How to Choose Your Regulator

Every year the brands come out with a new improved model. In reality the basic design of regs hasn’t changed in 25 years! The “new” models are simply cosmetic changes.

Most of the brands source their regs from the same few factories. The regs are simple pieces of kit that are generally hugely overpriced and over hyped.

Here is what you need to know about regulators:

First Stages

Its job is to reduce the cylinder pressure to about 10 bar above the water pressure.

There are 3 different types

Unbalanced piston

A very simple piston design


  • Cheap and cheerful
  • Cheap to repair and service
  • Great rental gear


  • No problem with most dives but sharing air at 30 meters could be a problem
  • They get harder to breathe at about 70 bar as they are unbalanced
  • Water, sand and salt in contact with moving parts
  • No external adjustment
  • Needs yearly service

Balanced Piston

A better piston design that has great performance



  • Medium price
  • Great performance



  • Water, sand and salt in contact with moving piston
  • No external adjustment
  • Requires yearly service


Top of  the line, all are balanced. These are the most reliable design


  • Great performance
  • Water not in contact with moving parts
  • Externally adjustable
  • Good versions only require servicing every 2 years


  • Expensive to buy initially

The Second Stages

There are two main types, balanced and unbalanced


This is the most common type


  • Simple
  • Cheap


  • Go out of spec very quickly
  • Require servicing every year


A bit rarer but worth the extra money


  • Last much longer before they go out of tune
  • Only need servicing every two years
  • Very smooth breathing


  • Price

Other features

Venturi switch

Nice to have as it stops free flowing when bobbing around on the surface

Adjustable knob

This adjusts the breathing resistance …. leave it fully open and only turn it in if you have a slight free flow. Saves going in to the dive shop for minor adjustments

Metal second stage

Helps to humidify the air and prevents cotton mouth. But they are heavy in the mouth.
Very heavy so rather get a dedicated humidifier.

Other suggestions

The new hi-flex  braided type hoses are so nice! Well worth paying more.
If it an expensive reg it should have a metal orifice in the second stage. Ask if it has this.

Any of the regs will do the job. Some are more reliable than others but they all work. Look into the spares before you buy as several brands require a second bond before you can have it serviced!

Do your home work or get advice from a trusted shop. It’s easy to over pay for the same technology.