Cthulhu CETO RDA..A box full of (unwanted) mysteries
Too often, as reviewers, we criticize companies for not innovating enough. Then, when they respond with truly forward-thinking products, we then turn the tables and explain why they should have never changed things in the first place. Such waffling can be annoying to readers, but it also might prevent them from making a pricey purchase, just for the sake of having “something different.” In this case, the mesh-coiled CETO RDA from Cthulhu seems to be an attractive, unique new take on drippers. And in many ways, it does push the bar. But in the end, it suffers from surprisingly pedestrian performance that doesn’t quite equal the innovation at hand.
Paging Dr. Jones... Dr. Indiana Jones…
No one can fault Cthulhu for its packaging. Coming in a burlap-covered cardboard box, complete with rope handle and a raised button logo, the CETO RDA looks as if it should hold a priceless relic or the secrets to the world’s mysteries.
(In a sense, there is a lot of mystery when operating the CETO. But I digress…)
Inside the box, there’s a less-exotic foam liner, holding the 24mm Cthulhu CETO RDA, o-rings and spare parts bag, a squonking pin, a small information card, and a bag of fine stainless steel mesh for coiling. That’s right – in this RDA, the mesh is NOT the wicking material, but rather the heating element in the atomizer.
Taking a closer look at the CETO itself, the machining is top-notch, as is the overall quality of the build. Five well-spaced side airflow slots let you know right away that this device is primed and ready for maximum cloud production, even with no addition bottom or top-cap airflow slots.
You’ll also notice how tall the CETO RDA is compared to similarly styled RDAs. The polished 304, food-grade stainless steel exterior is fairly nondescript, but the ultra-wide 810 drip tip stands out with its unique translucent brown color. There is also a 510-adapter in the box for those who want a little less oomph when they inhale.
After some serious muscle, you’ll get the Cthulhu CETO RDA apart. That’s because the device is as snug as any I’ve used since vaping an old, three-post Tugboat dripper from the days of yore. I’m sure a little time (and e-liquid) will help soften these industrial-strength o-rings, but to start, the Cthulhu CETO requires more physical manhandling than I was prepared to offer.
Once apart, the build deck jump out immediately. The offset posts have flat clamps in place (operable with a Philips-head screwdriver) to lock the included mesh into a cylinder shape around the inside of the deck.
These posts were fairly easy to operate, and again, the machining was smooth and error-free. However, coiling and wicking on this deck proved to be quite the affair.
CETO RDA ... Steel on Steel…
To find the right length and width of mesh, simply hold the included square next to the deck, and mark the spot where it will fit between the screws, then cut with normal scissors. Then you need to lock one end in place, curve the mesh into a cylindrical tube, and secure the tail end in the other post.
It’s not easy, friends. I’m a fairly coordinated guy and it took several attempts (and two thrown screwdrivers) to finally secure an adequate cylinder to these posts.
Once secured, secure it again. By this, I mean check your screws to ensure there’s no slippage. I didn’t do this the first time, and an errant thumb managed to dislodge my entire coil, putting me back at square one. Now is also a good time to check that pieces of the mesh aren’t touching the walls or base of the Cthulhu CETO, otherwise more hijinks will ensue.
With the cylinder in place, now it’s time to wick it. Grab a good amount of organic cotton, eyeball an amount that will fill the cylinder and the base of the atomizer, with just a touch appearing atop the tube. Unless your cotton supply is limited, I’d recommend erring on the side of caution and having too much, then trimming as needed.
Finally, you juice the coil. But this isn’t a standard dripper. Instead, you’ll be using roughly the equivalent of a small tank’s worth of e-liquid, just to prime the cotton, wet the mesh, and fill the decently deep juice well. When you think you’re done, do it again. Because dry spots on the mesh surface will inevitably lead to nasty burnt hits shortly after putting it all together.
I actually did a few fires before replacing the cap, and sure enough, even at low wattage, the wad of cotton in the cylinder was still absorbing the juice, so I had to re-wet it with another several LARGE drops before finally capping it up and trying to vape the CETO.
Was it worth it?
At first, not at all. Despite the labor I described above, the CETO RDA immediately spit back a good amount of the liquid it seemingly required, at just 55 watts … on a build that was reading 0.35 ohms. The pulls that followed ended the spitting, but the flavor was shockingly muted, and metallic tasting. Thinking I hadn’t wet the mesh enough, I took it apart and juiced it AGAIN.
