m while on holiday, because dive-centre operators normally insist on no-deco-stop dives where hyperbaric facilities may be few and far between.
For this reason, it made no sense to go to any great depths, so we settled on 40m as our test depth. This is probably the deepest a single-tank diver is likely to find himself, even in an emergency.
However, its important to know that your regulator will perform to expectations, especially if you find yourself air-sharing.
We tested these regulators at 40m while breathing nitrox 30. We checked to see if each one was capable of delivering gas to two divers who might be breathing very heavily while sharing off an octopus and at depth.
We inverted each one, as a panicking diver might do by accident in an air-sharing situation, to see how viable each one was under such circumstances.
We checked out the efficacy of the purge control of each, and let each one drop from the mouth, as a diver might do carelessly, to find out what loss of gas might be encountered at such a moment.

THE VENTURI PLUS/MINUS (dive/pre-dive) control was compared at depth to see if it made
a difference. Lastly, we looked at how disruptive the flow of exhaust bubbles was when a diver
was stationary and looking directly forwards.
We weighed the regulators as first and second stage only, connected by the hose, and no octopus rigs fitted. A-clamp versions naturally weigh more, because of the extra metal. For example, the Atomic A-clamp weighed 70g more than with the DIN connection.
Working as a team with Nigel Wade, a veteran of DIVER comparison tests, the two of us made several dives with each regulator, using them two at a time on our independent twin-cylinder set-ups, conveniently facilitated by Buddy wing-style BCs and Buddy twinning-bands.
We conducted the tests at Taba in Egypt, close to the border with Israel, because there is deep, clear water near the shore, and we were able to dive without interruption or the need for a boat.
The guys at the Aqua-Sport dive centre based at the Taba Hilton are always very helpful and accommodating with all our projects, and we have become regular visitors there with these tests over the years.
The luxurious Taba Hilton is an all-inclusive resort with a choice of restaurants and all the facilities needed, so we never needed to spend time away from our project. For divers, there are a number of dive sites off the beach that are famous for their giant frogfish encounters, as well as the whole gamut of Red Sea marine life.
Aqua-Sport operates daily dive boats, and even three or four night liveaboard diving cruises that visit rarely-dived sites further down the coast.
The regulators are ranged in ascending price order over the following pages.


SEAC-SUB P-SYNCHRO £150
985g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 SEAC-SUB OF ITALY MAKES A FULL RANGE of diving equipment, and its BCs are highly thought of. However, its regulators have tended to be the Cinderellas of the family. This one uses a balanced-piston first stage combined with a robust-looking second stage.
Hose routeing was slightly limited, in that the first stage had only one high-pressure port.
The P-Synchro performed best with the venturi plus/minus in the minus setting. With two divers breathing heavily from it at 40m, its interstage pressure started to become overwhelmed, and the first stage stuttered a little.
The purge button was easy to locate and worked immediately, with a solid delivery of air and no messing. A huge amount of air was available at the top end of the purge. In the plus setting, it felt a little gushy, giving some over-pressure. It was comfortable, but at times felt a little raw.
Similarly, when dropped from the mouth at depth in the minus setting it did not free-flow at all. Alas, in the plus position it free-flowed every time - so disastrously that the only way we could stop it was to reduce the airflow by pinching the hose.
Inverted it was wet, but I was able to write the details on my slate breathing with it upside-down, so it wasnt so bad. Nigel found it to be only slightly damp, and very usable. Exhaled bubbles did not disrupt vision while stationary as badly as on some other regulators, though it wasnt perfect.
Seac-sub, www.blandfordsubaqua.co.uk


