RegulatorApeks ATX200
AMONG SERIOUS PROFESSIONAL AND MILITARY DIVERS, Apeks is renowned as a manufacturer of superior high-performance breathing regulators. So reads the Apeks brochure.
This might be the case today, but it was not always so. It seems only yesterday that Apeks supplemented a lacklustre side-exhaust regulator called the Manta with a new conventional-format model called the T50, which surprised everyone by being a world-beater.
Apeks went on to develop the T50D and then a whole raft of new dry-sealed diaphragm regulators including the TX40, TX50 and, most recently, the TX100. They have all proved to be world-leading performers among regulators and, Im proud to say, they are British.
It was easy to make something better than the Manta. It had all the breathing characteristics of a drowning asthmatic being strangled. The problem today for Apeks must be to manufacture something better than its top-of-the-range TX100.
The only criticism levelled at all these regulators now is that the second stages are rather large compared to some available from other manufacturers. To meet this challenge, Apeks has produced the Advanced TX range. There is an ATX40, ATX50 and an ATX100, not forgetting the AT20 warmwater regulator.
Each has the same first stage as on its TX and T counterparts but comes with a new lightweight and smaller second stage.
The top model, the Apeks ATX200, has an entirely new first stage. This is stubbier than that of the TX100 and has the look of the TX50s, but instead of having a turret, like the TX100, it has fixed ports. The over-riding difference is the unusual shiny black chrome finish.
Underneath there is a removable valve seat and the model follows the Apeks successful dry-sealed formula, ideal for use in cold and contaminated water. It can handle pressures of up to 350 bar in DIN-connector form. There are four medium-pressure and two high-pressure ports. Though compact, this is a weighty item.
The ATX200 second stage, in common with all the other ATX second stages, is not as minuscule as some others now appearing or about to appear in dive shops, but is appreciably smaller than its predecessor.
It has the same side-knob that enables the user to turn up the cracking pressure, the effort to initially open the valve, and a venturi lever which positions a disrupting vane in the air-flow to discourage exponential free-flows when you first pass from air to water.
There is also the familiar heat-exchanger at the junction between second stage and hose that will impart a little of what heat there might be in the water to the very cold air coming from the first stage.
The ability of ambient water pressure to make its presence felt instantly on the outer side of the diaphragm of the second stage affects the ultimate performance of the regulator. This is why the designers rejected the idea of a very small frontal area. The slots that let the water pass are as big as those on any regulator.
Behind them there appears to be a second heat-exchanger of mirror-polished metal. The exhaust port is nicely injection-moulded in one piece with the rest of the unit and has a concave inner surface, thoughtfully designed where it rests on the divers chin.
To aid with servicing, these ATX second stages have a micro-adjustment built in, so that technicians can adjust each regulator precisely to give optimum performance without having to strip the unit down.
An added bonus for customers is that instead of getting a mouthpiece that might not appeal to them, Apeks includes a choice of two different types with every regulator it sells.
So what was it like at depth It breathed like a dream! A dry one! But is it really worth the extra cost compared to the£239 ATX40 You must decide.
The Apeks ATX200 costs£364 while the Stage 3 set, complete with alternative octopus-rig ATX40 second stage, costs£482.
  • Apeks Marine Equipment 01254 692200, www.apeks.co.uk

  • Divernet Divernet Divernet
    + Apeks best regulator to date
    + Choice of mouthpieces

    - Expensive