3 Best Scuba Diving Regulators Of 2023

Written and Reviewed By

scuba diving regulator first stage

A scuba diving regulator is quite literally the lifeline between you and your air source while you’re underwater.

Due to the importance and cost of a scuba diving regulator, it’s one of the more common pieces of diving equipment to be rented.

But if you’re diving frequently enough, there are many benefits and maybe even some savings in getting a regulator of your own

But with so many different shapes, sizes, and designs available, buying a new regulator can be extremely overwhelming.

As a PADI Divemaster working in the South Florida scuba diving industry, I’m often in charge of setting up customers with their rental gear, including their regulators.

Using my experience, I’ve condensed my list of the best regulators down to just three options based on the following criteria:

  • First stage and second stage design for optimal airflow
  • Environmental sealing for enhanced cold-water performance
  • Balanced or unbalanced design for consistent breathing
  • Adjustable breathing resistance and sensitivity
  • Dive computer integration and hose routing options
  • Brand reputation and customer feedback
  • And much more!

Below, we’ll jump into reviews on each regulator followed by a buying guide and list of frequently asked questions.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Budget Option
Luxury Alternative
Luxury Option
Budget Option
Luxury Alternative
Luxury Option
02/19/2024 02:54 am GMT

Best Scuba Diving Regulators

Budget Option

Aqua Lung Mikron

  • Great design
  • Lightweight
  • Great for travel
  • Good for kids
  • Very tough construction
  • Will last a long time
  • Bubble may obstruct view due to small design
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The Mikron is another awesome regulator by Aqua Lung and the one I use personally.

For me, it is the perfect regulator, almost as good as the Legend, but quite a bit cheaper (half the price).

It also has a balanced second stage with the choice to have it come in DIN or Yoke setup, the choice is yours, and honestly, unless you are diving in cold water, it does not matter. 

The Auto Closure Device will prevent all types of liquids out of the first stage by closing

Aqua lung Mikron best budget regulator

It also stops the internal lube from getting washed out as well and is safe if there are high concentrations of O2.  

It also has a relatively smaller-sized (smallest Aqualung Regulator on the market) first stage and octopus, which makes it easy to pack and travel with. Since it is all AquaLung parts it is one of the most recognizable and easy-to-service regulators out there.

You can bring it to a trained professional or in a pinch have someone knowledgeable do it.

Product Specs:

  • First Stage: Balanced
  • Second Stage: Balanced
  • Hose Length: 28.7″
  • Valve: Din or Yoke
  • Weight: 1.625lb-1.93lb
  • Air Compatability: Air, Nitrox, Trimix
  • Max Pressure: DIN 300 BAR & Yoke 230 BAR
Luxury Option

Scubapro MK25 EVO/A700

  • Beautifully constructed
  • Chrome finish is very attractive
  • Effortless breathing at any depth
  • Reliable & durable
  • Very comfortable mouthpiece
  • Well built using only the best materials
  • Large easy to use purge button
  • Fairly expensive
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02/19/2024 02:54 am GMT

You didn’t think we would forget ScubaPro, one of the best brands out there, did you?

This guy is a little on the expensive side, but that’s what you get with one of the world’s leading companies.

While it may be more expensive it again is easy and cheaper to be serviced, parts are readily available and you can even change yourself with ease. 

The MK25 EVO first stage is balanced and the fewer parts the more reliable it is.

Scubapro MK25 best luxury regulator

This also gives you air instantly and will give you from a full tank to almost empty. Even swimming upside down on an almost empty take you will have no issues getting the air you need. The five airports and swivel head on the first stage make it ideal for all environments. 

It being a ScubaPro it also has great resale value and it keeps its value with regular maintenance. So take care of it and if you want to up or downgrade you can sell it with no issues. 

Also, get the octopus and the air gauge.

Product Specs:

  • First Stage: Balanced
  • Second Stage: Balanced
  • Hose Length: 29.5″
  • Valve: Din or Yoke
  • Weight: 2lbs
  • Air Compatability: Air, Nitrox, Trimix
  • Max Pressure: Din 300 bar / Yoke 220 bar
Luxury Alternative

Mares Abyss Navy 22

  • Slender all metal design
  • Reliable & Durable
  • Performs in all conditions
  • Specifically designed for cold water
  • Approved by the US Navy
  • Freeze proof
  • Reduced free flows
  • Simplistic yet beautiful design
  • Perfect for hardcore divers
  • Heavy & Bulky
  • Can be awkward for travel
  • Non adjustable second stage
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This regulator is the Mares answer for every condition. It is a true workhorse that is known for things like the deepest dive on earth. With careful analysis and evaluation of what happens in cold water, Mares has designed a product to guarantee top performance and reliability under the toughest conditions, including diving under the ice.

The first stage is a balanced diaphragm design that is environmentally sealed. The benefit of this type of first-stage design is that none of the internal parts are exposed to contaminants such as salt, sand, chlorine, or pool acids. It also has four low-pressure ports and two fixed-angle high-pressure ports for hose connections.

 For this regulator, all metal integral to its structure was removed this improved its overall performance while making it lighter as well (don’t worry it still looks cool). This also increased the surface area leading to improved thermal characteristics. 

Product Specs:

  • First Stage: Balanced
  • Second Stage: Balanced
  • Hose Length: 31.5″
  • Valve: Din or Yoke
  • Weight: 2lbs
  • Air Compatability: Air, Nitrox, Trimix
  • Max Pressure: Din 300 bar / Yoke 220 bar

Scuba Diving Regulator Buying Guide

Still not sure what regulator to go with, with so many great options? 

We came up with a buying guide to help you choose the perfect regulator for you. 

Identify Budget

Before anything else, you’ll first want to identify and think about your budget.

What amount can you comfortably spend on your regulator when all costs are considered?

As we learned above, buying a regulator is not as simple as getting your first and second stages. You’ll also need to get a pressure gauge and octopus. Factor this cost into your budget. 

We’ve sorted the regulators by price, and have included links to the octopus and air gauge that fits the cooresponding reg.

How Often Will You Dive

If you are diving frequently, are a Divemaster or instructor, you are going to want a good regulator that will last, and you can easily justify investing in the best. If you are diving a few times a year, you don’t need the most top-of-the-line regulator. Perhaps renting would even do!

DIN Vs Yoke

The next step you’ll want to figure out when purchasing a scuba diving regulator is whether you’ll want to get one that is DIN or Yoke.

The short answer of Din VS Yoke debate 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.

Should You Buy A Balanced Or Unbalanced Regulator?

After identifying if DIN or Yoke is right for you, it’s time to decide whether to get a balanced or unbalanced regulator.

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 free flow 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 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?

And 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.

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:

Example of parts of a scuba diving regulator

Regulator First Stage

scuba diving regulator first stage

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

Often 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. A balanced second stage further improves the regulators’ performance at depth.

scuba diving regulator primary second stage

Alternate Second Stage

Sometimes 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.

scuba diving regulator alternate second stage

Low-Pressure Inflator Hose (LPI)

scuba diving regulator low pressure inflator hose

Running 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 if you need can allow you to add air to equalize your drysuit.

Submersible Pressure Gauge AKA SPG

scuba diving regulator pressure gauge

Attached 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Simply 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

Whether you’re a beginner diver or an experienced dive professional, choosing the right scuba diving regulator 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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