Jas, Alvin and SSG cognoscenti et al,
my take is from a purely consumers point of view.
A regulator lasts 1-2 decades, if serviced correctly and maintained.
my early diving was done on the US divers conshelf series and a set of 80s dacor regs that really made you feel like Jacques Cousteau(read lotsa chrome). I upgraded to balanced and diaphragm designs from apeks after 5-7 years. I bought my first set of basic apeks regs for about $750 all in. They still function fine and have been excellent throughout their service life.
I am about to upgrade my regs. Why because in simple singlish "my backside itchy".
I think we buy regs to be in control and personally be assured that the equipment we use as life support is treated with respect and maintained as such.
Regulator performance is better than its ever been, but you guys and gals are right in one respect... differences in performance numbers have very little to do with real world reliability. However, they do have alot to do with comfort.
If anyone asked me how to go about buying regs, i would say look at what the people who dive regularly use. Try if you can...(some people will lend you a regulator for the weekend..I won't, but some will) make sure what you want is locally supported in parts and trained serviced people. Make sure the look suits you and the budget suits you. It is no point buying cheaper regs only to get rid of them in the future. Buy once...as good as you can bear, cos regs last a long long time.
from a self-confessed APEKS geek,
happy and safe diving, Guy.
ps I have been diving since 1992 and frankly if you buy any apeks, aqualung or scubapro reg, you'll probably be fine. not to say that other brands aren't good.