Atomizers Explained

It’s quite a lot to process when you’re just getting in to vaping. There’s new terms and different ways to approach vaping. This guide is going to explain to you the differences between sub-ohm & rebuildable atomizers.

Rebuildable are generally indicated with an “R” the second letter represents what type of rebuildable it is, followed by an “A” for atomizer. Put it together and you have “Rebuildable” + type + “Atomizer”. Let’s dive in and learn more 🙂

Sub Ohm Tanks

A sub ohm tank refers to an atomizer which utilises factory pre-made coils which you install and prime. These coils are disposable and once you get a burned taste off of them, you chuck it away and purchase another one. Modern day sub-ohm tanks utilise various wire types including Mesh and Strip wire to delivery exceptional flavour.

A myth is that sub-ohm doesn’t deliver as good flavour as a rebuildable. This is not true, as I have tried a few sub-ohm’s that provide me with exceptional flavour. The disadvantage of using a sub-ohm however is in its maintenance costs. Coils need to be thrown away when they’re done and generally a single coil will retail from R50.00 upwards. These last approximately 3-5 days depending on your vaping style. Some people experience a lot more life, others a lot shorter.

The advantage however, is a tank that doesn’t require too much time to sort out when you’re in a hurry. Just pop the old coil out and screw in the new one. These are great for vapers who are starting out their vaping journey.

What is an RBA vape?

RBA stands for Re-Buildable Atomizer. An RBA is an advanced vape with a deck for user-installed coils and wicks, called “builds.” The term RBA can specifically refer to removable decks for vape tanks, or for any atomizer with a build deck, like an RDA, RDTA, RTA, or genesis. Over the years, the term “rebuildable atomizer” has become more common for the category term, but it’s simply what RBA means.

What is an RDA?

rebuildables explained

An RDA stands for Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer. An RDA is a type of RBA that requires the user to manually add juice on the coils and wicks, instead of being fed from a tank. RDAs have a juice well at the bottom of the build deck to hold e-liquid, and the wick tails are placed into the well. Generally, the juice well does not have as much capacity as a tank, so the vaper must continuously add e-juice ever so often, to prevent the wicks from getting dry.

The manual nature of wetting the wicks and coils makes RDAs less convenient than a tank, unless they’re set up for and used with a squonk mod. A squonkable RDA can be fed e-juice from a small squeezable bottle located in the mod, accessed through a small window. Squonking is still manual and it’s like dripping, except that it’s much more convenient than having to carry an e-juice bottle separately.

Different RBA tanks explained

RBA tanks are simply vape tanks with rebuildable decks. There are several names (most being acronyms) that you’ll encounter.


rebuildables explained

An RTA stands for Rebuildable Tank Atomizer. Of course, all rebuildable tanks are technically RTAs, but the acronym stuck with a particular system as more variations emerged. There are many ways RTAs are designed, but the most universal characteristics of an RTA are:

  1. An RBA deck for one or two coils (but sometimes more)
  2. A deck that sits under or in the middle of the tank
  3. A chimney and bell system that covers the deck and extends up to the drip tip

The chimney and bell system are a key feature of an RTA that distinguishes it from other RBA tanks. It was first introduced to vaping by the Golden Greek (GG) in 2011 with the iAtty, and now most vape tanks have a similar design. The bell provides a small chamber around the deck, which is sealed off from juice by wicks, making a vacuum pressure in the tank. This vacuum pressure feeds the wicks with e-juice, evident by the release of bubbles after an inhale. The wick still uses capillary action to absorb the juice, but the vacuum pressure pushes it along quicker which can make the wicking more efficient, especially in higher power applications. The vapor travels up through the chimney making a concentrated stream, which some argue is better for flavor.

RBA heads

rebuildables explained

RBA heads are enclosed decks that work with sub ohm tanks and clearomizers. The RBA deck can take the place of a factory-made coil head, and the user can control their own builds. The characteristics of an RBA head:

  1. Removable and replaceable like a normal coil head
  2. For use with specific tanks (most vape tanks do not have an RBA head)
  3. For use with up to two coils (rarely more)

Those vape tanks that come with an RBA head provide the user with an entry-level device and one that can be grown into as experience increases. There are some SMOK tanks that still come with RBA heads, but not a lot of companies continue to make them available.


rebuildables explained

An RDTA stands for Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizer. A bit of a misnomer, the RDTA is not actually used for dripping like an RDA. However, the deck is designed like that of an RDA and the performance is similar, but without the need for dripping. The main characteristics of an RDTA are:

  1. A deck commonly for one or two coils (but sometimes more)
  2. A deck that typically sits above the tank
  3. No bell and chimney system like typical RTAs

The original RDTA was the Big Dripper from Subohm Innovations, and it was simply an RDA that had a spring-loaded tank section sitting on top of the deck. It fed the coils and wicks from a manual pumping action. While it was the first official RDTA, its design didn’t carry over with the others that came out after. Now an RDTA is just an RDA with a tank section, acting as a deep well.


rebuildables explained

When trying to understand the differences in these types of devices, the thing to remember is that they’re all rebuildable and require the user to know how to build and wrap vape coils, as well as having a firm grasp on ohms law and battery safety.

RBA vs RDA: An RDA is a type of RBA that doesn’t come with a tank section.

RDA vs RTA: The RDA requires manually wetting the wicks and coils with e-juice instead of coming from the tank section, like in an RTA. Most RTAs hold at least a couple milliliters of e-juice, and most RDAs may only hold a small portion of that.

RDTA vs RDA: An RDTA is like an RDA that has a tank. Instead of dripping manually on the coils and wicks like in an RDA, the RDTA has a tank section for storing extra juice.

RTA vs RDTA: An RTA and RDTA are both rebuildable tanks, but RTAs typically have a deck on the bottom of the atomizer and use a chimney and bell system. On the other hand, under the top cap, RDTAs typically have an open deck above the tank where the wicks hang.

Parts of this article were sourced from

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