OCEANIC ALPHA 8 SP5 £165
995g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 SINCE WE STARTED DOING THESE DEEP-WATER comparisons, the US bottom-of-the-range Alpha second stage combined with a piston-type first stage has always surprised us by performing so well. No wonder its often been the choice, for use with a bottom gas, of those divers who go deeper than most.
This is its latest incarnation, and it begs the question: Do you need to pay more
It felt comfortable and lightweight in the mouth, and there was no creak or creep, no noise to speak
of, and the second stage is small enough to be unobtrusive.
General breathing comfort was good, although the air did feel as if it came into the mouth in a narrow cone. There was no discernable difference with two divers heaving heavily on it at 40m.
When dropped from the mouth at depth, the SP5 emitted a light flow of air that stopped almost immediately - excellent. There was no venturi adjustment. Inverted, it gave a totally dry breathe
at nearly all angles. The purge button was easy to feel for and gave a good range of airflows, depending on how hard it was pushed.
The exhaust-T was very small, so we did find that exhaled bubbles were quite disruptive of vision when the diver was stationary.
Oceanic, www.oceanicuk.com


BEUCHAT VRT 30 £170
1080g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 IT NEVER CEASES TO SURPRISE US that Beuchat is often considered to be a new brand by British divers, when it is probably the longest-established French manufacturer of dive gear. In fact it makes a lot of stuff on behalf of other brands, too.
This VRT 30 has a very nice and neat second stage combined with a beautifully finished balanced-piston first stage. This said, it was the only one that did not give sufficient space between the ports to allow convenient fitting of a gas-integrated computer transmitter, and it was among the heaviest regs tested here.
Inverted it felt wet, with large droplets of water making it uncomfortable, and certainly wetter than I would have liked.
The purge control was small but instantly accessible, progressive from weak to strong and delivering plenty of air without any pitfalls.
The VRT 30 doesnt over-flow, and we thought it was comfortable to breathe from. There were no
squeaks when sipping air. it gave a lot of confidence because it didnt feel likely to let the user down - we thought it to be a good workhorse regulator.
It didnt free-flow when dropped from the mouth at depth with the venturi switch on minus - but it
did free-flow alarmingly when the venturi was set to plus. The exhaust-T was very small, and exhaled bubbles caused some disruption of vision when stationary.
The first stage fluttered like a hammer-drill with two of us inhaling hard together from two second stages connected to it while at depth.
The VRT 30 was not the biggest performer but very adequate and, despite its failings under duress,
I favoured it for comfort over the one I had alongside it during our long ascents.
Beuchat, www.midlanddiving.com


CRESSI ELLIPSE BLACK MC5 £178
740 g (DIN)

hspace=4hspace=4 CRESSI REGULATORS HAVE COME A LONG WAY since we started doing comparison tests more than 20 years ago. This Ellipse has a little MC5 diaphragm-type first stage combined with a lightweight second stage that has a novel oval shape.
Although it had a slightly mechanical feel, the ease of breathing could not be faulted. Even with two divers heaving off it as hard as we could at 40m, it delivered without hesitation, though it might have been a little noisier at this time than some others.
The purge seemed very gentle, and we looked for a sweet spot, thinking that it might provide a big rush of gas but it did not. However, it cleared the regulator of water in a moment, and there wasnt a hint of an uncontrollable free-flow.
Dropped from the mouth, it released air only for a moment, despite the position of the venturi control. In fact this control made little difference to breathing at depth, and it seemed sensible to leave it permanently in the minus position.
Inverted, the Ellipse proved to be one of the driest regulators we tested, and we tried it at all angles.
The only complaint was that exhaled bubbles came up straight around the face when looking ahead and I chose to incline my head nose-down to counteract this.
Cressi, www.cressi.com


