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

When starting out in the vaping world, you can easily 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.  

In this article, we’ll be looking at some acronyms relating to different atomizers—the piece of hardware on top of your vape where you inhale.

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

  1. Juice is dripped or fed onto the coils and cotton.
  2. The power from the heating element turns your liquid into vapor.
  3. You inhale the vapor from the mouthpiece at the top of the atomizer.

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

What is an RBA?

The first acronym we’ll be slicing up today is ‘RBA.’ RBA stands for Rebuildable Atomizer. RBA generally refers to any vape atomizers that you can ‘build,’ as opposed to disposable atomizers. This building involves attaching your own coils and personally threading them with cotton in your vaping devices.  

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

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

Air Holes – These tiny holes surrounding each coil 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, from the top, bottom, and side airflow options, meaning you can find what gives you the smoothest, creamiest vapor production.

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

Whenever you take a hit, each coil works to heat up the cotton, vaporizing the e-liquid from the tank. The size of these juice wells differs from atomizer to atomizer, with juice tank vapes having the smallest.

RBAs can provide much bigger clouds and stronger flavor production than your standard stock coil vape. The coil in RBAs also lasts a lot longer (saving you money) and gives you a lot more control over your vaping experience.  

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

  • How to wrap your coil – Learning to wrap is essential if you don’t want to buy pre-wrapped coils. While it can take some time to master, wrapping your own coil is the ultimate tailored vaping experience since you can build them to your desired resistance.
  • Battery safety – Since you’ll be working with the electrical circuit itself, you’ll want to make sure you’re not building your coil too low or too high. You might damage your batteries if you do, but most mods come with highly effective safety features to minimize risk.
  • Ohm’s law – This rule isn’t necessary to most vapers, but if you’re planning to build your coil on a mechanical mod, you must have a firm grasp on the law. With the amount of power coming from a mechanical mod, an incorrectly built coil can cause some severe damage to your device and possibly to you!

Now that you have a taste of what RBAs are, we can explore the different types of RBAs on the market.

3 Types of RBAs

1. RDA (Rebuildable Dripping Atomizer)

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

RDAs consist of your deck and the mouthpiece casing. These build decks usually have a deep tank since there is no other place to hold your liquid. 

The RDA tank will contain air holes that you can usually adjust by rotating the mouthpiece at the top for better airflow.

Using an RDA tank will require you to drip e-juice onto your wick and cotton manually. The lack of a storage tank (or squonk bottle) means there’s no way for the liquid from the tank 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 coil after every few hits (4 to 5 hits). As annoying as this might sound, RDAs have held the title for the best flavor and cloud production since they came out.

2. RTA (Rebuildable Tank Atomizer)

RTA is short for Rebuildable Tank Atomizer. These rebuildable vapes have an RTA tank system on top of (or around) your deck, which means that e juice constantly feeds onto your coil wick and cotton. This arrangement is in contrast to dripping vapes. 

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. You should just remember that some RTAs don’t have the side airflow option you’ll see on an RDA tank. 

The deck on an RTA is generally surrounded by a metal casing, sealing it off from the liquid in the tank and creating something called a chimney and bell system. In short, this system allows a vacuum to form, which helps feed your wick tails with e-juice from the RTA tank and keeps your smoke concentrated when you inhale. The structure extends from the deck to the drip tip inside your RTA vaping products. 

You can see evidence of the vacuum by looking out for a release of bubbles (inside your RTA 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 vapes is usually on top of the tank, with the well acting as a deep juice tank. This tank takes away the need to remove the top cap every few hits.

RDTAs don’t have a bell and chimney system, meaning your e juice might soak up a bit slower, and your vapor will be slightly more dispersed. In all honesty, with the introduction of squonk mods, RDTAs have become somewhat obsolete since squonk mods have bigger juice bottles and give a great flavor that an RDTA can’t match.

Wrap Up

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

It’s important to know that you’ll need to thread (or wick) all RBAs with a fresh wick of vaping cotton at least every two weeks. However, the coils on an RBA can last months, as long as you’re giving them a nice clean every time you wick them.

Finally, you should also never forget the dangers of vaping. Nicotine is an addictive chemical, and smoking can cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.