ScubaLab 2012 Gear of the Year: Aqua Lung Legend
6. AERIS Ion LT/AT600
FEATURES: One of the lightest models in this year’s shoot-out, Aeris’ flagship reg is a pocket-size breather designed for the traveling diver. The second stage offers both a dive/predive switch and a pneumatically balanced valve that maintains preferred breathing resistance throughout the dive. Set it once; from then on it will automatically adjust to deliver a consistent flow of air regardless of depth.
PERFORMANCE: For such a small reg, the Ion LT delivers quite a punch. It turned in stellar breathing-machine performance across Scubalab’s standard test levels. In ocean tests, divers loved this reg. It breathed dry and easy in all positions, and the full-cover purge got the job done. The dive/predive switch was small and unmarked, so finding the proper position was confusing. The multicompound mouthpiece was rated the undisputed favorite in this year’s roundup.
BOTTOM LINE: With some of the best scores on the machine and in the water, plus the top of testers’ favorites lists, the Ion LT/AT600 earned the Testers’ Choice in the under $500 category.
SPECS Made in USA | WEIGHT 2 lb., 3 oz. | FIRST STAGE Over-balanced diaphragm | PORTS 1HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Dive/ predive lever, breathing-resistance knob | WARRANTY 2-year limited | MSRP $419.95 | CONTACT diveaeris.com
TESTERS’ CHOICE | TEST STATS BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Very Good to Excellent | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
7. BEUCHAT VRT80/EVOLUTION
FEATURES: The VRT80/Evolution — or Evo — is designed for both temperate and cold water. A compact first stage with only one HP port is mated to a no-frills second stage armed with a venturi switch designed to regulate free-flows.
PERFORMANCE: On the breathing machine, the Evo cranked out Excellent work of breathing at the test level most closely representing recreational diving, and very good work of breathing everywhere else. When pushed into the realm of muscle regs, the Evo was able to handle extreme breathing rates and deep depths with the best of them — regardless of price. This near-effortless display continued into the ocean tests, impressing test divers with easy breathing in all positions. Some complained the mouthpiece was too small; others felt it was comfy but could use larger bite tabs.
BOTTOM LINE: the Evo replaces flash with down-and-dirty breathing performance, offering solid real-world functionality along with more reserve capacity than models costing twice as much, earning the Best Buy nod for this price category.
SPECS Made in France | WEIGHT 2 lb., 6 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 1HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Venturi switch | WARRANTY 1 year | MSRP $396 | CONTACT spearotek.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Very Good to Excellent | PLUS REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
8. IST SPORTS R860
FEATURES: IST Sports’ flagship R860 is all business. One of the heaviest regs in this group, the balanced-diaphragm first stage is equipped with an environmental kit for diving cold or brackish water. The second stage is a bit larger in diameter than average, with two user controls: the dive/predive lever detunes the reg to minimize free-flows, and the breathing-resistance knob regulates airflow with increasing depth.
PERFORMANCE: The breathing machine proved that the R860 can deliver air efficiently. It turned in Excellent work of breathing at simulated recreational diving levels, and Good to Very Good work of breathing at the deeper depths and higher breathing rates. During ocean tests, the model proved to be a very good breather in the swimming position, a good breather in alternate positions, and a pretty dry breather in all positions but head-down.
BOTTOM LINE: Overall, the R860 is a solid midpack performer. Test divers were split on the comfort of the mouthpiece but otherwise felt the reg was a respectable rec-level breather.
SPECS Made in Taiwan | WEIGHT 2 lb., 15 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Dive/ predive lever, breathing-resistance knob | WARRANTY Limited lifetime | MSRP $430 | CONTACT istsports.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Good to Excellent | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
9. MARES INSTINCT 12S
FEATURES: The Instinct combines a tried-and- true first stage with a new-age second stage. The 12S first stage has a long-standing reputation for reliability. The Instinct second stage is quite attractive, offering an interesting hydrodynamic shape and a purge button on top of the casing, so there’s no exhaust tee. Instead, bubbles exit the casing through a small circular orifice.
PERFORMANCE: On the breathing machine, the Instinct turned in respectable work of breathing, with its best behavior found at the test level most closely representing recreational diving. With no user controls, testers found it simple to use and a very smooth breather in the swimming position, although the odd positioning of the purge did give some fits until they got the hang of it. Because bubbles exit just one side (directed away from the eyes), some were annoyed by turbulence on the left side of the face.
BOTTOM LINE: The cutting edge Instinct 12S is a streamlined and efficient breather — and a good buy for the money.
SPECS Made in Italy | WEIGHT 2 lb., 3 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 3LP, 1DFC | SECOND STAGE Unbalanced | ADJUSTMENTS None | WARRANTY 2-year limited | MSRP $399 | CONTACT mares.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Fair to Very Good
10. OCEANIC ALPHA 9/SP5
FEATURES: Take a basic first stage with an established reliability record, couple it with a lightweight, new-generation second stage, and you’ve got the Alpha 9/SP5. There are no adjustment knobs: Simply put it in your mouth and breathe. The reg comes with a full-cover purge and a first-rate multicompound mouthpiece.
