Master Spas® swim spa review (Prices, pros, cons and more…)


There are a whole range of swim spas on the market in New Zealand – varying in size, quality, design and price. 

In this in-depth review, we take a look at one of the newest brands in New Zealand, Master Spas®, to help you decide if this brand is for you.

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

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-molded hot tubs; self-contained acrylic spas; and self-contained swim spas. 

According to its website, Master Spas® 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. 

While they claim to be “a true pioneer” in the hot tub industry, Master Spas® haven’t been around nearly as long as Jacuzzi® Spas (the inventors of the modern spaor HotSpring® Spas who were established in the 1950s and 1970s respectively and can be credited with some pretty revolutionary innovations.

Master Spas® has come up with some interesting technologies like waterline fibre-optic lighting and 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.

Who owns Master Spas®?

We were unable to verify exactly who owns Master Spas®. But 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®.

What swim spa brands does MasterSpas® make?

Master Spas® manufactures several models of swim spa 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.

The Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® range uses Wave XP Propulsion® technology – a proprietary propeller-based swim system. 

The H2X® range are conventional ‘jetted’ swim spas, similar to what’s used in many mid-market swim spas. Learn more about swim spa ‘swim systems’ below.

Who sells Master Spas® swim spas in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, Master Spas® is available through Alpine Spas™.

Alpine Spas™ is a New Zealand-owned spa retailer that sells a variety of spas and related products; including entry to mid-level spas, swim spas, saunas and gazebos. 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.

For this review, we’ve focused on the six Master Spas® swim spa models currently available in New Zealand through Alpine Spas™. 

We’ve compared the features, specifications, performance and quality of Master Spas® with a range of other swim spas on the market including those made by Vortex®Spas, Galaxy® Spas and Signature® Spas.

How much is a Michael Phelps swim spa?

Alpine Spas™ has three models of Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® advertised on its website.

Its prices are listed below (in NZD):

  • MP Force® D – $57,995
  • MP Signature™ D – $62,995
  • MP Momentum™ D – $69,995


How much is an H2X® Fitness swim spa?

Alpine Spas™ has three models of H2X® Fitness swim spas advertised on its website.

Its prices are listed below (in NZD): 

  • H2X® Challenger 15D – $43,995
  • H2X® Challenger 18D – $47,995
  • H2X® Challenger 19D – $54,995


MasterSpas® vs other swim spas – Pricing

As you can see from the prices listed above, there is a wide range of pricing within the Master Spas® swim spa line. 

Prices start at $43,995NZD for the 4.5 metre H2X® Challenge 15D model and go up to $69,995NZD for the dual zone MP Momentum D swim spa. 

This puts them in the price range of premium swim spas such as the Jacuzzi® Power Pro™ and Endless® Pools. 

We’re not convinced that Master Spas® swim spas match the performance and quality of these high-end brands. 

Looking at their features and specifications we think they are more similar to mid-market swim spa brands such as Vortex® Spas, Galaxy® Spas and Signature® Spas.

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

For example, we compared Master Spas® MP Momentum™ D swim spa with the mid-market Aqualap™ by Vortex® Spas. 

We found that while these two units had similar features and specifications, the MP model (at $69,995) cost about $30,000 more than the Aqualap™. 

As mentioned above, the MP Momentum D™ features a proprietary propeller-based swim system. The Aqualap™ uses a jetted swim system, which is ideal for general fitness and family fun. 

Propulsion is one of the best options for professional swim training, so in this respect it is better than the Aqualap™. However, the hydrotherapy performance of the two units is similar, as is the construction and quality. Learn more about swim system pros and cons below.

If you’re buying your swim spa primarily for swim training (as opposed to all the other benefits that a swim spa offers) then you should definitely consider the Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa® series.

We’d also recommend looking at Endless® Pools and Jacuzzi® PowerPro™ swim spas, which also have excellent swim systems.

If you’re after a swim spa for general fitness, relaxation and family recreation then we think it would be hard to justify the extra cost of a Master Spas® swim spa. 

It does depend on what you’re looking for, but if you aren’t into serious swimming then you’d have to ask yourself if it's worth spending $30,000 more for a propulsion system when a Vortex® or other similar mid-market swim spa would meet your needs just as well, for a lot less money. 

For example, the Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa® range is $14000 more than the equivalent H2X® Fitness model, and up to $25,000 more than other brands of jetted swim spas on the market. 

Instead, we’d recommend looking at the mid-market ranges from Vortex® Spas, Signature Spas®, Galaxy or even Alpine Spas™ home brand swim spas.

