REGULATOR Apeks Black Pearl ATX200

If I was asked to give any advice to another person who was to do this job it would be, at all costs, to keep an open mind. The sight of the late Rob Palmer reassembling his regulator under water in a cave before making his way out might have made him sound heroic but I felt at the time that had he been using a decent regulator, none of this would have been necessary. It was an early Apeks, and I was not impressed.
After that memorable day I could have written off Apeks regulators as undependable products but I didnt. I have tried and tested everything since with an open mind, and continue to try to do so.
Not so long after that initial impression, I had no small part in bringing to the publics attention the fact that the then-new Apeks T50D was an outstanding performer. It stood out among other regulators then available.
What a turnaround! All the regulators from this company are now held in the highest esteem by the diving public and Apeks has flourished since that time, the mid-80s, by putting further good designs into production.
It is now known for making the best and is celebrating 30 years of successful business because of it. But where does the company go from here If its already making the best, how can it do better
I liked the look of the Black Pearl, and I dont refer to the pirate ship of Captain Jack Sparrow. Its the name of a special-edition ATX200 regulator, and receiving one unexpectedly through the post was like receiving a reward. I couldnt wait to get in the water to try it.
The Black Pearl is in fact no different in what it does to any other ATX200, the top-of-the-range regulator from Apeks. It just has a different finish.
Its like ordering a BMW M3, but opting for the metallic black paint job rather than plain old schwartz. It just looks different and separates the owner from the crowd. Only 4000 of these regulators will be available worldwide.

Making use of what it calls its investment casting technology, Apeks is able to provide some very fine detail work to the outside of the block of the first stage. It uses chromium, titanium and zirconium to provide a very hard diamond finish to the Black Pearl (excuse the mixed metaphors - theyre not mine!) by physical vapour deposition. It makes the finish tougher than normal anodised brass, ending up with a sort of Harley-Davidson of regulators. Whoops - now Ive gone from cars to bikes!
Back to diving. You stick the second stage in your mouth and you breathe off it. Its as simple as that. The air is delivered in a very comfortable way with an exceedingly low work of breathing. If I needed to distinguish this reg from one or two other top-performing brands, I would say it had a slightly mechanical feel to its operation.
Its a pity that Apeks perseveres with such a small exhaust, because this does tend to put the exhaled bubbles up in front of your face if youre stationary in the water, but the company presumably feels that smaller is the better option at point of sale.
It tended to cause me to swim onwards when I might have been better off taking time to examine my surroundings. Its a niggling defect in what is an otherwise superb bit of kit.

The first stage is an environmentally dry-sealed diaphragm design in common with most of the Apeks range but, like the normal ATX200, it is squatter and more compact than the others.
Still, with its American belt-buckle engraving, it looks quite massively built. It has four medium-pressure and two hp ports.
The second stage has some aesthetic differences with its top-end sibling but it still has the venturi  switch to discourage the onset of exponential free-flows at the surface, and a breathing resistance adjustment (BRA) control which can be used to crank up the cracking pressure, and thus the effort needed, to initiate an inhalation.
It has the same finned heat-sink located near the second stage, and Apeks position within the worldwide Aqua-lung empire is revealed by the inclusion of a Comfobite mouthpiece.
No surprises, and like the BMW M3, which is a very quick motor car whether finished in metallic-black or not, the Black Pearl delivers in exactly the same impressive way as the standard ATX200. Its for the diver who wants that bit more.
The limited edition Apeks ATX200 costs 427 and can be used with nitrox mixes up to 40%, or be supplied O2-clean for 100% O2.

  • Apeks Marine Equipment 01254 692200, www.apeks.co.uk

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