Is there a performance difference from a well tuned vintage unit, and the Kraken?
The simple answer is: yes and no. A lot is going to depend on what you mean by a vintage regulator.
If it is a truly vintage regulator, the answer is immediately yes.
If you start talking about a Royal Aqua Master with new silicone diaphragm and an HPR second stage the answer is still yes, but it is not as definitive at this point (and that is not a true vintage regulator anymore).
For starters, the exhaust in the new Argonaut plastic case has been tested to be better than any previous DH (and probably any SH also), but I seriously doubt that most divers will notice on most dives.
The Argonaut case was specifically designed to enhance the venturi flow from the second stage. If you look at the venturi jet, it lines up with the horn and the horn is round to match the flow pattern of the yet.
You can use an Argonaut body (or a Phoenix/ HPR) in a metal can and get very good venturi flow assistance, but sometimes I find that I need to block some of the bleed air ports. With the new plastic cans there is no need to block any bleed air (you actually don’t want to or you get too much venturi).
The inhalation resistance (both cracking effort and sustained flow) of a Phoenix / HPR can be tuned to perform basically as good as an Argonaut (if everything is working fine). The Argonaut is proving to be very easy to adjust and very consistent in its performance.
With the Argonaut, both the 1st stage and 2nd stage volcano orifices can be replaced. This guaranties optimal performance at the most critical dynamic sealing interfaces. With a good volcano orifice, a good seal can be obtained without the need of adjusting (increasing) the spring force compression on the soft seat.
In reality, there is no short answer to that question. I have been working for the last 9 years (actually on an off for the last 42 years) on improving all of my regulators (and this is just a hobby for me). We have come a long way, but when it comes to performance, we have been approaching diminishing return for a while.
If you look at single hose regulators, they don’t even publish performance data in their advertising anymore. You are splitting hairs when measuring actual performance. At this point, human perception becomes the more important factor (and that is a very unreliable thing to measure).
Most of the breathing performance changes are so small that most divers will not be able to notice. One advantage is that this improvement on the Argonaut should be far more consistent than in a converted vintage regulator.
I have had a few emails (one today) from Phoenix owners asking if they should buy an Argonaut. Below is what I wrote. The link is to this thread.
Argonaut versus Phoenix:
• It is lighter, it balances better, can tolerated abuse better without showing scratches.
• The hose routing is better as it is, but it can be easily optimized for dry-suit, etc.
• The second stage has a replaceable and adjustable volcano orifice.
• NO gaskets between 1st and 2nd stage
• NO issues with port orientation depending on the rotation of the 1st stage (where it stops)
• lower profile
Some of the differences are small, but there is a lot in the details.
The Phoenix is a great regulator and it performs great, but there is no question that it evolved from available vintage parts. The Phoenix-HPR has been my favorite regulator for years...
The Argonaut is just what I consider an integrated, elegant design. It takes advantage of decades of knowledge and experience. I designed the entire regulator as complete system. You can even consider the back plate as part of the system.
I used as many standard of the shelf parts as possible to make it easier for the end used to source replacement parts (if needed), but I took into consideration how it all went together.
IMO, both the Phoenix-HPR and the Argonaut are great regulators. I will always have a few Phoenix-HPR around, but at this moment, they just happen to be collecting dust.
The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with the Phoenix-HPR... If I didn't have my Argonauts, the Phoenix-HPR would be my favorite regulator. I personally think that every DH diver should have at least one of each.