Master Spas® Review (Prices, pros, cons and more…)


As the largest retailer of spas and swim spas in Australia and New Zealand, our customers often ask us about Master Spas® and if they're worth the extra money over mid-priced spas. 

We don’t sell Master Spas® but we do know a lot about spas, having sold and serviced many different brands over our 30+ years in business. 

We also care about helping our customers make good decisions – so we wrote a quick article on the topic. 

In this article, we’ve used brand names not affiliated with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd, the parent company of Spa World™. You can see the list of the brand owners at the bottom of this article. All information, including pricing and product details, was accurate at the time of writing (20 August 2020) and may change without notice.

Who is Master Spas®?

Master Spas® is a US-based manufacturer of portable, rotational-moulded hot tubs; self-contained acrylic spas; and self-contained swim spas. 

They are based on a 13-hectare campus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where their products are made. 

According to its website, the company is the largest swim spa manufacturer in the world, and the largest portable spa and hot tub manufacturer that makes 100% of its products in the USA. 

Master Spas® was founded in 1996 but while they claim to be “a true pioneer” in the hot tub industry, Master Spas® is by no means the oldest spa company. 

Jacuzzi® Spas (the inventors of the modern spa) was established in the 1950s, while HotSpring® Spas started in the 1970s. Both brands are behind some pretty revolutionary innovations. Learn more about Jacuzzi® and Hotspring® here.

Master Spas® has come up with some interesting technologies like waterline fibre-optic lighting. It also introduced the first spa theatre system – allowing people to enjoy TV and movies from the comfort of their spa. 

Master Spas® products are distributed and sold worldwide through independent retailers.

In New Zealand, Master Spas® is available in New Zealand through Alpine Spas™. Learn more about Alpine Spas™ in this detailed review.

At this time, Master Spas® is not sold in Australia and they do not have a distributor there, as far as we know.

Who owns Master Spas®?

We were unable to verify exactly who owns Master Spas®. From our research, we believe it is a privately held company founded in the 1990s. 

The CEO of Master Spas® is Bob Lauter. According to the Master Spas® website, in 1996 Lauter led the group that acquired the spa division of Fort Wayne Pools and from there launched Master Spas®.

Where are Master Spas® made?

Master Spas® swim spas and spas are made in the USA. 

What brands does Master Spas® sell?

Master Spas® manufactures a range of spas that are sold under its own brand name. 

Its flagship spa range is the Michael Phelps Legend® Series (its premium line), the Twilight Series®, Healthy Living Hot Tubs® and Clarity Spas™. 

It sells several other house brand spas under different model names, including five available in New Zealand and sold by Alpine Spas™. Learn more about these models below. 

The company also manufactures swim spas which it sells under two different brand names – Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® and H2X Fitness®. 

Within the Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® range there are three models to choose from: MP Momentum™ Deep, MP Signature™ Deep and the MP Force® Deep. 

The H2X® Fitness Swim Spas brand includes three ranges: H2X® Fitness Challenger Series, H2X® Fitness Trainer Series and the H2X® Fitness Therapool Series.

Who sells Master Spas® in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, Master Spas® hot tubs and swim spas are sold by Alpine Spas™. Read this detailed review of Alpine Spas™ prices, pros, cons and more. 

At the time of writing, Alpine Spas™ is advertising five models of Master Spa® hot tubs – two roto-molded spas and three acrylic spas, ranging in price from $13,900 to $28,995 (NZD). 

Looking at the specifications and features, we would consider their range as entry-level to mid-market spas. However, their pricing is more in line with premium brands. 

We’re not sure why, but Alpine Spas™ don’t stock what we would consider Master Spas® flagship hot tub brands – for example the Michael Phelps Legend® Series or the Twilight Series® are not in their line-up. 

As far as we could tell, Alpine Spas™ sells a different range than what is advertised on Master Spas® official website.

According to one of Alpine Spas™ helpdesk consultants, their Master® spa models are “modified from the American version”. 

We asked Alpine Spas™ how they differed from the US models and they told us that the main difference was “no music mainly”. We’re waiting to clarify what that specifically means. We’ll update this article when we learn more. 

Alpine Spas™ also sells Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas™ and H2X Fitness® Swim Spas. These appear to be identical to what is available in the US. 

How much is a Master Spas® spa?

Alpine Spas™ sells 5 models of Master Spas® spas. 

