Best Gear of 2011
Regulators are perhaps the most essential piece of gear you'll buy, which is why ScubaLab takes such care in testing them. We invited all major manufacturers to submit their new or redesigned regulators for this review. After inspecting them and reviewing the owners' manuals, we put them on an ANSTI breathing simulator to measure the precise breathing resistance a diver will encounter at four different depth/breathing rate settings that range from normal breathing at 132 feet to extreme exertion at 198 feet. Then we turned the regs over to a team of test divers to be your stand-ins. Their mission was to rate each reg using a 1 to 5 scale in seven ergonomic performance categories, from ease of breathing to comfort features. These divers also made notes on each reg — what they liked and what they didn't like. We then polled our test divers to find out which reg in each price category offered the best combination of features, comfort and performance. Lots of hours and data to tabulate, but here are the five best from this year's testing.
Sherwood Scuba Magnum
At less than $400 and with good to excellent scores in ANSTI breathing-simulation tests and real-world dives, Sherwood Scuba’s Magnum was 2011’s Best Buy in the $350 to $500 category. The first stage, featuring a patented Dry Air Bleed System, provided good breathing in most positions, and testers loved the Magnum’s comfortable second stage, noting it had a powerful purge button and simple yet effective venturi lever.
Aqua Lung Titan
With a redesigned first stage that now has a second high-pressure port, the Titan was a Testers’ Choice in the Under $350 category. Our testers loved this dry breather, especially its ComfoBite mouthpiece and forceful purge. On the ANSTI machine, the Titan was among the top performers.
The MK11 is a balanced-diaphragm first stage with two low-pressure ports that increase air flow 15 percent more than standard ports. This smooth-breathing regulator produced excellent ANSTI scores and very good results in real-world testing. Testers also liked the venturi lever on the C300 second stage.
Mares Abyss 22 Navy
Designed for use in demanding cold-water environments, the Abyss 22 Navy first stage uses Mares’ Cold-Water Dry kit and the second stage is coated in a resin finish that prevents it from freezing open. Posting above-average results in both ANSTI and real-world diving tests, the Abyss received the best combined ergonomic score of all regs.
The Testers’ Choice in the $350 to $500 category, the Onyx earned excellent scores in the breathing-simulator tests and very good scores from the testers. The Onyx was the only reg in its price range to average a 4 or greater on all of the ergonomic tests, rating excellent for Ease of Breathing and second-stage adjustments.