ScubaLab 2012 Gear of the Year: Aqua Lung Legend
ScubaLab tests more equipment and collects more data than anybody in diving, and the annual regulator evaluation is our test team’s favorite. From a data-gathering perspective, a reg’s complex design allows us to really peel back the performance layers — using both sophisticated lab machinery as well as down-and-dirty dive work. This year, nine brands sent 13 new or redesigned models to be tested.
1. AQUA LUNG LEGEND LUX
FEATURES: the new-generation Legend Lux is a head-turner, with its gold accents and sculpted gold port plugs. The second stage is smaller and lighter than earlier versions, and it is equipped with Aqua Lung’s new Master Breathing system knob that both controls the direction of air and adjusts breathing effort.
PERFORMANCE: On the breathing machine, the Lux outpaced other models in its price category, racking up perfect scores. Up-shifting into muscle mode, it easily handled the extreme bonus breathing rate while reaching the deepest depth in its price category. The Lux really shined in ocean tests, turning in above-average scores in all ergo categories. Divers found the reg to be an effortless breather in all positions, dry and easy to purge. The Comfo-bite mouthpiece was a favorite.
BOTTOM LINE: Aqua Lung hyped this reg when it first hit the market, but we have to admit, it does not disappoint. For sheer breathing performance, reserve capacity and comfort in the water, the Legend Lux was this year’s undisputed Testers’ Choice in this price category.
SPECS Made in France | WEIGHT 2 lb., 12 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS MBS knob | WARRANTY Limited lifetime | MSRP $995 CONTACT aqualung.com
TESTERS’ CHOICE | BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Excellent-PLUS | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Very Good
2. AQUA LUNG LEGEND
FEATURES: Compared with the Lux, the Legend is plain-Jane with a typical polished chrome over brass first stage, and a second stage that eschews color accents and uses a standard venturi switch.
PERFORMANCE: Although the Legend isn’t as exciting to look at as the Lux, when it comes to performance, it's no shrinking violet. It was virtually identical to its costlier cousin on the breathing machine, and although it couldn’t go quite as deep when subjected to extremely high breathing rates, it got pretty darn close. Rated “one of the nicest breathers of the group,” it was able to match the ocean performance of the more expensive Lux, except when it came to the mouthpiece. While the standard version was deemed “OK,” testers preferred the Comfo-bite that was used on the Lux.
BOTTOM LINE: With the exception of the first- stage coating, color accents and second-stage user controls, the Legend is basically the same reg as the Lux. This is especially true when it comes to performance, which is top drawer. Match that to its price, and you’ve got a Best Buy.
SPECS Made in France | WEIGHT 2 lb., 11 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Venturi switch | WARRANTY Limited lifetime | MSRP $585 | CONTACT aqualung.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Excellent-PLUS | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
3. BEUCHAT VR200/ICEBERG
FEATURES: With a new U.S. distribution deal, Beuchat is reappearing in more dive stores. This is great news for gear heads. Case in point: the VR200/Iceberg. Designed for diving in temperate to super-cold waters, the first stage is built rugged, and the second stage is made of metal with blue thermoplastic accents.
PERFORMANCE: A solid performer in the lab, the Iceberg’s work of breathing at the test level most closely representing recreational diving was rated Excellent. As depths and breathing rates increased, the Iceberg soldiered on, well into muscle reg territory. Skeptical test divers quickly turned into fans, giving it Very Good scores in every ergo test category. User controls are efficient and easy to handle, especially the knurled breathing resistance knob.
BOTTOM LINE: The Iceberg earned the second- highest number of tester “favorite” points. It’s a solid performer — and sharp looking to boot. One nitpick: The placement of its first-stage ports limits space between LP hose and HP port, which can make for a tight fit for a hoseless DC transmitter.
SPECS Made in France | WEIGHT 2 lb., 10 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Venturi switch, Breathing resistance knob | WARRANTY 1 year | MSRP $660 | CONTACT spearotek.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Very Good to Excellent- PLUS | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Very Good
4. MARES ABYSS 52
FEATURES: The Abyss 52 combines a sleek, mostly metal second stage with a very compact first stage offering a pair of high-flow Dynamic Flow Control ports for hooking up second stages and octos. The first stage also offers a bonus for divers who use hoseless air integrated computers, with plenty of room to get a standard wrench in to tighten those annoyingly narrow nuts found on most transmitters. The well-shaped second stage has a center purge button but no user controls.
PERFORMANCE: The Abyss 52 is a workhorse where it counts. On the breathing machine, it delivered a consistent flow of air and an above-average work of breathing at each of the standard test levels. Test divers rated the Abyss better than average in the swimming position and thought its easy-press purge cleared water quickly without blasting throats, but some found the reg to be a rather noisy breather.
BOTTOM LINE: For divers who want a very capable breather that’s friendly to cold water and hoseless DC transmitters, the Abyss 52 is made to order.
SPECS Made IN Italy | WEIGHT 2 lb., 7 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 2LP, 2DFC | SECOND STAGE Unbalanced | ADJUSTMENTS None | WARRANTY 2-year limited | MSRP $700 | CONTACT mares.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
5. MARES CARBON 52
FEATURES: Sharing the same MR52 first stage as the Abyss, the Carbon’s claim to fame is its 100 percent carbon construction. The casing is very light and very strong with good thermal conductivity for cold water. It has no user controls, instead using a specially shaped deflector with an air bypass tube to direct air for easy breathing regardless of depth.
PERFORMANCE: Compared with the Abyss, the Carbon’s mouthpiece sits farther from the face, and testers thought it felt bulky in the mouth. Because the exhaust tee reaches farther beneath the mouthpiece, it rubbed uncomfortably against some testers’ chins. That aside, the reg performed in line with the Abyss in the water. On the breathing machine, however, it was able to crank out better work of breathing. Where the Abyss scored Very Good, the Carbon scored Excellent; where the Abyss scored Good, the Carbon scored Very Good.
BOTTOM LINE: Dubbed the “Darth Vader” reg by test divers for its cool carbon look, this high-end breather feels a little different in the mouth, something that will require a period of adjustment. But overall performance is on point.
SPECS Made in Italy | WEIGHT 2 lb., 5 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 2LP, 2DFC | SECOND STAGE Unbalanced | ADJUSTMENTS None | WARRANTY 2-year limited | MSRP $1,000 | CONTACT mares.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Very Good to Excellent | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good