Its prices are listed below (in NZD): 

  • Master Spas® San Miguel™  – $13,900
  • Master Spas® Bar Harbor™ – $15,500
  • Master Spas® Honolulu™  – $14,995
  • Master Spas® Miami™  – $15,995
  • Master Spas® Santa Barbara™  – $28,995 

How much is a Master Spas® swim spa?

Alpine Spas™ sells six models of Master Spas® swim spas.

Its prices are listed below (in NZD):

  • MP Force® D – $57,995
  • MP Signature™ D – $62,995
  • MP Momentum™ D – $69,995
  • H2X® Challenger 15D – $43,995
  • H2X® Challenger 18D – $47,995
  • H2X® Challenger 19D – $54,995

Are Master Spas® worth it?

There’s a wide variety of pricing within the Master Spas® spa range, starting at $13,900 for a very basic model and going up to $28,995 for a higher-spec model. 

This puts them in the price range of premium spas such as Jacuzzi® Spas, HotSpring® Spas and Bullfrog® Spas.

If you want to know if Master Spas® are worth the money, you could compare them to a cheaper spa with similar features and specifications and see how they stack up.

For example, we compared the premium Master Spas® Santa Barbara™ hot tub with the mid-market  Nitro Avanté™ by Vortex Spas™ and found they had very similar quality features and specifications including water maintenance, filtration, acrylic shells, jet quality, pumps, size, seating arrangement and pumps. 

They did differ in three key areas.

Firstly, framing. Where the Santa Barbara™ uses treated timber framing, the Nitro Avanté™ frame is made from injection-moulded plastic, which in our opinion is the superior framing.  Learn more about framing types below.

Second, price. At $28,995 the Santa Barbara™ costs about 40 percent more than the Nitro Avanté™ which sells for $16,491.   

Finally, the Nitro™ can be fitted with a heat pump to reduce running costs whereas Master Spas® aren’t compatible with heat pumps. Learn more about this under ‘spa running costs’ below.

It does depend on what you’re looking for, but we think that is quite an extra investment for (on the face of it) a very similar product. 

Our advice? Shop around and compare features and brands as well as prices. You may find you can get an equivalent spa for much less cost than a Master Spas® spa. Or, you may want to buy a different brand at the same price but with higher quality features. 

Master Spas® Review – Running costs

The cost of running a spa pool is mostly to do with heating the spa’s water. 

To keep running costs down, you’ll want a spa with really good insulation that keeps as much of the heat in your spa as possible. The more effective the insulation, the lower the heating costs.

As far as we can tell, Master Spas® use ‘full foam’ insulation and low power filtration pumps in all their spas. 

Full foam is the most effective insulation on the market so any Master Spas® product you buy should have very low running costs – in line with some of the most energy-efficient spas like Jacuzzi®, HotSprings® and Vortex®.



Master Spas® has an ‘energy calculator’ on its website where you can estimate how much each spa might cost a month to run. 

Generic calculators like these are quite a common feature on spa websites.

We don’t recommend them as they aren’t a reliable indicator of the true running costs of a spa and can be misleading for customers. 

For example, a spa can cost as little as 30 to 40 cents per day to operate, or as much as four to five dollars per day – depending on a whole range of different variables. 

Things like what temperature you keep it at, the location of your spa, how windy it is, how often you use it, local climate conditions, and how you heat your spa – can all impact the running costs of your spa. 

For the best advice, talk to a trustworthy spa sales expert. Explain your situation and preferences and ask them to recommend a set-up that will meet your unique requirements. Learn more about spa pool running costs and how to keep costs down in this article.

There is one ‘truth’ when it comes to spa pool running costs and that is; the more you invest upfront, the less you will spend over time.  For example, luxury spas like Jacuzzi® or Hot Spring® will cost 20 to 30 percent less to run than a value spa such as a Lifestyle Spa™.

If you want to increase the energy efficiency of your spa you can opt for an insulation and/or heat pump upgrade. Heat pumps cost approximately $3,000 but drop the running costs by up to 75 percent. 

We note that Master Spas® do not offer a heat pump option. We asked Alpine Spas™ about this and they told us that the Master Spa® models they sell are not compatible with heat pumps.

This is typical of US-made spas and swim spas as the cost of power in the US is much lower than Australia and New Zealand. 

Master Spas® Review – Construction and Quality 

There are several parts of a spa to consider when it comes to assessing quality.

To keep it simple, we’re going to focus on the five Master Spas® spa models currently available in New Zealand through Alpine Spas™. 

We’ve compared them with mid-market spas that have similar specifications and features, namely those made by Vortex® Spas, Galaxy® Spas and Signature® Spas; and premium brands in the same price bracket, namely Jacuzzi® and HotSpring®. 

