For most of the people who switch from smoking to vaping, vaping never becomes a hobby or passion. For them, vaping is just a means to an end; a way to stay off of tobacco. For others, though, vaping is a way of life. For those people, the quest to improve their vaping experience never truly ends – and almost as long as there has been a dedicated community of vaping hobbyists, rebuildable atomizers have existed. In the beginning, rebuildable atomizers existed almost out of necessity. The first e-cigarette atomizers were woefully underpowered. With their tiny heating wires wrapped around silica wicks, early atomizers were good enough to prove to smokers that e-cigarettes truly had potential to help people quit, but they weren’t good enough to produce an enjoyable or satisfying experience. Rebuildable atomizers provided the extra performance that some people needed, and before long, they were mass produced and sold all over the world. Rebuildable atomizers remain mainstays of the vaping industry today, but they no longer quite hold the position of superiority they once did. Owning an RBA was once a requirement if you wanted to experience the best performance that the world of vaping had to offer. Today, though, answering the question of which vaping equipment performs the best isn’t quite so simple. In light of the many different types of vape tanks and other gear available today, do rebuildable atomizers still have a place? What are their pros and cons? Those are the things you’re about to learn.
When the first rebuildable atomizers appeared, one of the primary reasons why people wanted to buy them was because they offered performance unquestionably superior to anything else that was available at the time. Rebuildable atomizers still have the potential to offer the best performance in vaping, but the gap isn’t as wide as it used to be for reasons we’ll discuss shortly. If you own a rebuildable atomizer and want it to deliver the absolute best performance possible, you’ve got to be willing to put some time and effort into your coil building process. A simple dual-coil build isn’t going to offer performance greater than that of a good tank, but a more complex build – something with multiple mesh strips or braided nichrome wires, for example – can still produce bigger vapour clouds than what you’ll get with a tank.
The biggest performance feature of a standard rebuildable atomizer – a rebuildable dripping atomizer or RDA – is the fact that the coil isn’t submerged within a tank of e-liquid. Today’s vape tanks have excellent airflow characteristics, but you can only push so much air through an atomizer coil when the coil is submerged in e-liquid. A rebuildable atomizer, on the other hand, has almost no airflow resistance at all. If you like to inhale very deeply when vaping, you’ll probably appreciate the extremely open airflow characteristics of a rebuildable atomizer.
One of the greatest aspects of using a rebuildable atomizer is the fact that building your own coils is significantly less expensive than buying pre-built coils. A typical pre-built coil for a sub-ohm tank costs at least £2-3 or so. Heavily sweetened e-liquids are more popular than ever. Do you enjoy sweet e-liquid flavours? If you do, coil gunk is a constant concern for you. If you’re a heavy vaper and use heavily sweetened e-liquid, you probably can’t use a new coil for very long at all before you start to detect the burned flavour of sucralose residue. Do you hate the burned taste of coil gunk? Do you find yourself using coils longer than you’d like because they cost so much to replace? Would you replace your coil every day if you could afford to do so? If you answered “yes” to all of those questions, you might love using a rebuildable atomizer because building your own coils is so inexpensive compared to buying pre-built coils for a sub-ohm tank. To build a basic coil, you only need two things: a spool of kanthal wire and a bag of organic cotton balls or pads. You can buy both of those things in bulk for just a few pounds, and then you’ll have sufficient supplies to build a new coil every day – for months or possibly years – at a cost of just a few pence per coil. If you use a sub-ohm tank and replace your coil every couple of days, then you almost definitely spend more money on replacement coils than you do on e-liquid. Using a rebuildable atomizer can easily cut your vaping expenses in half.
As many benefits as rebuildable atomizers may have, they still aren’t as popular within the vaping community as sub-ohm tanks. Why is it that rebuildable atomizers have never become particularly popular among mainstream vapers? The main reason is probably the fact that building a coil from scratch is a lot of work. When you replace the coil in a sub-ohm tank, the actual act of replacing the coil only takes a few seconds. After that, you probably wait a few minutes for the coil’s cotton wick to become completely saturated with e-liquid, and then you’re ready to vape. It’s easy – and people want vaping to be easy. Building a coil, on the other hand, isn’t particularly easy or fast at all. No matter how much coil building experience you may have, you can look forward to at least 10-20 minutes of downtime each time you sit down with your rebuildable atomizer to build a new coil. The effort might seem fun the first few times you do it, but for many people, coil building loses its appeal rather quickly.
The final thing that you need to know before buying a rebuildable atomizer is that RBAs are no longer the undisputed performance champions of the vaping world. Innovations such as mesh coils have made sub-ohm tanks so good that you might actually find yourself disappointed if you try a rebuildable atomizer after using a high-end tank. It’s still possible for a rebuildable atomizer to produce bigger clouds than a sub-ohm tank, but that’s only true if you’re willing to put in the time required to build a truly high-end coil.