Scuba diving regulators are quite literally the lifeline between you and your air source while you’re underwater.

Arguably one of the most essential pieces of scuba diving gear, it’s important you pick the best scuba diving regulators for your needs.

But with so many different sections and a confusing amount of options available, buying your own set of scuba diving regulators can feel particularly overwhelming.

And that’s why we’ve put together a complete guide to the best scuba diving regulators.

In this article, you’ll learn what a scuba diving regulator actually is and how dive regulators work. Plus we’ll cover how to choose your own scuba diving regulators and review the best scuba diving regulators out there.

So let’s dive in.

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What is a scuba diving Regulator?

Scuba Diving RegulatorsSimply put, scuba diving regulators are a series of hoses and stages that regulate the pressure of the air in your cylinder. So that you can breathe easily underwater. Hence the name regulators!

Scuba diving regulators reduce the high-pressure air from your cylinder and deliver it to your mouth, BCD, and other pieces of dive gear at a safe pressure.

Together, the regulators and the cylinder make up a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, more commonly known as SCUBA. Without both of these pieces of equipment, we wouldn’t be able to breathe underwater.

What are the different parts of a scuba diving regulator?

 

With different sections, functions, and a wide variety of given names, scuba diving regulators can appear a little tricky.

So let’s break it down and take a closer look at each section of scuba diving regulators.

Standard scuba regulators usually consist of 5 main parts:

  • First Stage
  • Primary Second Stage
  • Alternate Second Stage
  • Low-Pressure Inflator Hose
  • Submersible Pressure Gauge

Regulator First Stage

Scuba Diving Regulators First stageThe first stage is the central part of a scuba regulator that attaches to your cylinder valve. Named for its position, this is the first section where the air travels from the tank and into the regulators.

The function of the first stage is to take the high-pressure air in the cylinder and reduce it to an intermediate pressure (usually around 150 PSI or 10 BAR) to deliver into the hoses.

This pressure is still too high to breathe from, which takes us on to the second stage. But before we move on, there’s a bit more you need to know about the first stage of a scuba diving regulator.

Scuba diving regulators use either a piston or diaphragm mechanism in the first stage. These mechanisms are how regulators ‘sense’ the change in pressure as you descend and control the air from your cylinder.

The first stage can be balanced or unbalanced which affects the regulators’ performance at depth. And will feature either a yoke, (sometimes referred to as an A-clamp) or a DIN connection.

Primary Second Stage

Scuba Diving Regulator Second StageOften referred to as your regulator, this is the part that you put in your mouth and breathe from.

The primary second stage takes the intermediate pressure from the first stage via a hose and reduces it to ambient pressure, (the pressure you’re currently under) so you can breathe easily.

A regulator’s second stage features a mouthpiece, exhaust valve, and purge button. There will also be an adjustable knob that allows you to increase and decrease the airflow, making it easier or harder to breathe from.

Similar to the first stage, the regulator’s second stage can also be balanced or unbalanced. With a balanced second stage further improving the regulators’ performance at depth.

Alternate Second Stage

Alternate Second Stage Scuba Diving RegulatorSometimes known as the Octopus, the alternate second stage works exactly the same as the primary second stage.

It is simply a back up if you have a problem with your primary second stage or if your buddy is out of air. Your buddy can then breathe from your alternate second stage whilst you make a safe ascent.

The general rule is that your alternate second stage is brightly colored so it’s easy to spot in an emergency.

Low-Pressure Inflator Hose (LPI)

low pressure inflator hoseRunning from your regulator first stage, this hose attaches to the inflator on your BCD allowing you to add air from your tank into your BCD to regulate your buoyancy.

If you’re diving in a drysuit, you will also have a second low-pressure inflator hose that allows you to add air to equalize your drysuit.

Submersible Pressure Gauge aKA SPG

regulator pressure gaugeAttached to the first stage via a hose, the pressure gauge shows you how much air pressure you have in your tank. Of course, the first stage does not reduce the pressure coming into the gauge.

Scuba diving regulators may also have a depth gauge, dive computer, or compass mounted alongside the pressure gauge forming what is known as an instrument console.

Want to see the different parts of the scuba regulator in action?

 

So now you understand what scuba diving regulators are and how the different sections work, let’s take a look at the best scuba diving regulators.