When comparing the build quality of Master Spas® with other spas – there are a number of things to consider. We've highlighted below what we think are the most important areas to focus on.

Shell construction

Spa shells come in a variety of materials, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Vinyl, rotomolded plastic and acrylic are the most common materials used.

Of these three, acrylic is by far the superior material.

The shells on the entry-level Master Spa® models Alpine Spas™ advertises–namely the Bar Harbor® and San Miguel® spas–are made of rotomolded plastic.

The shells for the three more expensive spa models are made of US-made Lucite® cast acrylic, the same as Master Spas® flagship range sold in the US.

Rotomolded spas are generally inexpensive, lightweight and portable, durable, and pretty convenient as you can just plug them in (no special electrical requirements). However; they are also very inefficient and can lose heat quickly. 

US-made acrylic, on the other hand, is durable, energy-efficient, and looks great. It retains heat really well when insulated with quality materials like high-density foam.

Spas with acrylic shells are more expensive than those with plastic or vinyl shells but because they’re better at holding in the heat the running costs will be lower.  

You’ll find that many of the top brands use acrylic shells in their spas including HotSpring®, Jacuzzi® and Vortex Spas®. 

Framing

The best options for spa framing are heavy-duty treated timber or injection-moulded plastic.

While heavy-duty treated timber is perfectly suitable for framing, we think injection-moulded plastic is the superior option – it is impervious to rot, mildew or vermin damage, won’t crack, and is designed to last indefinitely. 

Either way, stay away from untreated timber frames as they can rot and attract mould and vermin. 

Master Spas® uses a treated timber frame in all its spas. As mentioned above, treated timber is a good option for spa framing. It has none of the problems of untreated timber and can last the lifetime of your spa without any issues.  

Some of the best spas on the market use treated timber for their spa frames.

For example, Jacuzzi® uses timber in all its ranges, while HotSpring® uses timber frames in their Limelight® and Hotspot® range. 

Most spas in the same price bracket as Master Spas®, such as HotSpring® and Bullfrog®, have moved to injection-moulded plastic framing. Some mid-market spas like Vortex® and Signature Spas® also use injection-moulded plastic frames.

Pumps and equipment

Our research shows that Master Spas® use a combination of LX® jet pumps which are made in China, and Balboa® pumps which are made in Mexico. 

Their pumps are on par with the mid-market spas we’ve mentioned above. For example, Signature® uses Aqua-Flo® pumps, Vortex® uses SpaNet® SmartFlow™ pumps and Oasis® and Galaxy® use LX® pumps. In our experience, the quality of all of these pumps is similar. 

For its control systems, Master Spas® use Balboa® (also made in Mexico). Vortex® uses SpaNet and Signature®, Oasis® and Galaxy® use Gecko®. All are top notch and are of similar quality.

Jets and control valves 

Master Spas® jets and control valves are of good quality. However, in our experience, the jets and control valves used in the other brands we've listed are of no lesser quality.

Master Spas® Review – Jet set and hydrotherapy 

If massage, muscle relaxation and relief from aches and pains are a priority for you, then you’ll want to pay attention to the jet set and overall hydrotherapy experience of the spa. 

From what we can tell, the quality of Master Spas® hydrotherapy is good. 

Master Spas® uses its own proprietary Master Blaster® Hydrotherapy Jets in all its spas. 

In our view, when it comes to hydrotherapy, jet design and placement is more important than the number of jets. 

Some of the best hydrotherapy spas on the market including Jacuzzi®, HotSpring® and Bullfrog® actually have relatively low quantities of jets.

Alpine Spas™ range of Master Spas® have 17 to 49 jets depending on the model. Other Master Spas® models have many more – like the MS Legend Series (which Alpine Spas™ doesn’t sell) which has up to 72 jets. 

Along with quality and design, it’s also important to have a variety of jets with different strengths and massage types to suit your therapy needs on the day.  

Master Spas® have a range of jet types from massaging and rotating to directional, pinpoint and foot massagers. Hydro-massage seats and loungers are also an option in some models. 

Ultimately, hydrotherapy performance is quite subjective and you should ‘try before you buy’. 

Overall, you should expect premium brands such as Jacuzzi® and HotSpring® to provide a better quality of hydrotherapy than mid-market spas. 

After all, both companies are very large firms that have been operating for decades and in that time, they have certainly developed deep know-how in how to maximise the hydrotherapy benefits that their spas offer.