TIGULLIO AIRTRAK £259
1130g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 ITALIAN TIGULLIO SUBMERGED as a brand after our last regulator comparison test, but it has recently resurfaced, and we note that this regulator is made in France, probably by Beuchat. It employs a balanced-piston first stage combined with a business-like second stage that has one of the widest exhaust-Ts of any tested alongside it. There was only one high-pressure port.
Surprisingly, it was the heaviest of the regulators tested here.
With two divers heaving on it at depth, the Airtrak showed no sign of any loss of performance. Inverted, it was very wet initially but then dried out quite a lot, so it could still be breathed from. It was best when canted over a little.
The purge control is big and easy to find, with a good range possible, and it was progressive to a full flow that could make the teeth feel as if they were freezing.
Normal breathing was comfortable, with a smooth performance across the whole range except at beyond 40m, when it sounded slightly asthmatic. When dropped from the mouth at depth it free-flowed almost unstoppably in both venturi switch settings, although the minus setting was less dramatic. The venturi switch appeared to make no difference to the work of breathing at depth.
As for disruption of view caused by the exhaled bubbles, this was the best of the bunch, with a wide exhaust-T and no bubbles coming up near the eyes.
Tigullio, www.beaversports.co.uk


HALCYON H50D AURA £284
980g (DIN + 1m hose)

hspace=4hspace=4 IF YOU HAVE MISTAKEN THIS for a Scubapro Mk17 diaphragm first stage combined with an R395 second stage, you may be forgiven.
Taking on a new aura and wearing the colours of the Halcyon brand, this high-performing coldwater regulator is not the ultimate in lightweight design, but its not that many grams heavier than several others here, either.
This is a very comfortable regulator to use. It felt light and gave a nice comfortable breathe, although the gas supply felt very diffused, filling your mouth without being whooshy. There was no degradation of performance with two divers breathing from it as hard as we could at the maximum depth.
The purge is easy to locate, and was positive and progressive with little resistance, delivering more than enough gas, and with a powerful blast if required.
Inverted, the Aura could still be comfortably breathed from, despite ingress of water that was turned into a fine mist. When dropped from the mouth at depth, it steadfastly refused to free-flow in any venturi setting; nor did these settings appear to affect the work of breathing at depth.
The exhaled bubbles were a little disruptive, coming up in front of the eyes when looking straight ahead.
Halcyon, www.silentplanet.info


APEKS FLIGHT £359
740g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 WHEN THE MEN AT APEKS SET OUT to try to make the worlds lightest regulator, they employed new high-tech thermoplastics so that the second stage was as light as can be.
The diaphragm-style first stage is not as small as some, but it continues with the Apeks tradition of top performance at depth.
The ingenious design comprises a strong forged solid brass body surrounded with the plastic jacket material. The two are connected by a lightweight intermediate braided hose, with a unique connection that rules out the diver swapping to a longer hose if that was preferred.
By the second dive, the action of breathing had become slightly wet, suggesting a poorly located exhaust mushroom valve. The inter-stage pressure was obviously set too high, because the pressure would build up between breaths, causing the second stage to bleed gas.
With two divers inhaling as hard as possible at depth, the delivery was as generous and sure as at any other time. Inverted it was wetter, with bigger droplets of water than we would have liked.
The purge button was disappointing, because if you pressed the wrong part the purge was weak, and in some places it would not purge at all.
At full flow it was obviously strong enough to purge the regulator easily, but we didnt feel that air gushed as generously as with some other designs. When dropped from the mouth, the Flight didnt free-flow at all.
There seemed to be no discernible effect with the venturi lever in either position at depth. The compact exhaust T meant that exhaled bubbles sometimes disrupted vision when stationary.
Overall, the Flight proved very comfortable to use at any depth, though we felt that the example we were using could have been improved by a competent technician. Crucially, the weight-saving over the other models here is impressive.
If you are looking for an Aqua-lung regulator in this line-up, this model represents both brands.
Apeks, www.apeks.co.uk


