I've been asked several times by friends, family members, fellow forummers about deciding on their first Reg. I'm a little tired of repeating myself so here's a thread that might be useful (if it's not stop reading please).Google It
Start your quest by searching for other people's questions first (ScubaSG, Scubaboard, etc). This is an age old question and is a rite of passage for most passionate divers. Likelihood is someone else would have gone through your "dilemma" decades ago and their responses are still relevant today. Remember, despite what the marketing ploys and advertising companies want you to believe, Regs have not changed much over the years, the last revolutionary design came in the form of Rebreathers and they are awesome but Single hose setups have not deviated much from its predecessors. Start by picking a brand you prefer and reading up about their basic model (eg. Us Divers Conshelf, Aqualung titan, Scubapro MK2/r190 or 295)Piston vs. Diaphragm
In short, it depends. It's really a personal preference dictated by this question: What kind of diving do you see yourself doing? Chances are you're not pushing the limits yet nor will you be setting a record so either's fine. Purists might argue that diaphragms have more moving parts so is more likely to fail first but frankly some of the most reliable regs used by Naval Divers worldwide sport diaphragm 1st stage (eg. US Divers Conshelf xiv which was discontinued by the Aqualung in 2009/2010). Balanced vs Unbalanced
I use to think unbalanced was primitive since at depth it breathes poorer. It probably is true but the benefits of it for recreational diving will be that if you're running low on air (which you ought not to) you'll be instantly noted by how much harder it is to breath of it and surface as soon and as safely as possible. Think of it as a warning signal system. Note AT DEPTH, it will still deliver air but you will find yourself pulling harder each breath so you might find the extra work tiring (unfit divers this is not an excuse to buy a700). A Balanced reg has a tendency to cut off on unsuspecting divers (BAD) but delivers a steady stream of air to the user through the dive (GOOD). it has become more popular nowadays to buy regs with sealed 1st stages but it's just another thing to add onto your cost, simply put, it is a "condom" over where surrounding water pressure was previously used to "maintain balanced" pressure. Ultimately, it is a good to have but not a must have unless you are diving in extreme condition (ice cold water or soupy Teh 'O' Kao silty waters). You reg will not fail on you if you dive an unbalanced reg (if it stops, look at your buddy and say sorry because he/she probably turned off your air after finning him/her in the face).
Note: siaokao diving at the marina to clean his hull does not constitute extreme diving I've heard good things about Apeks xtx.../Scubapro MK25/s600/a700 /
Yes, they breathe well but a well-tuned well-maintained rental reg works like a charm too. Consider 3 things:
1) Bells n Whistles
Seriously, do you need all the knobs for Recreational Open Water use? Perhaps a Pre Dive knob helps but so does a quick slap of a thumb (literal) over the mouthpiece of a high tuned free flowing reg. We've developed a really lazy habit of bandaging the cut but not removing the razor blade I'm afraid. Like a fellow SSGian accurately pointed out recently, half the time you don't even notice if your knob has been turned to the "correct" setting and it has never been a problem! As a diver, you'll find yourself already burdened with quite a list of pre dive preparation to ensure is correctly carried out, you want to keep your life support system simple and reliable for now. So unless you need it, this youngling suggest that it is not a necessity to splash out cash on unless you prospectively see yourself diving real deep or real cold.
2) Servicing Cost
Simply put, the more parts there are, the more expensive it is going to get. You can get a tx50 with a sealed DS4 but your cost for servicing it will ALWAYS be more expensive than the MK2. IF you cannot afford to service it as per the instructions, do yourself and your spouse/family a favour and rent instead. It is life support equipment
after all and it failing underwater because you wanted to save $xxx might cost you your life.
3) Must I stick to manufacturer's 12 months service period? 24 months instead can?
Manufacturers set their warranty recommendations to users to ensure that irresponsible divers (such as myself) do not end up never EVER servicing their gear and blame faulty gear on the makers (again, myself) and they also factor in the conservative factor to make sure we never tinker with the brink of a failure which could prove to be fatal. Lastly, they packaged it as a nice number (1 / 12 / 24) to ensure that forgetful individuals like YOURSELF will stick to it to make sure you get your free parts (ie Kiasu baskets). It would suck if it was set at "9 months and 23 hours or else!!!" If you do not dive regularly but still contemplate getting your own reg, your internal pistons and valves might not wear out since you use it less but the "perishable" O-rings might disintegrate or harden. With the state of things made in Kuku land nowadays, hardly anything is made to last anymore. Remember this, Regs will not magically just FAIL at xx months unless you dive on a broom stick and look like Emma Watson, no magic is involved so it's a matter of wear and tear, more use will naturally mean shorter service intervals. Buying second hand from someone who claims it is "Not used much?" Then send it to a technican for an inspection and.... aiyah service the damn thing la you cheap ba##ard! If you find a trusted technician, he will only change what is required and that keeps the cost down.It is after all a Long Term Investment...
If you cannot afford to buy or maintain one, you can do what I do, read a lot and crack my head a lot before I save enough to buy my 1st reg. Even that, my first reg cost a grand total of $100 bucks fully serviced and shipped from the USA (the mecca of fat ahem...fit divers). IF not, just keep renting or watch what reg companies use for their rental, those are probably workhorses that can take a beating.
Disclaimer: This is all but my own opinion, it has and probably will never constitute an official recommendation from ANY Company. IF you ever find me at the bottom of the ocean "Peng San", remember to check if I have my Brass Conshelf in my mouth. If I did, I died a happy man and you can pry it off my mouth to have a breath if there's air left. If it's the Apeks, let it be known "Neh! See! Service also will fail what!" and I probably died miserable and unhappy I stuck a stupid plastic straw up my mouth. Either that or a Shark ate me and I'll still be happy I got close to such a majestic creature.