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Budget Regulators Gear Review

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The Scuba Diver team review Budget Regulators 

Each month, the SCUBA DIVER test team assembles to rate and review a selection of dive equipment from a range of manufacturers. Products are split into price categories and are then evaluated for performance, comfort, ease of use, build quality, looks and value for money. The Test Team comprises Editor in Chief Mark Evans and a squad of volunteers, whose dive experience ranges from a couple of hundred dives to well over 6,000.

BUDGET REGULATORS

Here we look at one of the most vital pieces of the modern divers’ kit bag – regulators, or more specifically, budget regulators. Without a solid, reliable reg, you aren’t going anywhere underwater.

A large array of manufacturers produce regulators, and our aim here at Scuba Diver is to give you the widest selection in each review. Alas, the budget bracket is a little slim on the ground these days, but we have got units from Aqua Lung, Scubapro, Oceanic and Mares.

Aqua Lung Core Supreme (Choice Award)

Aqua Lung
Aqua Lung

Aqua Lung has been making diving equipment for more than 75 years, and their regulators have always been solid units, but they have really come on in recent years – the Core Supreme is a belting little unit for this price point.

It has a chrome-coated brass balanced diaphragm first stage with two high-pressure ports and four low-pressure ports, which is paired with a balanced demand valve equipped with a Venturi control and a large purge button.

The Core Supreme is a decent-looking regulator that delivers a smooth breathe, doesn’t break the scales when it comes to weight, and at this price point, represents excellent value for money. The large purge is easy to locate and operate even with thick gloves, and the same goes for the venturi lever. The exhaust is fairly compact, but the routing is sound and it disperses exhaled bubbles efficiently. It comes with a lip shield, which does actually assist in keeping your lips warm(er) in cold water, but if you don’t want this, it is quick and simple to remove it.

The first stage is pretty small, which helps keep the weight down, and with its shiny chrome and polyurethane protector it certainly looks eye-catching.

It is equipped with Aqua Lung’s patented Auto Closure Device, or ACD, which prevents any accidental water ingress if you accidentally submerged it without putting the cover back on the DIN or Yoke fitting.

AQUA LUNG Website

Scuba Diver tech specs and verdict

CRACKING RESISTANCE: No        VENTURI: Yes

VERDICT: Excellent little regulator which could hold its own in the mid-range price bracket. For this price point, this is exceptional value for money.

10 out of 10

Pros – Eye-catching looks, ACD, large purge

Cons – Lip shield will not be to everyone’s liking, but it can be easily removed, no cracking resistance control

Mares Rover 15x (Best Value)

Mares Rover 15x
Mares Rover 15x

The Mares Rover 15X is an entry-level unit from this well-known Italian brand, and it doesn’t break the bank.

The 15X first stage has pre-oriented ports – two high-pressure and four low-pressure, including one DFC port (Dynamic Flow Control), which minimises intermediate pressure drop during inhalation, thus maximising gas delivery – for optimum routing, yet retains a compact, travel-friendly size and weight. It also has an attractive sandblasted finish.

The second stage is very lightweight, and it has a purge that lurks behind a flexible mesh grid on the unit, which helps eliminate freeflows in currents. It has a soft, comfortable mouthpiece, and utilises Mares’ Fluid Dynamic Deflector, which receives and properly directs the airflow from the Vortex Assisted Design bypass tube to the mouthpiece. The Vortex Assisted Design creates a swirling vortex with a low-pressure area in the centre that keeps the diaphragm down during inhalation, for easy breathing at all depths.

The Rover has subtle styling, but its performance is outstanding at this price point.

MARES Website

Scuba Diver tech specs and verdict

CRACKING RESISTANCE: No        VENTURI: No

VERDICT: Lightweight regulator with very subtle styling, but superior performance that belies its price point. Well worth checking out as an entry-level reg.

9 out of 10

Pros – DFC port, VAD bypass tube, compact size and weight

Cons – Subtle styling won’t be to everyone’s liking, no venturi or cracking resistance control

Oceanic Alpha 10 SPX

Oceanic Alpha 10 SPX
Oceanic Alpha 10 SPX

The Alpha 10 SPX is a budget-priced regulator, but it doesn’t skimp on performance, and it is actually quite pleasing to look at as well.

This test model came with an SPX piston first stage, with two high-pressure ports and four low-pressure ports, which are angled for optimum hose routing.

The second stage is pneumatically balanced and has a compact venturi lever and a shaped purge.

The Oceanic reg benefits from being in the Huish Outdoors family with Atomic Aquatics, and features the same soft-with-harder-insert mouthpiece. The venturi is a bit dinky compared with some of the others, so a bit more awkward with gloves on, but still workable. The purge is effective, buy it feels a bit odd being a hard plastic ‘button’. Despite the SPX first stage not being environmentally protected, it didn’t falter in the cold even with robust testing.

As with all Oceanic products, it comes with a lifetime warranty and free parts for life, making that price even more attractive.

Oceanic WorldWide Website

Scuba Diver tech specs and verdict

CRACKING RESISTANCE: No        VENTURI: Yes

VERDICT: The Oceanic Alpha 10 SPX is a straightforward, no-frills regulator, and it does exactly what you need it to, at a very affordable price.

8 out of 10

Pros – Lifetime warranty, comfy mouthpiece, free parts for life

Cons – Small venturi lever, no cracking resistance control

Scubapro MKJ2 EVO / R195

Scubapro is a well-established brand that has always produced solid regulators. The MK2 Evbo paired up with the R195 makes a decent budget-priced route into the brand.

The MK2 Evo is an efficient piston first stage. The Evo boasts 15 per cent better airflow than the previous model, thanks to a larger piston, yet an improved design has managed to reduce the body size by 3.5mm. It has four low-pressure ports, and one high-pressure.

It is equipped with Scubapro’s X-TIS (Extended Thermal Insulating System), which fully insulates the international mechanism from the environment. This massively improves the cold water / freezing resistance without compromising its breathing performance.

The result is a compact first stage which would be an ideal first reg for a new diver, a lightweight travel regulator, or even a well-priced set up for stage cylinders.

The R195 second stage is a classic downstream design, with a Venturi lever that is easy to locate even wearing thick gloves. The large circular purge button is also simple to find and operate. The mouthpiece is comfortable, and the exhaust directs exhaled bubbles past your face. Good entry-level regulator.

SCUBAPRO Website

Scuba Diver tech specs and verdict

CRACKING RESISTANCE: No        VENTURI: Yes

VERDICT: The MK2 Evo / R195 regulator is a great way for a new diver to get on board with the Scubapro brand. It is well priced, and a decent performer all-round.

9 out of 10

Pros – X-TIS, large purge button, efficient exhaust

Cons – no cracking resistance control

Conclusion

Regulators are something we rely on underwater, so you want to know you can count on it, and none of these regs were found wanting, despite some, shall we say, robust testing!

In the Best Value category, we had all four in the mix, but in the end, the Mares Rover snapped up this title. It has subtle good looks on both the first and second stages, but the performance was sensational, and it is a truly budget price.

The Choice award went to the Aqua Lung Core Supreme. In previous years this regulator has sat in the mid-range price bracket and done very well, and so now that it is within this entry-level price zone, it is even more attractive. The breath is smooth, the build quality excellent – and all for a budget price-point.

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