In summary, our advice is to 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.

This article goes into more detail about swim spas costs and why there is such a difference in pricing. in this detailed article. 

Master Spas® vs other swim spas – Running Costs

Most of the cost of running a swim spa is to do with heating the spa’s water. 

To keep running costs down, you’ll want a swim spa with really good insulation that keeps as much of the heat in the unit as possible. The more effective the insulation, the lower the heating cost. Learn more about swim spa insulation and how to keep costs down in this article.  

There is little doubt that Master Spas® premium swim spas should have very low running costs, as all of their spas feature ‘full foam’ insulation and a low power filtration pump. 

In our experience, taking an average climate such as Auckland, you may expect to spend $50 to $70 less per month, or $600 to $800 less a year on the running cost of a Master Spas® swim spa compared with the running cost of a mid-market spa. 

This is just an estimate based on many years of customer feedback. There are many factors that could influence these costs such as climate, usage and the temperature the spa is set at. Check out this article on spa and swim spa running costs and learn how to keep your power bills at a minimum.

If you want to achieve similarly low running costs with a less expensive swim spa, you could opt for an insulation upgrade and/or fit a heat pump. 

Heat pumps cost approximately $3000 but would bring the running cost of a mid-market swim spa down to that of a Master Spas® swim spa model or even less. 

Even in premium models with lower running costs, a heat pump would be a good long-term investment — bringing running costs down even further.

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 Spas® models they sell are not compatible with heat pumps.

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

Because US-made swim spas have only recently been made available in Australia and New Zealand, it’s too early to tell whether this will be an issue. 

However, our 30+ years’ experience in the industry tells us that a swim spa without a heat pump (even if it has full foam insulation) is likely to have higher running costs than an equivalent mid-market swim spa fitted with a heat pump.

Master Spas® vs other swim spas – Construction and Quality

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

We've highlighted below what we think are the most important areas to focus on.

Shell Construction

At the heart of any quality swim spa is a quality shell. After all, while pumps and other equipment can be replaced – the spa’s shell cannot.

Master Spas® swim spa shells are made of fibreglass backed, US-made Lucite® cast acrylic.

Many of the top brands also use US-made acrylic shells in their swim spas including HotSpring® Spas, Jacuzzi® Spas and Vortex Spas®. 

High-quality, US-made acrylic is by far the superior material for spa and swim spa shells. It’s durable, energy-efficient, and looks great. It also retains heat really well when insulated with quality materials like high-density foam. 

While all brands claim their system of acrylic shell construction is the best. In our experience, they are all very similar and indeed, all the brands we’ve mentioned offer similar shell warranties which means that the manufacturers probably agree!

The most important factor in our opinion is where the acrylic is made. No one outside of the US makes decent quality acrylic sheet used to make spa and swim spa shells. If it doesn’t state US-made, it isn’t. 

Frame Construction

We couldn’t find any information on the framing used for Master Spas® swim spas on either Master Spas® or Alpine Spas™ websites. 

We checked with Alpine Spas™ and they told us Master Spas® use galvanised steel for their swim spa frames.

In our opinion, heavy-gauge galvanised steel is the best framing for swim spas. Vortex®, Signature® and Galaxy® spas also use galvanised steel in their swim spas.

Given the importance of a sturdy swim spa frame, we recommend asking the salesperson to show you the framing so you can compare it with the other options you’re considering and judge for yourself how robust it is.

Remember, it has to support the shell with up to 7 tonnes of water in it. 

Also, don’t be fooled by ‘stainless steel’ frames. It is usually very low-quality stainless steel and we have seen many rusted steel 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® and 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 listed are of no lesser quality.

Master Spas® vs other swim spas – Swim System

As mentioned earlier in this article, Master Spas® swim spas feature two different types of swim systems. 

The H2X® Fitness range uses a conventional ‘jetted’ swim system which, like most other swim spas on the market, uses large jets to create a flow of water in which you swim in. 

The Michael Phelps Signature Spas® range, on the other hand, features Wave XP Propulsion® technology – a propeller-based propulsion system. 

Propeller systems are considered better than mid-range ‘jetted’ systems because they offer a smoother plane of water with less turbulence.

Whilst it's possible to swim within the stream created by jetted swim systems, it is less enjoyable than swimming in the wider, smoother stream created by propulsion-powered systems. One exception to this would be the Jacuzzi® PowerPro® jetted system which offers a very smooth swim. 

A downside with all propeller-based systems is they have drives and bearings which require much more costly maintenance over jetted options.

