RBA, RDA, RTA, RDTA: What are They and What’s the Difference?

Starting out in the world of vaping, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the melting pot of jargon that you encounter.  A pinch of chemistry, a dash of electrical circuits, and the alphabet soup of acronyms take time to learn and become comfortable with.  

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the acronyms relating to atomizers—the piece of hardware on top of your vape through which you inhale.

The atomizer is responsible for turning your e-liquid into the delicious vapor that you inhale.  All atomizers use a similar process to do this:

  1. Juice is dripped, or fed, onto the coils and cotton.
  2. The power from the mod heats up the coils, turning your juice into vapor.
  3. You inhale the vapor from the mouthpiece at the top of the atomizer.

Although this process is standard, there are different atomizers available in the vaping industry, each using a slightly unique approach.

What is an RBA?

The first acronym we’ll be slicing up today is ‘RBA’ which stands for Re-Buildable Atomizer.  RBA generally refers to any and all atomizers that you can ‘build’; this building involves attaching your own coils and personally threading them with cotton.  

These rebuildable atomizers have an area called a ‘build deck’ which is where your coils and cotton will go.  Features that are common to RBA build decks include:

Coil Posts – these posts (usually sticking up from the build deck) have screws or clamps to hold your coils firmly in place.  The number of coils you can use (and the number of posts available) can vary quite a bit and will depend on the atomizer that you have.  

Atomizers can range from your standard Single or Dual coil all the way up to Four coil builds.

Air Holes – these small holes, surrounding your coils, will feed cool air onto your build whenever you take a hit.  Airholes keep your coils from overheating, preventing spit-back and burnt cotton.  

Each atomizer has its own arrangement of air holes, meaning you can find what gives you the smoothest, creamiest hit of vapor.

Juice Wells – juice wells are a small section at the bottom of your coils in which the ends of your cotton will rest. These keep your cotton soaked with e-liquid.  

Whenever you take a hit your coils will heat up the cotton, vaporizing the e-liquid.  The size of these juice wells differs from atomizer to atomizer, with tanks having the smallest.

RBAs can provide much better flavor and cloud production than your standard stock coil atomizers.  The coils used in RBAs also last a lot longer (saving you money) and give you a lot more control over your vaping experience.  

However, to use RBAs you’ll need to know:

  • How to wrap your own coils – especially if you don’t want to buy pre-wrapped coils.  While it can take some time to master, wrapping your own coils is the ultimate tailored vaping experience.
  • Battery safety – since you’ll be working with the electrical circuit itself, you’ll want to make sure you’re not building your coils too low or too high.  If you do, you might damage your batteries, but worry not as most mods come with highly effective safety features.
  • Ohm’s law – this doesn’t apply to most vapers but if you’re planning to build your own coils on a mechanical mod, it’s extremely important that you have a firm grasp on Ohm’s law.  With the amount of power coming from a mechanical mod, incorrectly built coils can cause some serious damage to your device and possibly to you!

Now that you (hopefully) have a taste of what RBAs are, we can dip in to the different types of RBAs you can choose from.

3 Types of RBAs

1. RDA (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer)

An RDA (or Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer) is one of the simplest and most popular RBAs. 

RDAs consist of your build deck and the mouthpiece casing.  These build decks usually have deep juice wells, since there is no other place for your liquid to be held. 

RDA casings will contain airholes that you can usually adjust by rotating the mouthpiece at the top.

Using an RDA will require you to manually drip e-juice onto your coils and cotton. The lack of a tank (or squonk bottle) means there’s no way for the juice to be continuously fed into your cotton.  

With this style of RBA, you’ll have to carry around a bottle of e-liquid and drip it onto your coils after every few hits (4 to 5 hits).  As annoying as this might sound, RDAs have held the title of best flavor and cloud production since they came out.

2. RTA (Rebuildable Tank Atomizer)

RTA is short for Rebuildable Tank Atomizer.  These rebuildable atomizers have a tank system on top of (or around) your build deck, which means that juice can constantly be fed onto your coils and cotton. 

The air holes on these decks are arranged differently on each atomizer, with larger intake gaps found either at the top or bottom of the atomizer.

The build deck on an RTA is normally surrounded by a metal casing, sealing it off from your liquid and creating something called a chimney and bell system. In short, this system allows a vacuum to form, which helps feed your wick with e-juice and keeps your vapor concentrated when you inhale.  

You can see evidence of the vacuum by looking out for a release of bubbles (inside your tank) after you’ve inhaled.

3. RDTA (Rebuildable Dripping Tank Atomizer)

An RDTA combines the RDA and RTA into a single atomizer.  

The build deck for these atomizers is most commonly found on top of the tank, with the tank acting as a deep juice well. This takes away the need to drip every few hits, but the possibility is still there.  

RDTAs don’t have a bell and chimney system, meaning your juice might soak up a bit slower and your vapor will be slightly more dispersed.  In all honesty, with the introduction of squonk mods in the vaping industry, RDTAs have become somewhat obsolete since squonk mods not only have bigger juice bottles but also give better flavor than an RDTA.

Wrap Up

That’s it—the three most common rebuildable atomizers you’ll run into while browsing your local vape shop. 

It’s important to know that all RBAs need to be threaded (or wick’d) with a fresh wick of vaping cotton at least every 2 weeks or more frequently if you’re an avid vaper.  However, the coils on an RBA can last months, as long as you’re giving them a nice clean (scraping off build-up) every time you wick them.

Whether an RDA, RTA, or RDTA, each of these will give you an upgrade in your vaping experience, served with a side of personal satisfaction.