Help Choosing a Regulator

Finding a Scuba Regulator To Meet Your Needs

Choosing the right regulator can be quite a daunting task, with various performance features and industry acronyms that can be confusing.

To help you better understand some of the commonly talked about terms, we thought we would break the Regulator down into its key components and give some advice in what to look for;


First stage

This is the bit of the regulator that attaches to the Divers Tank, and its role is to reduce high-pressure air to an Intermediate pressure (around 10 BAR) for delivery down the low-pressure hose to your second stage. There are two types of first stages available;

  1. Piston first stages use a Piston that opens and closes on a High-pressure seat. Most people choose a Balanced Piston when buying this model to ensure air delivery isn’t impacted by cylinder pressure. Balanced Piston regulators are well regarded for the volume of air they can deliver to the 2nd stage and are quite popular with Tec Divers for this reason. Most Piston regulators are constructed out of Chrome Plated Brass, but some brands offer Lightweight Titanium, and Atomic Aquatics also brings out a Stainless Steel model. Piston regulators offer good house routing and often have a low-pressure swivel turret. Most use holes in the Piston Chamber to adjust to ambient pressure as you dive; this means Saltwater if you are Ocean diving enters into the working parts of the Regulator. Due to this, the regulator should be well-soaked after use. Some regulators, like Atomic, have a sealed option that eliminates water entering this chamber. We strongly recommend choosing this option if you choose a Piston regulator, as this design will maintain high performance and longevity between services.
  2. Diaphragm first stages only come in a Balanced version and use a Diaphragm and Spring that pushes on a Pin to open and close the High-Pressure seat as you Breathe. Diaphragm Regulators can be quite compact in design. Entry-level regulators are usually machined in a CNC lathe out of a Rod of Brass and then Chromed. High-end performance Diaphragms are usually cold Forged and pressed into shape. This leads to better hose configuration and smoother Air delivery due to optimized airflow.

At Abyss, we prefer the Diaphragm models with an additional Environmental Cap that sits over the Diaphragm to ensure no water enters this part of the regulator. Like the sealed Piston example above, this maintains high performance and longevity between services.


Second stage

The 2nd stage takes the intermediate air delivered by the 1st stage and reduces it to ambient (surrounding water) pressure. There are three types of valves used by manufacturers of 2nd stages;

  1. Demand Valve This is the simplest of valves that opens when you breathe in and closes when you exhale. They are generally sold on Occy’s entry-level regulators.
  2. Balanced Demand Valve, this valve uses a flow-through seat retainer that ensures even air pressure at both ends of the valve. This allows for a lighter spring tension making for easier, smoother breathing.
  3. Servo Valves, aren’t common but are an amazing design that outperforms the traditional valves in air delivery. The valve is balanced by design and uses a diaphragm that delivers the air out of 6 independent holes in the valve rather than the single hole on the standard demand valves. This valve is usually housed on side breathing regulators with the advantage of the exhaled bubbles not obscuring your vision when diving.


Adjustable 2nd stage

 To add further confusion to the offering, Demand and Balanced Demand valves are also available in an adjustable option, and this means that you can adjust the valve spring tension by turning a knob on the side of the regulator. This way, you can fine-tune the regulator to your desired breathing performance as you dive.


Pre Dive Switch

 Most 2nd states have some form of Pre-Dive switch, a lever, or usually a dial easily accessible with a gloved hand that you turn on when you enter that water to avoid Regulator free flow and valuable air wastage on the surface. Upon descent, you should turn the switch open for optimum airflow during the dive. The switch works by deflecting air away from the mouthpiece hole in the regulator and stopping the regulator from creating a Venturi. Atomic Aquatics uses an automated Pre Dive switch which is pretty cool as we notice that many divers forget to use their pre-dive switch and often have it set for harder breathing.



 Quality regulators have a flow vane inside the 2nd stage that pushes airflow towards the oral breathing channel (mouthpiece). This, in turn, creates a Venturi effect, with the remaining air inside the 2nd stage also wanting to flow towards this low-pressure area. It’s a simple but clever way to improve performance and make your regulator easier to breathe.


Work of Breathing

 This stands for Work of Breathing and is a measurement that most Scuba brands now use to measure the performance of your Regulator. This measure of energy (Joules) considers the many factors across a breathing cycle, including Inhalation and Exhalation effort. Generally, the lower the number, the higher the regulator performs. As a rule, any number lower than 1.0 j/l is recognized as a good performer.



 The servicing of your regulator is important; after all, its life support equipment!

Servicing can be a significant cost and should be considered in decision-making. Two of the brands we sell offer Free Parts for life and are the only ones offering this fantastic saving in Australia. When you buy a Hollis or Oceanic regulator, you only pay for the Labor, not the Parts. This is a saving of approx. $1000 over ten years, so it is worth considering.

Due to the materials used in construction, namely Titanium and or Stainless Steel, Atomic Aquatics offer a 3-year or 300 Dive service interval on their two flagship regulators, and this also leads to a significant saving in service costs.


If you have got to this part, it means you should now have a better understanding of some of the Scuba Industries Regulator jargon and can start to look for a regulator that is best going to suit your Diving needs; click through to the next Regulator pages to see what models we have available.

If you have any questions, please call one of our friendly Dive Instructors, who will be able to answer any queries you have. Drop in the store, and we can get you out on a Try Dive with your in-store Regulator of choice to see how it performs.


 FAQs When Purchasing a Scuba Regulator

When buying a scuba regulator, people often ask a few common questions. Here are some of them, along with their answers:

  1. What is a scuba regulator, and how does it work?
    A scuba regulator is a device that allows you to breathe air from a scuba tank while you're underwater. It reduces the pressure of the air in the tank to a level that is safe for you to breathe. The regulator works by using a first stage to reduce the high-pressure air from the tank to an intermediate pressure and then a second stage to further reduce the pressure to a level that you can breathe.

  1. What are the most important features to look for in a scuba regulator?

    The most important features of a scuba regulator are reliability, ease of breathing, and comfort. You want to make sure that the regulator is well-built and won't fail while you're underwater. You also want to ensure that it's easy to breathe through and doesn't require much effort. Finally, you want to ensure it's comfortable and fits well in your mouth.

  1. Should I get a balanced or unbalanced regulator?

    A balanced regulator is generally considered to be better than an unbalanced regulator because it provides consistent performance regardless of the depth or pressure of the air in the tank. However, balanced regulators are often more expensive than unbalanced regulators. An unbalanced regulator may be a good option if you're a beginner or on a budget.

  1. What is the difference between a piston and a diaphragm first stage?

    A piston first stage uses a piston to reduce air pressure from the tank, while a diaphragm first stage uses a diaphragm. Piston first stages are generally more durable and require less maintenance, but they are also heavier and can be more difficult to breathe through at high pressures. Diaphragm first stages are lighter and easier to breathe but require more maintenance.
  1. What is the best way to maintain my scuba regulator? 

    The best way to maintain your scuba regulator is to rinse it with fresh water after each use and have it serviced regularly by a qualified technician. You should also store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and avoid exposing it to chemicals or solvents. Additionally, if you are a new scuba diver, taking a PADI Equipment Specialist course is highly recommended. This course will teach you how to properly maintain and care for your scuba gear, including your regulator and other equipment, such as your BCD, dive computer, and wetsuit. By learning how to maintain your gear, you can help ensure its longevity and reliable performance, improving your safety while diving.