Best scuba diving regulators

Cressi AC2 XS2 scuba diving regulators

First up, is the Cressi AC2 first stage and XS2 second stage. This regulator is simple to use, affordable, and easy to maintain, making it an ideal first regulator for beginners.

It’s built from high-quality materials, living up to Cressi’s worldwide reputation for dependable and long-lasting dive gear. As long as you look after it properly, this durable regulator set will just keep going.

Relatively lightweight and featuring a yoke connection, the Cressi AC2 XS2 is also a great option for traveling and tropical water divers.

Pros
  • Extremely durable & can handle heavy use
  • Easy to use & maintain
  • Affordable
  • Flow adjustment knob
Cons
  • Unbalanced
  • Small purge button on second stage
  • Not good for very cold water
Valve
Yoke
Weight
Low
First stage
Unbalanced
Environ. sealed
No
Mechanism 
Piston
Price
Low

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Oceanic Alpha 10 Scuba Diving Regulator If you’re looking for a high performing, long-lasting, and beautifully designed regulator then look no further than the Oceanic Alpha 10 with sPX first stage.

Built from high-grade marine chrome, this durable and sleek first stage will last you for years to come. And even if you do have any problems, Oceanic provides a lifetime warranty and free spare parts for all their scuba diving regulators. So you can be confident in your purchase with this regulator.

The Oceanic sPX first stage features 2 high pressure and 4 low pressure ports, each angled to provide for optimal hose configuration and comfort.

And if that’s not enough, the Oceanic Alpha 10 and sPX first stage weighs just under 2.5 pounds (1kg) so it won’t take up valuable luggage allowance when traveling.

Pros
  • Lifetime warranty & free spare parts
  • Balanced second stage
  • Great value
  • Flow adjustment knob
  • Large purge button
Cons
  • Unbalanced first stage
  • Not suitable for very cold water
Valve
DIN
Weight
Low
First stage
Unbalanced
Environ. sealed
No
Mechanism 
Piston
Price
Low

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Mares Rover 2s scuba diving regulatorsThe Mares Rover 2s is popular among divers and dive shops worldwide, and for good reason.

This regulator is arguably one of the best performing entry-level regulators thanks to Mares’ unique Fluid Dynamic Deflector system and Vortex Assist Design (VAD). This means that this unbalanced entry-level regulator creates an effortless breath at any depth similar to a higher level balanced regulator. All for a very affordable price tag!

This compact regulator is hardworking, reliable, and can withstand a few knocks. Yet it’s still incredibly lightweight with the first and second stage weighing less than 2.5 pounds (1 kg).

If you’re looking for a high quality yet affordable scuba diving regulator, then the Mares Rover is a perfect choice.

Pros
  • Super lightweight
  • Very easy to breathe from
  • Cheap
  • Flow adjustment knob
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Durable
Cons
  • Unbalanced
  • Little water can trickle in when you go upside down
Valve
Yoke
Weight
Low
First stage
Unbalanced
Environ. sealed
No
Mechanism 
Diaphragm
Price
Low

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AquaLung Mirkon RegulatorsIf you want a stylish yet high performing regulator then you can’t go wrong with the AquaLung Mirkon. This sleek regulator packs superb performance into a beautiful and compact package.

Although the Mirkon is the smallest and lightest regulator available from AquaLung, it still delivers excellent breathability and durability. With a balanced and environmentally sealed first stage and balanced second stage, the Mirkon regulator will look after you in all dive environments.

What’s more, this regulator comes with 2 different sizes of Aqua Lung’s Comfo-Bite mouthpiece and reusable mouthpiece clamp so you can find your perfect fit.

Pros
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Beautiful design that looks good for years
  • Balanced first & second stage
  • Choice of DIN or Yoke
  • Flow adjustment knob
  • Environmentally sealed
  • Exceptionally comfy mouthpiece
Cons
  • Narrow design means bubbles can interfere a little
Valve
Yoke or DIN
Weight
Low
First stage
Balanced
Environ. sealed
Yes
Mechanism 
Diaphragm
Price
Avg

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Apeks XTX40 scuba diving regulatorsIt really wouldn’t be a list of the best scuba diving regulators without an Apeks. This brand is known for producing top-quality regulators that provide unrivaled diving experience. And the XTX40 is no exception.

A favourite amoung both recreational and technical divers, this hard working regulator is seriously great value for money. Both balanced and environmentally sealed, this regulator is the perfect companion for all your diving adventures. It’s well built, strong and offers exceptional breathability.