I also took this opportunity to check my cotton for any singes or gaps, and sure enough, there they were. On several spots, the cotton had shifted, either poking through the soft stainless, or had recessed inward, creating an air pocket gap between the cotton and the coil.
A few pokes of the top cotton packed things back into place, and I was ready to fire again. This time, things improved a bit, but I still wasn’t experiencing anything memorable – much less an experience that justified the time and effort needed to get the CETO RDA ready.
I continued vaping it for two fills, and experienced muted flavor and wispy vapor, even with a soaked wad of cotton and juice well full of high-VG e-liquid. I decided to start fresh.
The CETO 24mm RDA is the first mesh rebuildable platform from Cthulhu MOD, presenting an innovative elongated two-post design with clamp mechanism to lock the piece of Stainless Steel mesh.
Mixing things up…
There was no way an RDA so highly touted, and so uniquely designed, was going to be such a poor performer. So, I started from the top, right down to washing and bathing the CETO RDA again, to remove any remnants of the foul first attempt.
Creating the mesh cylinder was far easier this time around, albeit still laborious. I decided to cut the mesh a hair narrower, and ensured the mesh was touching each post more evenly throughout.
Likewise, I had a much better sense of the amount of cotton, and the nature of the wicking, so filling the cylinder wasn’t nearly as problematic. I decided to roll a thicker piece of cotton, rather than gently tamping it downward, hoping to eliminate the gaps and hotspots from the first build.
Juicing heavily, I put the Cthulhu CETO RDA together and hoped for better returns. Thankfully, they came.
With this second build, the vape quality was immediately more flavorful and dense, and the airflow proved to be smooth and fairly abundant (if not room-filling) even with only two air slots exposed. Opening up the airflow further created more vapor, but each additional notch lowered flavor quality in parallel.
What disappointed me most was how often I had to top off the juicing of the massive wick, but in retrospect, it makes perfect sense. The mesh coil heats and pulls juice outward, creating large amounts of dry cotton sitting vertically in the center of the CETO RDA, directly below the mouthpiece. Within 10-15 puffs, that massive wad of organic cotton was already showing notable dry spots, and before long, I had to go and juice it again.
This wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that it all but requires the user to take the stiff, snug cap off each time, and juice the entire setup, not just the cotton. I made the mistake of only juicing down the middle through the drip tip, and immediately got burnt, harsh metallic flavors – the result of dry areas on the mesh.
I ended up putting no fewer than five different builds in the CETO RDA, each with different approaches to sizing and positioning the mesh and cotton. All resulted in the same frustrating performance.
Mechanics aside, how does the CETO RDA Vape?
Bottom line, when the CETO RDA is fully juiced and ready, it offers a decent-to-good vape. But keeping it at this level is a constant back and forth of dripping and reassembling, with relatively few memorable puffs in between these efforts.
When primed, I managed to create several notable clouds, which had good flavor and thick vapor density. These puffs go away fairly quickly, however, with most of my draws producing nothing more than adequate flavor and vapor, until dry hits ensue.
It should be noted that the tremendous surface area of the mesh naturally leads to an excess of heat on the CETO RDA’s stainless steel body. Yet, the Delrin drip tip does a nice job keeping the heat away from the mouth, even during longer hits.
The airflow is smooth, and each drop-shaped slot represents a distinct level of flow throughout the atomizer. But, in order to experience any notable flavor, I wouldn’t go above three exposed slots. Otherwise, you’ll taste a lot more heat and cotton than your e-liquid.
Finally, I should mention that I experimented a little, seating a traditional coil between the posts, and managed to get it to work adequately. But the tall design and awkward seating in the posts renders this approach ineffective.
Because of the innovation and creative potential of the Cthulhu CETO RDA, I’m sure there’s a legion of vapers just ready to tackle this challenge. But “challenge” is the operative word. From the finicky post clamps, to the temperamental nature of the mesh, all the way to properly seating a giant wad of cotton, there’s an awful lot of effort required just to vape.
Worse, even under its best conditions, the CETO RDA’s flavor and vapor production did nothing to distinguish itself from a wealth of other, easier-to-use RDAs on the market. Everything was decidedly average, with little standing out beyond its unique design.
Cthulhu CETO RDA Score
I appreciate a company trying to do something different, and firmly believe Cthuhlu is onto something here. They will probably fine-tune this concept to create a truly innovative device, but the CETO RDA simply isn’t up to par, quite yet.