That is, until last March, when I took delivery of a set of regulators from America. I had parted with a substantial lump of hard-earned wonga to own the flagship in the Atomic Aquatics range – the model is the T3 (the “T” stands for Titanium).
I was under the impression that all approved regulators had become more or less equal, but after diving with the T3 over a period of nearly a year, my opinion has changed.

Titanium Alloy
What is titanium and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using it to make diving regulators
Titanium alloys are metals containing a combination of titanium and other chemical elements – in the most common it is mixed with aluminium and vanadium (Ti-6AL-4V). This metal has an extremely high tensile strength, is very light in weight and has extraordinary corrosion resistance, especially in sea water.
The disadvantage is that it is difficult to produce and fabricate, so it’s an exotic material that’s very expensive.

The First Stage
Expertly machined and crafted from a solid billet of Ti-6AL-4V alloy, the first stage is the standard jet-seat high-flow piston design found throughout the entire range of Atomic’s regulators. The turret has a lower section that swivels, with four low-pressure ports around the circumference and a fifth at the tip; two high-pressure ports are set either side of the fixed barrel.
The first stage is factory-sealed for freeze protection and to prevent external contamination from sand, silt or salt crystals.
It’s also compatible with the use of non-dedicated nitrox mixes up to 40% and is available with either international (232 bar yoke) or 300 bar DIN connectors.

The Second Stage
The main body of the second stage is constructed using lightweight, high-grade polymers with internal components precision-machined, again from a solid billet of titanium.
As throughout the range, the T3 second stage is fitted with Atomic’s seat-saving orifice. This clever, patented design lifts the valve away
from its seat when the regulator is dormant, ensuring that it doesn’t become engraved to prolong its life.
A single adjustment knob for rapid detuning and the maker’s patented automatic flow control combined with the T3’s new high-flow second-stage case is said to significantly reduce the breathing effort at all depths.
A titanium, PVD-coated anatomical swivel is fitted to the second-stage hose joint to reduce restrictive head movement. The entire front cover is made from flexible polymers and is used to purge the regulator. It’s finished with a PVD-coated titanium cover ring.
The mouthpiece is created from soft dual silicon with tough, tear-resistant bite tabs.

First Impressions
The first thing I noticed when I unpacked the T3 was how light it was. It didn’t have the “heft” I was used to with most of the regulators I’ve owned or tested in the past. It was comparable in weight to the tiny mainly plastic models designed and built specifically for baggage-limit-conscious travelling divers.
On closer inspection the amazing build quality, attention to detail and design innovations were obvious. The DIN fitting has cut-outs resembling a modern-day six-spoke alloy car wheel, and it span on its connecting tube like silk on satin.
The first-stage turret was a thing of beauty too, showing the fastidious finish that only zero-tolerance machining can leave on the titanium alloy. Every port-blanking plug is made from the same lightweight metal.
A rubber “bump pad” is fitted to the top of the first stage to prevent sharp edges coming into contact with the diver’s cranium.
The second stage is equally impressive, with its shiny blackened swivel at the junction of the valve and hose, again moving with a silk-on-satin feel. The all-black cover with artistically sculpted vents fitted with high-gloss inserts
and the PVD-coated titanium retaining ring screamed understated class, inviting me to take a second, longer look.
I was surprised at first by the intermediate hose, of traditional rubber with a large bore. My initial thought was that it should have been a modern braided, lightweight version in keeping with the weight-saving theme
Then I realised that it was there for a reason – to deliver the gas between the two stages with the minimum of resistance, keeping the whole breathing operation as smooth as possible.

Under Water
The Atomic T3 has been my ever-present companion on numerous trips ranging from the Middle and Far East to the Caribbean and east Atlantic. I’ve used it on dives down to 50m and taken it scallop-hunting and wreck-diving in the UK too. Every time I take it under water I marvel at its performance. The differences between the numerous models I test may be subtle, but the T3 edges them in every department.
The breathe is as near to natural as I’ve experienced from mechanical breathing apparatus. The weight, hose-routeing options, exhaust-bubble dispersal, resistance to free-flow, watertightness, purge and comfort all combine to make the T3’s performance outstanding, possibly the best there is and definitely the best I’ve used.

The Price
Invariably the very best products come with a cost penalty, and the T3 carries a price tag that would make the Sultan of Brunei choke on his morning coffee.
It’s difficult to justify spending well over a grand on a set of regulators when you could get an excellent alternative for a third of the price, but there are advantages to consider.
The weight-saving is a big factor for frequent flyers. The T3 also boasts a three-year, 300-dive service interval, and if you combine this with the outstanding toughness and corrosion-resistance of the titanium alloy the T3 could conceivably last a lifetime, saving you hundreds of pounds in service costs as the years roll by.

I’m one of those annoying people who get a serious buzz from owning and using the very best dive-kit available. The T3, nearly a year on, still gives me that buzz, and every time I dive with it I feel that stripping out my life-savings to own it was justified.
Atomic Aquatics has labelled the T3 “the Ferrari of regulators”. I beg to differ. I think it’s more functional and less flamboyant than that.
It’s more like an Aston Martin, subtly good-looking, designed for performance, built to perfection and, in my eyes, the very best there is.

PRICE T3, £1189. Ti2 octopus £210
FIRST STAGE Jet-seat piston
PORTS 5lp, 2hp
SECOND STAGE Pneumatically balanced poppet with seat-saving orifice.
CONTROLS Automatic flow control (AFC), rapid-adjustment knob
WARRANTY Limited lifetime (not contingent on proof of purchase).
SERVICE INTERVAL 3 years / 300 dives
EXTRAS Padded carry-case
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%