When it comes to scuba diving regulators, you simply can’t go wrong with an Apeks. Although one of the more affordable models from Apeks, the XTX40 still offers superb performance.

Pros
  • Good for cold water diving
  • Flow adjustment knob
  • Amazing breathability
  • Great value
  • Suitable for mixed gas & 100% O2 after cleaning
Cons
  • A little on the heavy side for travel
Valve
DIN or Yoke
Weight
Avg
First stage
Balanced
Environ. sealed
Yes
Mechanism 
Diaphragm
Price
Avg

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ScubaPro Scuba Diving regulatorsThis all-purpose, all weather regualtor system is a popular choice amoung dive professionals, thanks to it’s dependability. An air-balanced piston makes the ScubaPro MK25 super easy to breathe from and extremely reliable.

The swivelling first stage and opposing pressure ports allow for easy hose configuration. And the purge covers on the second stage can be interchanged in different colors for personalisation.

What’s more, the ScubaPro MK25 is also super lightweight and comfortable. This scuba diving regualtor features everything you need in a fun and high performing package.

Pros
  • Interchangeable colored purge shields
  • Balanced & environmentally sealed
  • Flow adjustment knob
  • Reliable & long lasting
Cons
  • A little pricey when compared with similar regualtors
Valve
Yoke
Weight
Avg
First stage
Balanced
Environ. sealed
Yes
Mechanism 
Piston
Price
High

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Hollis Scuba Diving RegulatorsThe Hollis 200LX DCX has been designed to endure any environment that you could possible dive in. And will still deliver unrivalled breathability whatever the conditions.

Despite it’s hardwearing reputation, this regualtor isn’t bulky.  The poylcarbonate design is super lightweight yet extremely durable. The hard wearing outer coating is PVD coated, which means it won’t show any signs of wear and tear even after several years of regular use.

Not only is the Hollis 200LX DCX strong and light, it’s also comfortable. Although the second stage is relatively compact, the ergonomically designed exhaust valves ensure that no bubbles end up in your face.

In fact, Hollis are so confident in this regulator that they include a lifetime warranty and free parts for life. The Hollis 200LX DCX is a superb regulator for a suprisingly reasonable price.

Pros
  • Unrivalled gas delivery
  • Super robust design
  • Ultra lightweight
  • Sidemount compatible
  • Suitable for other gases when cleaned
  • Great value for money
Cons
  • That we can’t find any cons!
Valve
Yoke or DIN
Weight
Low
First stage
Balanced
Environ. sealed
Yes
Mechanism 
Diaphragm
Price
Avg

Visit Website

How to choose the best scuba diving regulators

scuba diving regulators on surfaceWhen it comes to buying your own scuba diving regulators, there is an overwhelming amount of makes, models, and advice out there. Ultimately the best scuba diving regulators will depend on the type of diving you plan on doing.

Of course, price is also a factor. But your regulators are the main thing that keeps you alive while scuba diving. So it’s definitely not the piece of scuba diving gear you want to be stingy with.

When buying scuba diving regulators, each of the parts above can be purchased separately. But it’s much more common, and often more cost-effective, to buy a set.

In general, these are the key questions to consider when you’re buying your own scuba diving regulators. These few simple questions will help narrow down your choices and cut out the regulators that aren’t suitable for you.

Should you buy a Yoke or DIN Regulator?

The short answer is that it depends on where you’ll be diving:

If you’re a recreational diver who mostly dives in warm waters then go for a yoke regulator. Most of the cylinders in North America and tropical diving locations will have yoke valves.

If you do most of your diving in Europe or are interested in technical diving, then go for a DIN regulator. The majority of cylinders in Europe feature a DIN valve and technical diving requires your regulators to withstand higher pressures.

And if you’re still not sure whether to buy a yoke or a DIN regulator let’s take a close look at the difference between the two types of scuba diving regulators.

What is the difference between a yoke and a DIN regulator?

scuba diving yoke first stageIt’s all about how the first stage connects to the cylinder valve. The first stage of a yoke regulator sits on top of the valve and is clamped in place with a screw.  Whereas the first stage of a DIN regulator first stage will screw directly into a threaded opening in the cylinder valve.

The main difference between a yoke and a DIN is their ability to handle high pressure. A DIN can handle up to 300 bars (4350 PSI), whereas a yoke has a maximum working capacity of 200 bars (2900 PSI).

