ScubaLab tested 20 new scuba regulators — including nine under $400.
How We Score: ANSTI breathing-simulator results shown here are based on a score of 1 to 5, where 1 represents poor and 5 represents excellent performance with work-of-breathing measures of 1 joule per liter or less at carefully regulated depths and breathing rates and volumes.
In-water ergonomic testing was conducted at Alexander Springs in central Florida. Test divers evaluated each reg in a number of categories, assigning a score from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor) and recording observations about the reg’s comfort and performance. You can download the test results for yourself and learn more about our in-water test in this behind-the-scenes gallery.
Scuba Diving Regulators Under $400
AQUA LUNG CALYPSO
Price: $299 | Contact: aqualung.com
This new version of the Aqua Lung Calypso bears a name with a decades-long heritage, but with lots of new upgrades inside and out. Externally, the first stage looks nearly unchanged (still with a single HP port) save for updated graphics. But not so the second stage, which sports a redesigned soft diaphragm cover with a more modern look. The old quick-release hose fitting is gone (but not missed), and the Venturi’s control and internal mechanism are new. A comparison with the previous version’s simulator results shows performance has also been boosted, with the Calypso garnering excellent and very good scores, and operating within our test parameters down to 262 feet. In the water, it took top scores in its category for ease of breathing and dry operation in swim position, and was the top selection as the favorite of test divers. The Calypso is the Testers Choice in its category.
BEUCHAT V FIRST
Price: $205.85 | Contact: beuchat-diving.com
The V First’s second stage is so small, and the reg’s price so low, we wondered how it would perform. The answer was a pleasant surprise. Its simulator performance was rated very good at 132 feet and good down even to our deepest standard-test depths. It won good and very good scores across the board in our test dives, where it took the best score in its category for comfort, thanks in part to that tiny second stage. Weighing just 5 ounces on our scale, with exhaust ports only 2¼ inches across at their narrowest, the little second stage translated to zero jaw fatigue. The single HP port makes hose alignments less than optimal, and some found the purge a little stiff and abrupt. But the V First’s smooth, quiet operation won praise from divers, several of whom chose it among their favorites of the test. The V First is the Best Buy in its category.
DEEP SIX GEAR SIGNATURE
Price: $375 | Contact: deep6gear.com
With its rotating first stage, breathing adjustment, and abundant metal parts with chrome, PVD or Teflon coating, the Signature looks like it belongs in a more upscale price category. The first-stage arrangement, with its rotating turret that offers a lot of options for hose routing, helped the Signature tie for top score in ease of setup. Its purge, with a large, supple cover that allowed precise control and didn’t free-flow even in strong current, was rated best in its category. Divers also liked the breathing control, which was easy to use and made a distinct difference in air delivery, and rated the reg very good for ease of breathing (although some found performance dropped off when face-up). Quiet, smooth and comfortable, and with nice touches for its modest price, the Signature was named by multiple scuba divers to their list of favorites.
INNOVATIVE SCUBA CONCEPTS HONU
Price: $249.99 | Contact: innovativescuba.com
Best known for its huge catalog of dive accessories, Innovative Scuba Concepts has expanded its gear line with a pair of new scuba regulators, including the Honu. With a piston first stage outwardly similar to several of the regs here (including the single HP port), the Honu’s performance on the ANSTI simulator was rated very good at recreational depths, though it tailed off a bit at our greatest test depths. In the water, the Honu delivered solid performance, with divers rating it very good for ease of breathing in all attitudes except face-up (where it was still rated good), and very good for dry performance in all positions. The second stage is about average in size but quite light, and was rated very good for comfort. Divers found the purge soft and progressive, and the Venturi control did its job well and was easy to use.
