Last fact-checked 8 February 2021 | Report a factual error on this article
Shopping for your first ever box mod? Don’t be put off by weird abbreviations like ‘RDA’ ‘RTA’, ‘RDTA’ and ‘Sub Ohm’! There is an important difference between all of these tank types — we’ll explain it all in this article.
Your choice of vape tank makes a huge difference to your vaping experience, but if you’re transitioning from vape pens or pods, it’s hard to know where to start. In this guide we’ll explain the key terms you need to understand, and we’ll help you choose the perfect atomiser for you!
RDA, RTDA, RTA & Sub Ohm: What It All Means
Every atomiser head — whether it’s an RDA, RTA, RDTA or Sub Ohm tank — will have a heating coil and wicking cotton. Some atomisers will have an e-liquid reservoir, some will have a coil that’s very close to the mouthpiece and some will require no coil building skills whatsoever.
If you’re in the early stages of choosing between an RDA, RTA, RDTA or Sub Ohm tank, there are two ‘starter’ questions you can ask yourself:
1: Do You Want Rebuildable or Replacement Coils?
If you’re not comfortable building and wicking your own coils, then there really is only one choice: a ‘Sub Ohm’ tank. If you’re happy to build your own coils, then you’ll have a lot more choice.
- Sub Ohm Tanks use pre-built ‘plug and play’ replacement coils
- RTAs, RDTAs and RDAs need you to install and wick your own coil
2: Do You Want Tank or Drip Style?
If you like buckets of warm delicious vapour, you’ll need a good Drip-style atomiser head (RDA or RDTA). For a convenient, mess-free option with slightly cooler vapour, a tank style atomiser (Sub Ohm or RTA) is going to work best for you.
With a Rebuildable Tank Atomiser (RTA) or a Sub-Ohm tank, you just need to fill your e-liquid reservoir (tank) and get vaping. It’s a mess-free way to vape — the e-liquid is held in a watertight tank — so it’s good for vaping on-the-go.
RTA stands for “Rebuildable Tank Atomiser”. On an RTA, the coil sits inside a central chimney within the e-liquid tank. E-liquid feeds through small holes in the bottom of the chimney, soaking your hand-made wick and coil.
With a Rebuildable Tank Atomiser, you tailor your coil to suit your own style and vaping preferences, then you just fill your tank and you’re good to go. If you’re a die-hard cloud chaser you might want to stick to RDAs, but for most of us, RTAs are perfect for everyday use.
RTAs are perfect for DIY coil builders who want a box mod they can keep in their pocket.
Sub Ohm Tanks
Most Sub Ohm Tanks are manufactured with a resistance of less than 1Ω (hence the name), but you can sometimes buy coils with a resistance of 1Ω or higher (just take a look at our MTL tank department for examples).
Sub Ohm tanks work just like RTA heads, but you don’t need to build anything yourself; you just screw in a pre-made replacement coil and you’re good to go.
You need to buy the right coils for your brand of sub-ohm tank, and replacement coils tend to be a little more expensive than DIY alternatives, but it’s hard to beat the ‘plug and play’ simplicity of a good Sub Ohm tank.
Sub-Ohm tanks are the most convenient way to vape with a box mod.
RDA stands for ‘Rebuildable Drip Atomiser’. On an RDA head, e-liquid is dripped directly onto the heating coils (a process known as ‘dripping’).
RDAs give you complete control over your vaping experience. You personally build your coil, then you control how much e-liquid gets evaporated when you push that ‘fire’ button (because you’re the one dripping the e-liquid directly onto the coils).
RDAs are perfect for cloud chasers and direct-lung (DL) vapers with a solid understanding of Ohm’s Law ...just don’t overfill them!
RDAs make lots of delicious vapour, but they can be messy.
RDTA stands for ‘Rebuildable Drip Tank Atomisers’. RDTAs are designed to mimic the cloud size, flavour and heat of an RDA, while still offering the mess-free convenience of a tank atomiser.
Unlike an RTA, the coil on an RDTA is positioned close to the mouthpiece so that you get lots of warm delicious vapour (just like dripping). Unlike an RDA, the e-liquid is drawn upwards from a watertight reservoir that sits below the build deck. In most RDTAs, your coil wick dangles down into the reservoir, allowing just enough e-liquid to soak the coil.
The vapour density and temperature you get from an RDTA is very similar to that of an RDA, but it’s a much cleaner way to vape, because you’re not actually dripping the juice onto the coils yourself. The vapour that comes out of an RDTA hasn’t been cooled in a long central chimney — you can direct-lung inhale the vapour straight off a drip tip mouthpiece - so it’s a hotter, fresher, richer vaping experience.
RDTAs aren’t quite as convenient as an RTA — you need to tilt your mod to make sure that your wick can soak up enough e-liquid before you vape — but they’re a pretty good compromise between RTA and RDA tanks.
RDTAs are great if you like mess-free flavour.
Which Tank Type Do We Recommend?
If you can afford it, I would recommend getting a couple of different types of tank. Fellow Gourmet E-Liquid founder Gareth and I are e-liquid fanatics — we love masses of flavour and vapour — so for us, RDAs are the best choice. RDAs can leak in transit, and you need to bring a bottle with you, so a really good RTA or RDTA is a better option if you need something in your pocket.
The choice really is yours. Just think carefully about how you vape and what it is about vaping that you actually enjoy. For instance, if you don’t have the time or inclination to build your own coils, skip rebuildable models altogether — go get yourself a good sub-ohm tank instead.
One other thing to bear in mind: this article just explains the basic differences between RDAs, RTAs, RDTAs and Sub Ohm Tanks. In reality, every tank has its own unique design (some RTAs feel very similar to RDTAs, for instance), so the best thing to do is to read a few online reviews and watch a video or two on YouTube before clicking the ‘buy’ button.
Keep an eye on our blog and newsletter over the coming months, too. New vaping hardware comes to market all the time, and there’s a small chance that we could see more squonk mods on the UK market by the end of the year (more news on this soon). In the meantime, feel free to shop our full range of vape tanks and contact us if you have any questions.
Stay safe and happy vaping!John Boughey