Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

Entry-level doesn’t have to mean compromise

Author: Pat
27th August 2017
 

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

The Z2 was the first regulator I ever bought and has remained my primary ever since – so naturally I was keen to compare its replacement, the Z3.

Atomic Aquatics takes a holistic approach to design: each model in the US company’s regulator line-up shares many of the same features, but is crafted using different materials.

The current flagship titanium T3 is dubbed the ‘Ferrari’ of regulators with its flog-a-kidney price tag. But Atomic makes a range of regulators for different budgets – T3, ST1, M1, B2 and Z3 – the latter is the entry-level model, introduced in the UK in 2014 as a replacement for the Z2/Z2x.

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

In the Z3’s case, ‘entry level’ is a relative term. For some, the £400-plus pricetag of the Z3 will already be too high, when regulators can be had for nearer £200. If the Z3 is not in the ‘economy’ or ‘budget’ brackets of some rivals, what is it competing with, and is it a worthwhile investment?

It certainly looks the part. Compared to my cherished Z2, the quality and finish of the Z3 have gone up several notches. The second stage is now a thing of beauty – purge cover is classic Atomic , one-piece flexing plastic protected by a shiny metal ring. The most visible premium feature is the swivel ball joint between the second stage and the hose, as found on the Z2x and more expensive models.

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

Beneath the skin, the Z3 has some pretty cool features too. The ‘seat-saving’ orifice lifts the valve away from the seat when not in use, which extends its life. It also has the company’s clever automatic flow control (AFC) system which adjusts gas through the venturi for a consistent breathe at any depths. It certainly works for me: the Z3’s gas delivery is always sweet, and work-of-breathing minimal.

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

The first stage is familiar from the Z2. It’s milled from the same mixture of chromed brass and zirconium, hence the ‘Z’ nomenclature. At this price point you’re sacrificing the swivelling turret but do get a brilliant port layout (2 HP/7 LP) including the top HP port, which made streamlining my twinset a doddle. All Atomic regs are of a high flow piston design, arguably more complex to service and maintain but ideally suited to high performance use.

You can use nitrox mixes up to 40% straight out of the box with this one, and it’s CE certified for cold water use. I dive year-round in the UK, including fresh water as bracing as just 3 or 4 degrees C and the Z3 has never once freeflowed.

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

So is it worth the price premium? Absolutely, if you consider your regulator the ultimate life support equipment and too important to compromise. The mistake is comparing the Z3 with other entry-level models: it isn’t one, it’s a fully-fledged technical regulator that is perfectly at ease in deep diving use. I get mine wet as often as I can – that it looks the business is an added bonus.

More information – www.atomicaquatics.com

Atomic Aquatics Z3 regulator review

 
 
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