INNOVATIVE SCUBA CONCEPTS MAKAI
Price: $299.99 | Contact: innovativescuba.com
The Makai’s second stage is similar to that of its little brother, the Honu, but with the addition of a breathing adjustment that divers rated very good for effectiveness. The diaphragm first stage is quite different from the Honu, with a swiveling turret and two HP ports, helping the Makai tie the top scores in the category for ease of setup. On the simulator, the Makai was rated excellent at recreational depth and good down to our deepest test depth. Test divers, several of whom remarked on its quiet operation, gave it very good scores for ease of breathing in swim and head-down positions and very good for dry operation in all positions. Some found the purge a bit abrupt, and the Venturi just adequate. But with solid performance and extras not usually found at this price, the Makai made it onto multiple divers’ list of favorites.
MARES LOOP 15X
Price: $380 | Contact: mares.com
The Loop turns traditional reg design on its head, or at least its side. The bottom-hose arrangement required moving the exhaust diaphragm, which is now two exhausts with separate diaphragms. Mares says the design diverts bubbles and makes the reg ambidextrous and more streamlined, with the long (40-plus inches) hose tucked under either arm. Our testers found that those big dual exhausts do their job well, earning the Loop the best score in its category by a wide margin for low bubble interference. The design also earned best scores for dry operation in head-down and face-up positions. The center hose is a plus for stage bottle or octo use (Mares offers a Loop octo). Its score suffered a bit in comfort, with several divers commenting that they wished for a ball swivel at the second-stage connection to relieve leverage from the hose.
OCEANIC ALPHA 10 cDX
Price: $399.95 | Contact: oceanicworldwide.com
The new Oceanic Alpha 10 second stage is available paired with either the cDX diaphragm or the sPX piston first stages. We tested both versions (see the sPX review below), and experienced similar performance both with test divers and on the simulator, where the cDX recorded excellent to good work-of-breathing scores. The cDX first stage has four LP ports and a pair of HP ports set at a shallow angle, allowing a good range of hose alignments. The reg was rated very good for ease of breathing in all attitudes including the challenging face-up position, where it took the best score in its category. Some scuba divers noted a little more noise than they liked during inhalation, and a few found the Venturi control just adequate to tame free-flows. But its smooth, dry performance and lightweight second stage helped the Alpha 10 take a very good score for overall comfort.
OCEANIC ALPHA 10 sPX
Price: 299.95 | Contact: oceanicworldwide.com
Teamed with the piston sPX first stage, the Alpha 10 scuba regulator showed excellent performance at recreational depth and beyond, and very good down to our deepest test depth. Test divers rated it very good for ease of breathing and dry operation in swim position, and good even in face-up and head-down positions. The lightweight second stage and smooth breathing performance helped it take a very good score for overall comfort, although some divers found it somewhat noisy while inhaling and rated the Venturi only moderately effective. It had one of the highest scores in its category for setup because, unlike most of the piston first stages here, the compact sPX has two HP ports and they’re set at a shallow angle, offering a lot more options for finding a convenient hose routing, as well as the ability to mount both an SPG and a tank transmitter.
ZEAGLE ENVOY II
Price: $324.95 | Contact: zeagle.com
In test-diver comments about the Zeagle Envoy II, we found the same two words showing up again and again: “easy” and “quiet,” with divers praising the reg’s smooth, even flow of air and awarding it one of the highest scores in its category for ease of breathing in swim position. It was also rated very good for bubble interference, with the relatively wide but streamlined exhaust ports working well for most divers to direct their bubbles away from the field of view. The Venturi switch was rated good at taming free-flows and for ease of operation, and the purge — with its large, soft rubber cover — was rated very good, although some divers found it a little aggressive. On the simulator, the Envoy II put in excellent and very good performance at all of our standard test depths; multiple divers chose the Envoy II as one of their favorite regs in its category.
Scuba Diving Regulators Between $400 and $600
CRESSI AC-10V MASTER CROMO
Price: $449 | Contact: cressiusa.com
The Master Cromo shares with the XS Compact a top-mounted Venturi control, but otherwise the scuba regulators are only distant cousins. The Master Cromo has a piston first stage with five LP ports and a 360-degree rotating turret that took top score in its category for setup, and a second stage with an elliptical diaphragm, a breathing adjustment and a brushed-titanium face plate. On the simulator, it took excellent scores at all our test depths — the least-expensive reg here to do so. In test dives, it took or tied top scores for ease of breathing in all positions and was rated very good for dry operation in all attitudes. The purge was rated very good ( although divers with large fingers had to feel a bit for the soft spot), as was the comfort of the second stage. With impressive performance and a below-average price, the Master Cromo is the Best Buy in its category.