As an example, a replacement bearing for the Wave XP Propulsion® system was selling for $846USD at the time of writing.

Before you buy, you’ll want to be sure you’re not buying more swim spa than you need. As mentioned above, if it’s family fun, general fitness and relaxation you're after then a jetted system will more than meet your needs and at a lot less cost. 

One other point to note with the Master Spas® swim spas is the size of the swim zone. It does appear to be smaller than many on the market. 

If this is a concern, or you are large in stature, we strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. While doing so, check out equivalent options in the Jacuzzi® and HotSpring® ranges.

Master Spas® vs other swim spas — Hydrotherapy

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

The quality of Master Spas® hydrotherapy is good from what we can tell. They have a range of jet types and placement, and different seating configurations including chairs, loungers and coves.

The H2X® Fitness series have 39 to 44 Master Blaster® Hydrotherapy Jets (depending on the model). They also offer three to four hydro-massage seats and a hydrotherapy ‘cove’. 

The Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® range has 39 hydrotherapy jets in the two cheaper models, and 47 in the MP Momentum D range. For the seating, there up to 3 massage seats and one ‘Xtreme Therapy™ seat. 

This is similar to the hydrotherapy set up of other swim spas we’ve mentioned. 

For example, the Vortex® Aqualap™ has up to 77 hydrotherapy jets of various types and sizes, along with three massage seats, a fully-jetted hydrotherapy lounger and two standing back massage zones.  

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

If hydrotherapy is a priority then we think premium swim spa brands such as Jacuzzi® and Hot Spring® are also worth looking into.

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.

Moreover, they use proprietary jet systems rather than the ‘off the shelf’ systems used by Master Spas®.

Master Spas® vs other swim spas — Automatic Water Maintenance

All Master Spas® swim spas feature ozone automatic clarifying systems as standard, along with the ‘Mast3rPur’ UV sanitising system as an option. We recommend selecting the UV option if you are purchasing a Master Spas® swim spa. 

UV and Ozone systems are well worth the price of upgrading. They save you time and money by reducing chemical use in spas and swim spas. Read this article to learn more about UV and ozone systems. 

The other swim spa brands mentioned–Vortex®, Galaxy® Spas and Signature® Spas–also feature a combination of ozone and UV automatic sanitisation. 

From what we can tell, we think the water maintenance systems are pretty similar and all should provide excellent, low maintenance water care. You can be confident that the end result for all these systems should be clean, clear and safe water. 

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

Master Spas® vs other swim spas — Filtration

Master Spas® use a proprietary ‘EcoPur’ filter type 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. 

Master Spas® swim spas – Pros and Cons 

Pros

  • Full-foam insulation
  • Soft tread matting on the base
  • Lower running costs than mid-market spas
  • Automatic UV/Ozone sanitisation system (optional extra)
  • High quality US-made acrylic shell
  • Wave XP Propulsion® swim system – swim experience

Cons

  • Expensive for what you get
  • Smaller swim zones compared with other swim spas available
  • Untested in New Zealand market as very new here
  • Not compatible with heat pumps (which can save up to 75% on heating costs)
  • Wave XP Propulsion® swim system – maintenance costs

Are Master Spas® swim spas worth it?

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

However, we're not convinced Master Spas® match the performance and quality of premium swim spas such as Jacuzzi®, HotSpring® and Bullfrog® which compete in the same price category. 

The swim system in the Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas® range is certainly a premium system. If swimming is all you're interested in then this could be a great option for you.

However, if serious swim training isn't your thing then maybe reconsider. After all, at around $25,000 more than a comparable mid-market spa with a jetted swim system – that’s a lot extra for something you might not need. 

Master Spas® will certainly provide lower running costs than a mid-market swim spa – unless you invest in a heat pump, in which case running costs will be similar (or lower given that Master Spas® do not currently offer heat pumps as an option).

Most would find the hydrotherapy experience  in a Master Spas® swim spa is good, but no better than a mid-market spa. But you should try it for yourself to judge whether it is worth the extra investment.

Likewise, the water maintenance and filtration system in the Master Spas® is good, but you would have to make your own judgement on whether saving a few minutes a week is worth spending so much more. 

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 summary, Master Spas® are good quality but, from what we can tell, there is little difference between the Master Spas® quality and that of the mid-market swim spas we've mentioned.

Certainly put Master Spas® on your shopping list, but take a very close look at whether they can justify their premium price point.

In conclusion

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).

Galaxy® Spas trademark is owned by Retail Links Ltd.

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

Master Spas® trademark is owned by Master Spas®

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