PERFORMANCE: Teamed with the SP5 first stage, the Alpha 9 is designed for everyday recreational diving, and the ANSTI machine results reflect this. It delivered Very Good work of breathing at the test level that most closely represents recreational diving, and solid work of breathing at the other standard test levels. In real-world conditions, it breathed relatively dry and with minimal inhalation effort in the swimming position, although it can be a tad damp in the head-down position. Test divers thought the full-cover purge was a bit stiff, but the dual-compound mouthpiece — usually found only on up-market regs — was tough to beat.
BOTTOM LINE: The Alpha 9/SP5 is a good-performing economy reg geared to basic recreational diving and available at a great price.
SPECS Made in USA | WEIGHT 2 lb., 4 oz. | FIRST STAGE Unbalanced piston | PORTS 1HP, 4LP | SECOND STAGE Unbalanced | ADJUSTMENTS None | WARRANTY 2-year limited | MSRP $279.95 | CONTACT oceanicworldwide.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good
11. SCUBAMAX RG-600
FEATURES: With an attractive polished-chrome body with a five LP port swivel turret, the first stage on the RG-600 looks very familiar to SCUBAPRO’s powerhouse, the MK25. The more typical-looking second stage has an extra-wide exhaust tee for bubble dispersal and an efficient breathing- resistance knob with generous adjustment.
PERFORMANCE: Alternating Very Good and Good ratings across the standard test spectrum, the RG-600 delivered the kind of breathing-machine performance expected from a reg at this price point. The same was found in ocean tests. It proved to be an easy breather, especially in the swimming position; however, it was quite a wet breather in the head-down position. And some div- ers found the mouthpiece too small for comfort.
BOTTOM LINE: While the fundamentals seem to be in place, diving the RG-600 suggests there are still a few issues that need to be worked out with the second stage. And it’s the only reg in this group not recommended for use with nitrox But overall, the RG-600 delivered respectable breathing.
SPECS Made in Taiwan | WEIGHT 2 lb., 15 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced piston | PORTS 2HP, 5LP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Dive/predive lever, breathing-resistance knob | WARRANTY 1 year | MSRP $365.95 | CONTACT scubamax.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Fair to Very Good
12. SCUBAPRO MK11/C200
FEATURES: The MK11/C200 comes with a forged brass first stage that’s chromed and fitted with a white elastomer shell. Identical HP and LP ports on each side of the body enable it to be used in either the up or down position with the same layout. One LP port on each side is high flow, delivering about 15 percent more air. The compact C200 second stage features a VIVA dive/predive switch and SCUBAPRO’s signature mouthpiece.
PERFORMANCE: The MK11/C200 turned in perfect work of breathing scores in the standard breathing-machine tests and produced some of the best muscle reg performance in the group. However, this impressive lab performance didn’t translate to the real-world test. Divers found it harder to breathe while looking up than the other regs in the group (allowing for the fact that all regs breathe harder when you’re looking toward the surface). They did like the flexibility and action of the purge cover.
BOTTOM LINE: Althought our team of testers didn’t warm to this reg, it delivered Excellent work of breathing and superior reserve capacity, and offers a nice set of standard features for the price.
SPECS Made in Italy | WEIGHT 2 lb., 6 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 2LP, 2HFP | SECOND STAGE Unbalanced | ADJUSTMENTS VIVA switch | WARRANTY Limited lifetime | MSRP $449 | CONTACT scubapro.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Excellent-PLUS | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Fair to Very Good
13. TUSA RS790
FEATURES: With its dry ambient pressure chamber, the R700 first stage is designed for cold-water use. It offers a pair of HP ports and four LP ports, two of which are high flow, delivering an increase in air of about 15 percent. The S90 second stage has a venturi lever for surface detuning, a large flexible purge cover and a comfortable mouthpiece.
PERFORMANCE: This reg looks similar to one formerly offered by SCUBAPRO. These suspicions were strengthened after seeing the RS790’s breathing-machine performance. It aced the stan- dard tests and then continued into the muscle reg realm, where it racked up some of the best performance in this shoot-out. Test divers rated it a very easy breather, albeit a bit damp in certain positions. They even liked the mouthpiece. The only ding was the venturi switch. While well marked and effective, divers found it hard to grab onto and turn.
BOTTOM LINE: The RS790 shows well, both on a breathing machine and in the diver’s mouth. A good all-around performer, it came in a close second as a test-diver favorite in this price category.
SPECS Made in Italy | WEIGHT 2 lb., 11 oz. | FIRST STAGE Balanced diaphragm | PORTS 2HP, 2LP, 2HFP | SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced | ADJUSTMENTS Venturi lever | WARRANTY Limited lifetime | MSRP $479 | CONTACT tusa.com
BREATHING SIMULATOR PERFORMANCE: Excellent-PLUS | REAL-WORLD PERFORMANCE: Good to Very Good