CRESSI MC9-SC/COMPACT PRO
Price: $419.95 | Contact: cressiusa.com
This latest version of the Cressi Compact Pro has a sealed chamber in its diaphragm first stage (hence the “SC”) for reliable performance in cold or silty water. But the second stage still has the quality that has earned it consistently solid scores for overall comfort from divers in previous tests: a second stage that weighs only about 5 ounces and is just 2½ inches wide. On the breathing simulator, the Compact was rated very good at recreational depths, and test divers rated it very good for dry operation in both swim and head-down positions. The short exhaust tee (less than 3 inches across at its widest) had a few divers noting some extra bubble interference, and some divers found the purge, while effective, a bit on the stiff side. But the tiny second stage, nearly weightless when submerged, helped it earn one of the best overall comfort scores of any regulator in the test.
DIVE RITE FT1
Price: $419 | Contact: diverite.com
Sometimes the super-sensitive ANSTI simulator will show behavior — like a pressure spike on cracking — that test divers don’t really notice in the water. But sometimes divers report just what the simulator suggested, and that was the case with the FT1. On the machine, it spun out some of the smoothest loops of the test, and divers reported the same experience, with an almost seamless transition between inhale and exhale that earned it very good scores for ease of breathing in all positions. The controls were also rated very good for effectiveness and ergonomics, with the round Venturi control winning praise for its design that makes it easy to grasp and operate even with gloves. The FT1 was rated very good overall for comfort, partly because of its lightweight second stage, but also because divers appreciated its smooth, quiet operation.
OCEANIC DELTA 5
Price: $499.95 | Contact: oceanicworldwide.com
This latest in a long line of Delta regulators has a very refined new look (and yes, it’s also available in black). More important, this Delta has performance to match its looks. Both the eDX diaphragm first stage and the second stage are equipped with ribbed heat exchangers for improved performance in cold water, and the second stage now has an all-metal valve. On the simulator, the Delta 5’s work-of-breathing scores were rated excellent across the board. Test divers gave it very good scores for ease of breathing and dry operation in all positions ( although some noted it required more effort when face-up), and gave it excellent scores for its predictable, efficient purge and its precise breathing adjustment. Taking top scores and more selections as the favorite of test divers than any other reg in its category, the Delta 5 is our Testers Choice.
OMS AIRSTREAM EVOQUE
Price: $499 | omsdive.com
The ports of this new Airstream first stage are angled quite steeply downward — 30 degrees for the four LPs and 45 degrees for the pair of HPs. That helps eliminate the long hose loops that some regs create, allowing the hoses to suck in tightly, particularly the HP hose, which is able to lie right along the diver’s side. The Evoque second stage is equipped with a breathing adjustment (and a clutch to prevent overtightening) that was rated excellent by test divers, who found it both notably effective and quite ergonomic, with a knurled surface that is easy to grasp but not hard on the fingers. Divers rated the reg good for ease of breathing in swim position, and very good for dry operation in all positions. Some divers noted intermittent noise when at shallow depths (less than 10 feet), but overall the Airstream Evoque was rated very good for comfort.
ZEAGLE ONYX II
Price: $473.95 | Contact: zeagle.com
The original Onyx was known as a smooth, steady breather; the Onyx II takes up where that left off . Changes include environmental sealing of the diaphragm first stage (which has five LP ports) and an aluminum heat sink at the second-stage hose fitting to enhance cold-water performance. The second stage is now more compact, with a streamlined exhaust tee and a spiffier look. In test dives, the Onyx II posted very good scores for dry breathing, even in head-down and face-up positions, and for the operation of its breathing adjustment, which divers found very effective. The purge was rated very good overall, though some divers thought it somewhat touchy. A few reported a bit of noise on inhalation, but divers gave the Onyx II the tying top score for ease of breathing in swim position and praised it for its steady performance.
