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Author Topic: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg  (Read 12267 times)

livinouttabox

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A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« on: 14 Nov 11, 10:41 »
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 :P

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.
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geek

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #1 on: 14 Nov 11, 23:22 »
mind sharing some 'trusted technician' for scuba pro reg?

laksaman

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #2 on: 15 Nov 11, 00:50 »
Kudos to livingouttabox's generousity and kindness to share :)

I am one of those who asked him for help/opinion.  I contributed to his frustrations for repeating countless times, maybe that spur him to contribute.

Anyhow, I appreciate it much. Kam Sia.

siaokao

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #3 on: 15 Nov 11, 10:39 »
Hey.. my 2m hull cleaning dives are pretty extreme ok! hahaa..

Anyway, good share Jason.

But seriously, hull cleaning is what pushes me to get my own regs.. diving upside down (facing hull) with a crappy or poorly maintained reg can be a real pain, water leaks and goes right into your throat!  Very unlike normal diving (facing forward/down), leaking water into your 2nd stage will accumulate at the bottom, and drain during your next exhale.  :D

Adding my 2 cents worth..

How good a reg do u need?  Actually, really depends on your budget, dive buddies with rental mk2/R190 have done the exact same dives (at times, past rec depth) as I have with mk25/s600!   Point is, a set of proven economical reg can handle all rec diver's needs, anything more, IMO are just 'bells and whistles'.. a good way to spend your 'extra' $$$.   :P

So what basic regs am I talking about?  I think the SP MK2/R295 or Apeks DS4/XTX20~50 combo are great choices.  There may be other combos, but I'm not familiar with them.

Piston or Diaphragm?  Practically, it does absolutely NO difference for us unless you are thinking of diving in seriously cold water (less den 10deg C?).  I know some read scubaboard, but consider many of them dive with drysuits in water temperatures we consider insane! ;D

Balance or not?  Again, it does s**t difference for most divers.. Are there difference in breathing effort? Sure there is, but unless you have another balance reg to compare, most really can't feel the difference.  And once you dive with your unbalanced reg, you will get use to it and will go as deep as your buddy goes without any discomfort.  And no, balanced regs do not improve your air consumption. ;D  In fact, I too agree with Jason its probably safer, especially for those who dun have habit of checking guages.. unbalanced regs will give u plenty warning and buffer when low on air.  Balanced regs can be alot more unforgiving, for my reg (i tested b4 at shallow depth), from the 1st sign ur regs tell u u r low on air.. you have about 7 breath to suck (with EFFORT).. and that, I was testing at 2m water, imagine u r at 20+m, you likely have less den 7 breath!  :-X
« Last Edit: 15 Nov 11, 11:33 by siaokao »
So they call it a 'FACT' coz someone made some statements on a 'FACT SHEET'? hummm...

Alvin Ho

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #4 on: 15 Nov 11, 10:56 »
The Mares MR12 first stage is also a cheap and economical reg to consider. compact and light. The older oceanic SP5 is another. Or the more basic Sherwoods paired with the Brut.
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DIN

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #5 on: 15 Nov 11, 13:17 »
Good one Jason! Now I have to close this Regulators & Gauge section because no one will ask questions anymore. Thanks to you :D

Anyway, like everyone else, when I was looking for my first regulator, I did a lot of research online especially FiNS to see what most experienced divers are using. There are just too many technical terms or jargons for me as a new diver to comprehend that I decided to continue living my life instead.

Bell & whistle do contribute to my decision but unlike most, I weight my decision on the cool factor. I knew MK25/S600 was the regulator of choice for most but I simply cannot bring myself to like the design, especially the big S on the second stage. I decided on an Apeks XT100 if I still can remember correctly simply because I think its well design and its cool. I am not talking about the technical design here but visual attraction. I like my photo taken with a cool looking regulator in my mouth. :D :P

One fine day I dropped by at Divemaster Pratama to get the Apeks and ended up with an Atomic B2 instead. I fell in love the moment I set my eyes on it. The 2 years servicing interval, titanium parts and swivel sold me. Of course the thought of having one less hose (it come with the SS1) was a big bonus at that time. I don't like it now though, I will switch to the Octopus when its up for servicing.

After getting the Atomic, which I have no clue what it was except for the hefty price tag, I did an online research and concluded that I made a right decision. Well, at least thats what I like to believe. From my brief research, Atomic was started by Scubapro engineer so they shared similarities in design. Atomic has similar parts but made them smaller and uses titanium in the second stage plus a funky swivel. It has more bell and whistles in that respect. Some time later, I got a Aqualung Titan LX bought on impulse due to irresistible pricetag but thats another story. Same thing, it is because I love the design and it's looks cool.