MARES CARBON 42 £530
1010g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 CARBON-FIBRE IS NOW USED EXTENSIVELY in the airframes of the latest airliners, so its no surprise to find a regulator manufacturer using it in a second stage, even though it doesnt look very finished. In fact, it looks a bit like recycled plastic.
This one combines with the mini M42 diaphragm-type first stage and lightweight braided hose to provide a low all-up weight. Having said this, the first stage is heavier than it would at first appear. Nevertheless.
its port arrangement made hose-routeing a dream.
We found no change in performance under the duress of two heavy breathers at depth. Inverted, it was slightly damp because of a fine mist, but still very usable. The valve could be heard opening and closing at this time.
The purge control was easily accessed, progressive from weak to medium flow and obviously better shallower than at 20m, but without that tremendous rush of air that can catch an unsuspecting diver off-guard at any depth. It gave a nice comfortable breathe, and delivered air at all rates with a low cracking pressure, and no squeaks when only sipping air.
Though it obviously has a big capacity to deliver, the valve seemed slightly hesitant to crack open and start the flow on each breath. It steadfastly refused to free-flow when casually dropped from the mouth at depth. There were no adjustments to play with.
The Carbon 42 has a nice mouthpiece, and felt very lightweight in the mouth. Exhaust bubbles are distributed well and directed away from the eyes, but I could feel the exhaust port resting on my chin, which was slightly distracting.
Mares, www.mares.com


SCUBAPRO MK11T/S555 £719
825g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 SCUBAPRO MAKES AN EXCELLENT RANGE of regulators. Many of these could be a good choice for the travelling diver, but this one employs titanium for the minimal weight in its diaphragm-type MK11T first stage, and the S555 second stage has a balanced flow valve for an effortless air-flow.
Breathing was effortless at depth, although the air provided came in a narrower jet than, say, on the titanium Atomic. When dropped from the mouth at depth, it free-flowed only for a moment in pre-dive mode, but gushed like an open tap in dive mode. Inverted, it proved disappointingly wet and hard to breathe from, but we managed.
The venturi control did seem to make a difference to the airflow at depth when in pre-dive mode. With two divers inhaling together hard at depth it was brilliant, with no discernible problems.
The purge was easy to find, and had a long travel. It felt hard to push at first, but culminated in a collapsed feel of the soft front when it was fully pushed in. You do get a nice lump of air at full tilt of the demand lever.
There was no creak or creep, even at the surface, and this regulator was an excellent performer, with a very comfortable breathe. The exhaust-T split the flow of bubbles, though it didnt direct them away from the eyes. Nigel preferred the mouthpiece of the Scubapro to that of the Atomic.
Scubapro, www.scubapro.co.uk


ATOMIC T2X £999
840g (A-clamp)

hspace=4hspace=4 THIS IS THE REGULATOR I ALWAYS POP INTO MY BAG as an extra when travelling. Its titanium balanced-piston first stage weighs little. It combines with a second stage that has a unique automatic depth-sensitive venturi adjustment and fabulously comfortable mouthpiece.
Unusually, the valve seat stays out of contact with the poppet, so theres no engraving during storage, with subsequent unwanted free-flows.
The T2X goes without servicing for up to three years at a time. The design gives the manufacturer the confidence to offer a limited-lifetime guarantee in the USA.
The T2X squeaked and creaked at the surface, but submerged it provided a wide funnel of air that diffused into the mouth. This is thanks to the mouthpiece and the beautifully machined universal joint on the hose junction, which takes the stress out of hose-routeing.
Inverted, this regulator provided only a fine mist of water that was totally manageable for uninterrupted breathing. The venturi was depth-sensitive and automatically adjusted, though it did momentarily gush a free-flow when dropped from the mouth.
Once the valve cracking-pressure control was turned down a little, or it was turned face-up, it didnt do this.
The purge control, easy to locate, gave total control of the quantity of air passed to the diver, though we had to push it in a long way to get a lot of flow, when it will give a full tonsil-rattling. When two-up and breathing heavily, there was no discernable difference in performance.
The exhaust-T was not perfect and there was some visual disruption but overall the excellent T2X instilled confidence. The price says it all.
Atomic, www.atomicaquatics.com