A quick and easy way to tell the difference between a yoke and a DIN regulator is the position of the O-ring. In a yoke regulator, the O-ring is found in the tank valve, whereas on a DIN regulator the O-ring is found on the first stage.

What are the benefits of a din regulator?

DIN first stage regulatorAs we mentioned already, DIN regulators can handle up to 300 bar which can mean more air for your dive (if you’re using a cylinder that can be filled up to 300 bar).

In a DIN regulator, the sealing o-ring sits inside the first stage. So it is much less exposed to dust and other contaminants than with a yoke regulator.

Depending on the brand, a DIN regulator can be significantly lighter than the yoke alternative. The big lump of metal that creates the ‘A’ clamp on a yoke first stage can end up adding a surprising amount of weight.

And lastly, DIN is the preferred regulator fitting for technical diving.

What are the benefits of a YOKE regulator?

The main reason for choosing a yoke regulator over a DIN is for ease of compatibility with cylinders in North America and tropical diving locations.

Your choice is not final

DIn to yoke adaptorDIN regulators can be converted to yoke, and yoke regulators can be converted to a DIN system by a knowledgeable technician.

Alternatively, you can easily use a DIN regulator on a yolk cylinder valve using a yoke adaptor. Although this can be a little bulky causing the first stage to stick out which may bump your head.

Many modern cylinder valves can also be easily converted from yoke to DIN by removing the insert using an alan key.

 

Should you buy a balanced or unbalanced regulator?

Balanced regulators perform better at depth and when your cylinder is low on air. So we’d always recommend buying a balanced regulator. Most scuba diving regulators nowadays are balanced or even overbalanced.

Without getting too technical, a balanced first stage will breathe consistently easy at depth or with a low tank pressure. A balanced regulator has extra components that compensate for the additional water pressure to maintain or even increase, the regulators’ performance at depth. This can be at just the first stage, or at both the first and second stages of the regulators for optimal performance.

Whereas unbalanced scuba diving regulators will slightly drop in performance the deeper you dive or when the cylinder pressure is below 50 bar (725 PSI). This means that an unbalanced regulator will feel slightly harder to breathe from. (But you should be ending your dive by that point!)

Because unbalanced regulators are a simpler mechanism, they are, of course, cheaper and easier to maintain. If price is a big factor, then you may want to consider buying a balanced first stage and an unbalanced second stage. The first stage does most of the work so you can balance performance with your budget.

Do you need an environmentally sealed regulator?

An environmental seal is basically an additional chamber around the first stage that is filled with silicone oil or another non-freeze liquid. This prevents freeflow and protects the moving parts of the first stage from freezing when diving in cold water. And by cold we mean below 50°F or 10°C. A little too chilly for us Scuba Otters but whatever floats your boat!.

If you’re regularly braving these temperatures then it’s recommended you buy an environmentally sealed regulator.

An environmental seal also has the added benefit of preventing any saltwater or debris from getting inside the first stage, minimizing maintenance concerns.

However, environmentally sealed regulators are more expensive, both to buy, and service. So an environmentally sealed regulator is only worth buying if you’ll be regularly scuba diving in very cold waters.

Will you be traveling frequently?

scuba diving regulatorsAnd lastly, if you intend to travel with your dive gear, then the weight of the scuba diving regulators is worth considering.

Although a heavy-duty, full metal regulator will be very robust, it’ll also weigh twice as much as a compact regulator made from lightweight materials.

So to make sure you’re not slapped with excess baggage fees on your next liveaboard trip, look for the lightweight regulator sets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important feature of a scuba diving regulator?

Ultimately, the most important feature of a scuba diving regulator is how easy it is to breathe from. The main function of a scuba diving regulator is to make it easy to breathe when you’re underwater.

So if that’s not the case then it’s probably time to get your regulators serviced or consider buying new ones.

If possible, try out a few different scuba diving regulators before making your decision. Even if it’s not possible to take the regulators in the water, you can usually try breathing from them dry.

What is the difference between a Piston and a diaphragm regulator?

A piston regulator works by allowing water to enter the first stage and push directly on a piston that controls the airflow. The deeper you go, the higher the water pressure applied to the piston increasing the airflow.

A diaphragm regulator works using a lever inside an air space and a diaphragm that pulls inwards as the air space contracts with the increased water pressure at depth.