If you are wondering if there are differences in breathing between this two. The answer is yes, if you care to notice that is. The are both good in their own way but I cant give a clear comparison which is a better. Initially, I preferred the Titan LX better because I find it suitable for my breathing style. I thought I have better consumption with the Titan LX but opinion differs. I have also dived with MK25/S600 and I like it very much. IMO the performance of this regulator are identical to the B2 but I still dont like the design.  :D

However after a few more dives when my priority changed, I find that these three regulators delivered as promise and I am just happy that they work well and not cause me any problem. Most importantly for me is the mouthpiece as some mouthpiece just annoyed me. I find the Aqualung mouthpiece very comfortable. Right now, I dont know for sure which is a better regulator because I totally forgot how they all felt like. I'm more concern to see if I managed to shoot that Lembeh Sea Dragon..... on a black background that is.  :P

IMO, if you are buying one from a reliable brands, you can't go wrong. Piston or Diaphragm make no difference in our kind of recreational diving. Just look at the good old rental regulator that is being abused by the dive center, they still work. As long as you dont be too cheapskate and buy a regulator from the pasar malam with a brand like Scupapro or Ahpek, I think you should be fine.

Air consumption does not depend on which expensive regulator you use. My consumption is terrible no matter which expensive diamond regulator I use. My suggestion is to buy the best you can afford and most importantly something you like. Regulator are one of those thing that last you a lifetime so you must love it to begin with. :D

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laksaman

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #6 on: 15 Nov 11, 13:35 »
I nominate this to be the most ticklish post of the year :)

Ahpek......


......Just look at the good old rental regulator that is being abused by the dive center, they still work. As long as you dont be too cheapskate and buy a regulator from the pasar malam with a brand like Scupapro or Ahpek, I think you should be fine.......


antacid

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #7 on: 15 Nov 11, 19:35 »
its true that you can't tell the difference between a balanced and un-balanced reg if you don't have a frame for comparison, but there will be times when you will appreciate a balanced reg.

i find that new divers would benefit more from a balanced set because of the following:
1. they tend to have to keep finning around (due to poor buoyancy), hence increased exertion
2. they tend to get excited and are not as relaxed, leading to breathing faster and in shorter intervals
3. they are unable to handle currents as well, often working harder than they should

As the diver breathes harder and faster, the additional resistance makes them feel even more breathless, leading them to even harder and faster. for some, it might even cause panic as they feel that they are not getting enough air.

P.S. relying on breathing resistance as an indicator of LOA or OOA situations is a hit and miss affair and shouldn't even be considered a "benefit" of unbalanaced regs... and if you miss you ain't coming back. new divers won't even notice the increased resistance, much less understand what it means until they can't suck any more.

my philosophy is, buy the "comfort level" type of regs like the mk25/s600 and apeks ones so you don't waste money and time "upgrading" over and over again.

i've had dives where i'm glad for the low breathing effort from my regs, which removed breathing resistance as an automatic panic trigger. They enabled me to keep calm and look around, assess the situation, and react accordingly. otherwise i might have been more stressed than i would have been.

livinouttabox

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #8 on: 16 Nov 11, 09:46 »
Agreed. Two points to note and let's have a look at them:

P.S. relying on breathing resistance as an indicator of LOA or OOA situations is a hit and miss affair and shouldn't even be considered a "benefit" of unbalanaced regs... and if you miss you ain't coming back. new divers won't even notice the increased resistance, much less understand what it means until they can't suck any more.

This is a real push as a "benefit" but you as a diver ought to already be responsible for your own air consumption. Checking on it before it EVEN reaches that grave magnitude where you have to rely on it as an indicator. It was raised as there are hardly any tangible benefits of it over the other designs but it is a noteworthy difference. I guess what I'm saying here is Bottom line, an unbalanced reg is not a DEATHTRAP, I'm a little sick of people fear mongering that poor ease of breathing you will xxxyyyzzz (most likely implying a poor outcome for a diver)...

The issue here is the diver's competence; masking incompetence and confidence with the latest tekkie or gimmicky gear will not make you a better diver so train well and buy the most your money affords you to. If you can afford the bells and whistles, buy it all and hopefully max out your diving $$ if not, a simple workhorse might give you endless diving opportunities.

my philosophy is, buy the "comfort level" type of regs like the mk25/s600 and apeks ones so you don't waste money and time "upgrading" over and over again.

i've had dives where i'm glad for the low breathing effort from my regs, which removed breathing resistance as an automatic panic trigger. They enabled me to keep calm and look around, assess the situation, and react accordingly. otherwise i might have been more stressed than i would have been.

Who doesn't like ease of breathing though? I know I do too but is it not attainable with a finely-tuned reg? IF I really wanted awesome loads of air I would have bought Poseidon or Atomic but its a balance you strike between finances and preference because they are bloody expensive. Just an observation, divers often buy gear based on the recommendation of a friend without quite understanding what they are buying, not a rap on anyone but I'll really like to see more self-education on the part of divers, knowing your gear helps in situations.

*Peers out from behind the Rock*
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Alvin Ho

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Re: A (subjective) guide buying your 1st Reg
« Reply #9 on: 16 Nov 11, 10:37 »
I think both sides make valid points. But the current generation of divers (myself included) are more likely to spend more on gear and be more likely to get something nice and keep upgrading our equipment. What John is saying is that you might as well get something more high end and not end up constantly upgrading. Those who are really serious about diving will probably getting something mid range to high end anyway.

Even those who are from the 'old school' of diving will have something that is relatively high end for their time.

But also nothing wrong with low end or lower end regs as well. Just that most divers i know change or upgrade their regs if they have bought a lower end one initially.
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