Scuba Diving Regulators Over $600
Price: $895 | Contact: apeksdiving.com
This new version of Apeks’ military reg is designed for “extreme cold-water use,” and there’s more than the text on its cover to tell us so. Just look at those heat exchangers on both the second stage and the first, which have more fins than a shark convention, and the metal diaphragm ring designed to suck every calorie from the water. At our test (year-round water temp 72ºF), cold-water capabilities didn’t figure into its scoring. But the MTX-R did well nonetheless, thanks to its quiet, comfortable, dry performance. It has no Venturi control, but divers didn’t find it prone to free-flows. It took the best overall scores for dry operation across all categories and tied top score for comfort. The first stage, with five LP ports and a rotating turret, was rated the best for setup in our test. It may be designed to break ice, but MTX-R seemed happy enough in the Florida sun.
DACOR PACER PLUS X-6
Price: $899 | westmarine.com
We worried the Pacer Plus started with a bit of a disadvantage in a test where categories are determined by price because, alone among the regs here, it is available only as a set, with an octo, three-gauge console, inflator hose and accessories, including a padded reg bag. But it turned out the reg from Dacor, which is introducing new products after a long absence, was perfectly able to stand up for itself, taking very good scores in all test categories except ease of breathing when face-up, where it was rated good (about average for all regs in the test). It tied the top score for its breathing adjustment, with a nicely machined control that was easy to tune. It also tied top score for the comfort of the second stage, which has a soft purge and somewhat wide exhaust ports that took the best score for bubble interference, and multiple test divers chose it as a favorite.
POSEIDON XSTREAM BLACK
Price: $949.95 | Contact: poseidon.com
Unlike the more-conventional regs here, the second stage of the side-exhaust Xstream operates with a servo mechanism: A small valve — activated by a second diaphragm near the mouthpiece — moves on inhalation, opening the larger main inlet valve. Poseidon says the design allows the use of a larger supply nozzle without increasing the inhalation effort needed to crack the valve open and begin airflow. Test-diver scores and comments showed another effect of the design: The reg’s performance scores, both in ease of air delivery and dry operation, were virtually identical whether divers were in swim position, face-up or head-down. Since the reg doesn’t care what position it’s in, it can be moved from the right side to left simply by turning it over. Divers also noted another effect of the large inlet: Jab the purge carelessly, and you’ll get a blast.
SCUBAPRO MK25 EVO/S620 Ti
Price: $819 | Contact: scubapro.com
The MK25 EVO first stage has been a winner when paired with both the G260 and the A700 second stages, so we were eager to try it with the all-new S620 Ti. It didn’t disappoint. On the simulator, it took excellent scores at all our test depths, so we pushed it down to more than 300 feet, where at 30 breaths per minute, its work of breathing was just 1.12 joules — still very good in our scoring. In the water, it took top scores for ease of breathing in all attitudes — including perfect scores in swim position — and best score for dry operation when face-up. The second stage, which has a titanium inlet tube, was rated very good for comfort, although some divers found the breathing adjustment and the Venturi control a bit stiff . With impressive all around performance, and chosen as most test divers’ favorite, the MK25 EVO/S620 Ti is the Testers Choice in its category.
Price: $690 | Contact: sherwoodscuba.com
With a name that dates back to the 1980s, the Maximus still has a right-angle swivel and long hose for routing beneath the right arm. But it’s had a thoroughly modern work-over, including the breathing adjustment and Venturi control, which are now combined on a single knob. The control is precise and easy to work; divers gave the breathing adjustment top score in its category. The large vents and metal grill in the front cover are designed to let the elliptical diaphragm respond quickly without being subject to free-flow from current; divers reported no free-flow problems, even in a stiff current at the test site. The second stage is light and the swivel removes the hose’s leverage, helping the Maximus take a very good score for comfort. Divers reported it was a little more work and wetter when face-up, but gave it very good scores in all other positions.
CHECK OUT MORE SCUBALAB GEAR REVIEWS