 

Now to the eternal debate over which regulator is best; a piston or a diaphragm first stage?

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Both a piston and diaphragm regulator are equally good at delivering breathable air.

But there are a few distinguishing factors that can help you decide which regulator mechanism is best for you.

What are the benefits of a DIAPhragm regulator?

Although a diaphragm regulator has more moving parts, it’s actually much simpler to manufacture which means these regulators are usually more affordable.

What’s more, because diaphragm regulators don’t allow any water inside there is much less chance of the first stage being affected by contaminants. Plus a diaphragm regulator is less likely to freeflow in cold waters.

If you’re planning to dive in extremely cold or turbid waters then we’d recommend buying a diaphragm regulator.

What are the benefits of a piston regulator?

Because a piston regulator only has one moving part in the first stage they are more reliable, extremely durable, and less expensive to fix than a diaphragm regulator. Although the initial cost of a piston regulator is higher due to the precise nature of the manufacturing process.

Piston regulators are more exposed to the environment which means they require a little more care.  Piston regulators are not recommended for dirty or near-freezing water temperatures which may cause the piston to stick and the regulator to freeflow.

Although technically a piston regulator will deliver more air than a diaphragm, both are equally good for recreational diving. Only under extreme conditions where high airflow is required, for example in commercial diving, will you notice a difference in the ease of breathing.

How do you assemble scuba diving regulators?

Even if you buy a full set of scuba diving regulators, you’ll probably still need to assemble them yourself. But don’t worry, it’s super easy! And doesn’t require any fancy tools.

The second stages, inflator hose, and pressure gauge are easily screwed into the first stage. Then you can use a wrench to gently tighten each hose. Simple!

Check out this video for a more detailed guide on how to assemble your scuba diving regulators.

How do you clean a scuba diving regulator?

Taking proper care of your scuba diving regulators is essential for your safety. And it can save you a lot of money in the long run. This means properly cleaning your regulators after every dive, or at least the end of each diving day. As probably

Even if you’re not diving in saltwater you still need to clean your regulators. There are lots of contaminants in freshwater and even swimming pools, that will over time, cause damage to your regulators.

Here are our top tips on how to clean your scuba diving regulators:

  •  Use fresh, clean (and if possible warm) water to rinse your regulators.
  • Clean your regulators within a few hours of diving.
  • Dry the dust cap before putting it back on the first stage and make sure it’s screwed on tight.
  • Do NOT soak the first stage. Either quickly dunk or rinse it with a hose.
  • Wiggle the second stages in the water but do NOT press the purge button.
  • Soak the second stage, pressure gauge, and LPI after rinsing for at least 5 minutes.
  • Let your regulator dry out of the sun and make sure it’s completely dry before storing it.

How often should scuba diving regulators be serviced?

In general, it is recommended that you service your scuba diving regulators at least once a year or every 100 dives.

Although this is a good guideline, make sure you double-check your regulator’s manual. Different brands will vary on how often you should service their regulators.

If you don’t follow these servicing recommendations then you may find your warranty is no longer valid.  Similarly, it’s often required that you service your scuba diving regulators with an authorized technician for that brand of regulators.

Even if you haven’t used your regulators much, you should still get them serviced annually. All seals inside a regulator are under pressure, even when in storage, and the o-rings will dry and harden.

Your regulators are your life support system when scuba diving. You literally cannot survive without them. So it really is vital that you get them serviced regularly.

The longer you leave it, the more likely there is to be a problem. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

And when it comes to maintaining scuba diving regulators, prevention is often A LOT cheaper than the cure!

What is an Octo in scuba diving?

An Octo in scuba diving is short for Octopus. And is just another name for the alternative second stage or alternate air source.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a beginner diver or experienced dive professional, choosing the right scuba diving regulators will dramatically improve your whole dive experience.

And now you know exactly how to pick the best scuba diving regulators for your needs.

What regulators did you choose? Let us know in the comments!

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Alexa Worswick Administrator

Alexa Worswick is a PADI and SSI scuba diving Instructor, recreational freediver and freelance copywriter. She first learnt to scuba dive in the UK aged 15 and has since travelled and dived in multiple locations across 3 different continents. After quitting her marketing job in London in 2016, Alexa is now based in Indonesia where she can pursue her passion for the ocean fulltime. 

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