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Following up from the previous article on RDAs, this article will look at some of the design/construction aspects of RDAs. The goal is to help you understand the workings better so that you could make a well-educated choice on purchasing your first/next RDA.
As of the time of this article, the vape market is saturated with hundreds of different RDAs. Some are well thought out in terms of design, and some are variations of other designs. However, their basic working fundamentals remain the same - build a coil or coils, mount it on the posts, wick it, drip and vape. I will also attempt to give some product recommendations based on my personal experience and their overall popularity in the vape community.
So that you could decide which RDA suits your requirements best, let’s look at a RDAs main features:
At the time of wicking your coil, you pass your wick through the coil and the ends of the wick are stuffed in the juice well. Its purpose is to hold the juice that you drip, so that your juice can travel to the coils along the wicks.
Generally, all RDAs will have a well, but what you will need to decide is how deep you want this well to be. How it affects your vape experience is the frequency you have to drip juice. RDAs with shallow drip wells will only hold about 7-10 drops of juice and will start leaking if you over-drip. This alone does not mean that the RDA is a terrible design, it just means that you will have to drip more often.
Some great RDAs with shallow drips wells, yet great vape: Atomic RDA, Zenith V2 RDA and
Trident RDA. The Magma RDA and Origen RDA on the other hand have deeper juice wells and holds around or close to 1 ml of juice.
On a side note, the more juice you got in your device, the more likely for it to leak if not left standing up right.
The build deck is where the RDAs’ negative and positive posts are fixed to. You mount your coil or coils into these posts. The most popular design is the 3 post design where there is 1 central positive post and 2 negative posts on its sides. Some will have the negative posts actually milled out of the deck piece itself to improve conductivity and for added strength.
Though the 3 post design is very reliable, not all 3 post decks are made alike, which brings us to the mechanism in which a coil is mounted on these posts. Generally, the posts are drilled out at the top to enable the leads of the coil to slide through them. A well designed RDA will have decent post holes allowing for most gauges of wire to pass through them. The coil is then fastened in place using a post screw.
As of the time of this article, the Mephisto RDA is one of the RDAs with some of the biggest post holes in the market (3 mm wide post holes). This will allow for almost any gauge of wire to be mounted on this RDA.
Apart from the conventional 3 post design, there have been unique and innovative decks out in the market. They essentially get the same job done in terms of mounting coils, but perform differently in terms of the vape experience. A quick example is the Veritas RDA, 454 Big Block RDA and the Origen RDA. These RDAs allow for easy vertical coil mounting (and conventional horizontal coil mounting). For some reason beyond my understanding, vertical coils provide exceptionally good flavor on any of the above RDAs.
You will be spending a lot of time on the deck of an RDA, making adjustments and building coils, so make sure you find one that you are comfortable building on. Pick a device with a deck that would suit all gauges of wire (however, keeping in mind that thin wire is difficult to mount on posts with huge holes) and has reasonably sized post screws.
Barrel and Top cap
The barrel will fit around the deck followed by the top cap which sits on top of the barrel. Some RDAs will allow for the barrel and deck to be connected via threaded screws while a lot would have a press fit with an o-ring. The drip tip is then mounted on a slot on the top cap. Usually, the barrel would have some sort of air holes cut into the (either round or cyclops style).
Modern day RDAs have adjustable air flow options allowing the user to adjust the air flow to their liking. Remember, RDAs are useless without their air flow. Some RDAs will have a ring (called the AFC – Air Flow Control) around its barrel with slots/holes cut into them (Zenith V2 RDA, Mephisto RDA), allowing the user to adjust them accordingly and others would have pre-defined holes which the user has to select and lock in place (Tobh RDA, Trident RDA).
Generally, it’s wise to choose a device which allows for easy adjustment of air flow as it’s a key factor in defining your RDA vape experience.
Many RDAs now have the inside of the top cap machined in a dome shape to allow the flavor to be funneled up in the chamber before inhalation through the drip tip (Magma RDA, Tobh RDA, 454 Big Block RDA). There are others which have a delrin insulator on the top cap, this is said to reduce the heat being transferred to the drip tip (Zenith V2 RDA, Dark Horse RDA). While an RDA can do well without a delrin insulated top cap, a dome shaped (inside) top cap definitely helps render better flavors.
Cloud chasers vs Flavor chasers
RDAs produce exceptionally good amounts of vapor and flavor. Now that you know a bit of RDA-logy, let’s get down to the actual vape experience.
Cloud chasing RDAs are the ones designed to do one thing: produce massive, ginormous vapor clouds. These will usually have massive air flow holes/cut outs which allow the users to let in more air into the chamber.
However, the increased air flow will mute the flavor to a certain extend. Don't get me wrong, a cloud chasing RDA will produce good flavor, it’s just that you can't expect the flavor to be top notch or as good as it can be.
Some popular cloud chasing RDAs in the market today: Tobh RDA, Dark Horse RDA, Little Boy RDA. All of these have very generous air flow options and generally, closing down the air flow helps improve the flavor at the expense of big clouds.
On the other hand, flavor chasing RDAs are designed to maximize the flavor of the vape. It does not mean that they can't produce massive clouds, it’s just that they aren't made to produce the biggest clouds there can be produced. Yet, for an RDA, they will produce a lot of vapor as intended.
The flavor chasing RDAs are usually well thought out and are unique, in terms of deck design and air flow design. Some popular ones are: Magma RDA (personal favorite), Origen RDA, Veritas RDA. All of these RDAs allow for more than 1 coil to be mounted and have quite deep juice wells as well.
Just because the above topic differentiates flavor chasing and cloud chasing RDAs, it does not mean one RDA is better than the other. It’s just that a vast majority of the vaping community has recognized them for their performance in each category. At the end of the day, it’s down to personal taste when it comes to what suits your vape requirements and less of what others say, do or tell you.
With that said, there are those RDAs that perform well on both areas. The 454 Big Block, Zenith V2 RDA, Brass Monkey RDA.
The product recommendations on this article are in no way mentioned to promote them. They are suggested here based on my personal experience with them. I made the decision to buy these RDAs based what I heard and read about them, so rest assured it’s not solely based on my opinion/experience with them.
Also these recommendations are made based on what’s out on the market at the time of writing this article. In this ever growing, changing and developing world of vape gear, there will be new and improved RDAs out there which will render these recommend products obsolete. But I hope that you gained some insight into what you need to look out for when deciding to get your first or next RDA regardless of when you are reading this article.