Master Spas® Review – Automatic water maintenance 

All spas require water maintenance to keep the spa’s water clean and clear.

As a spa owner, you’ll want to spend your time using and enjoying your spa – not maintaining it. That’s where an automatic sanitising system comes in. 

All Master Spas® have ozone automatic clarifying systems as a standard feature. 

The models Alpine  Spas™ advertises use one of two different systems. The two entry-level spas–San Miguel® and Bar Harbor®–use the EcoPur® Charge Water Purification system.

The three more expensive spa models feature the Mast3rPur™ Water Management System with UV-C, Ozone & Copper Zinc sanitisation. This is the same as the Michael Phelps Legend® and Twilight Series® swim spas.

Master Spas® states that the UV and ozone are designed to kill bacteria and pathogens while the copper zinc filtration system works to remove heavy metals such as zinc and mercury (read more on copper zinc below). 

It's worth noting that while it may be effective, this type of system is not a certified sanitiser in Australia.

Overall, the water maintenance systems on a Master Spas® seem good quality, although from what we can tell it is no better than other brands on the market such as Vortex® and Jacuzzi® which also feature ozone and UV automatic sanitisation technology. 

Learn more about Ozone and UV sanitising systems in this article.

Master Spas® Review – Filtration

Master Spas® use a proprietary EcoPur® filtering system which they claim is superior to other filters. 

It combines a pleated filter construction as is used by most manufacturers, with a zinc and copper oxide cartridge. 

Zinc and copper do have antibacterial properties but at the levels that would be achieved in this design, we very much doubt that they would be able to replace the need for additional sanitisers, or indeed, substantially lower the amount of sanitiser used.

It’s also worth noting that the copper and zinc cartridges cannot be sold as sanitisers in Australia because the antimicrobial claims are not certified. 

Are Master Spas® any good? 

There is no doubt that the three higher-priced Master Spas® that Alpine Spas™ advertises are, in some respects, better than the average mid-market spas we've mentioned.

They will certainly provide lower running costs than a mid-market spa – unless you invest in a heat pump, in which case running costs will be similar.

Master Spas® are good quality, although there is little difference between the Master Spas® quality and the quality of the mid-market spas.

We think most people would find the quality of hydrotherapy in a Master Spas® hot tub no better than a mid-market spa, but you should try them out yourself and decide if they are worth the extra investment.

Likewise, the water maintenance and filtration system in Master Spas® is good, but we don't think it’s worth spending so much more for this system.

We’re not convinced that Master Spas® match the performance and quality of premium spas such as Jacuzzi®, HotSpring® and Bullfrog® which compete in the same price category. 

All three of these brands use proprietary hydrotherapy systems which have been developed over decades, whereas Master Spas® seem to be using 'off the shelf' jets that are available to any spa manufacturer.

Their biggest claim to fame seems to be that they are made in the USA, however in our experience, ‘where’ a spa is made is far less important than ‘how’ a spa is made. Learn more about that in this article. 

In conclusion

We think Master Spas® is a good brand. However,  we also think that for what you get – they are quite expensive, especially compared with the less expensive mid-market spas we mention above.

By all means, keep a Master Spa® on your shopping list, but take a very close look at whether they can justify their premium price point. 

We hope this article has helped you in your decision making, and of course, we invite you to try out a Jacuzzi® or Vortex® swim spa in any of our showrooms as you seek to find the perfect spa or swim spa for you.    

For more information, visit the Spa World product pages where you see all of our spas, swim spas and prices.  Our Ultimate Spa Buyers Guide is also a fantastic resource for anyone interested in purchasing a spa or swim spa.

 

DISCLAIMER

The following registered trademarks are owned by companies not affiliated in any way with Spa World™ or Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd – the parent company of Spa World Ltd:

Alpine Spas™ trademark is owned by Alpine Spas Limited.

Bullfrog Spas® trademark is owned by Bullfrog International, LC.

HotSpring® Spas trademark is owned by Watkins Manufacturing Corporation (Watkins).

Master Spas® trademark is owned by Master Spas

Oasis Spas® trademark is owned by Oasis Leisure Products Pty Ltd.

Signature® Spas trademark is owned by Spa Industries Pty Ltd (SCS).

Galaxy® Spas trademark is owned by Retail Links Ltd.

Affiliations:

Vortex® Spas, Fisher™ Spas and Spa World® are trademarks owned by Vortex Leisure Pty Ltd.

The Jacuzzi® brand is owned by Jacuzzi Inc. and exclusively licensed for use to Spa World™ in Australia and New Zealand.