My wife has wanted a spa for years, but I never thought much about it. We happened to be in the shopping center with the Hot Springs dealer while they had a tent sale, so the wife dragged me in and we came back a few days later to wet test. It seemed like a good idea since we always enjoy the hot tub when on vacation, and we had not taken a vacation this year so we decided a tub may be a good treat for ourselves.
So what did we look at in our shopping:
I am a big guy (6'3" and 300#+) so we guickly decided the large size tubs were for us.
Hot Springs - Focused on the Vista, which my wife loved and wanted to buy. I felt the lounger seat was not deep enough for me. I thought their build quality, fit and finish was great. If their lounge was deep enough for me the shopping probably would have ended right then.
Master - Wet tested a LSX. The tub did not seem to have the "it" factor for us. The jets were clearly more powerful than the HS, but it just seemed to be brute force. Additionally they have the down spray neck jets, which generally are not comfortable for a guy my size no matter what brand.
Sundance - Tested Cameo. I liked it and felt the lounge to be comfortable, but the wife floated right out. She hated the air bubbler feeling it just dragged cold air into the spa. The floor model at my local dealer had the diverter valve hooked up "wrong" (backwards ?) which was done that way as an experiment I was told by the sales guy. It was confusing and actually this experience was the main reason I sought out artesian, due to the direct flow.
Beachcomber - no wet test - Looked at them and I liked them allot, but it was basically to plain jane for the wife. went to two different dealers and one seemd sleezy, while the other was ernest, but not knowledgable.
Cal Spa - No wet test - Same deler as the sleezy seeming beachcomber guy. Seemed like all flash with no build quality.
Artesian - Well we bought the Dove Canyon so I guess it is obvious we liked it best. I must admit the product was an underdog due to the lack of a local dealer and the difficulty of wet testing the product.
I sought out the Brand after reading good things on this board about them and I liked the idea of direct flow. On all spa's I wet tested we had a diffiicult time keeping the jets and power on the seat I was in since I kept moving and forgetting to move the diverter. On some models how to set the valves was confusing so I was enamoured with the idea of direct flow.
Well when we finally got to try it we both found it comfortable, and the build quality seemed to be very good. The jets were very strong and with individual controls we could dial in a mixture as desired.
We ordered a Dove Canyon with the Stereo, fiber opptic lighting, Covermate III lifter and of coarse a cover. It took longer than expected to get the spa, and it came with the wrong color cover so the delivery team took it back. We had a initial hassel getting the cover since it was thanksgiving week and they did not bend over backward to get it to me.
We have had the spa for about 6 weeks now and I would say I am very happy with the Dove Canyon. One of the best features is clearly the individual controls at each seat, allowing me to move to seat and then set up the flow the way I want. Another favorite feature is the power of the jets, which is clearly superior to what we found in the Hot spring. Water mainenance has been a breeze with Nature 2 and dichlor.
Overall we love the spa and are very happy with it, there are a few small annoyances such as the lack of a manual for the stereo. It is a basic kenwood unit, but I would like to know if it could deal with MP3 folders or such. Additionally there is no manual for the lights, and as far as I can tell they have a large number of modes and I can never get the same one again, but it is still kind of nice having a different light pattern all the time.
By far my biggest anoyance was when I looked at the one page warrenty card for the ozone device and decided to look the unit up on the internet. It turns out that it is a disposible del ozone UV unit. According to the Del Ozone site this is a unit with a 1 year life expectancy that the bulb can not be replaced on. The Del Ozone site makes it clear that this is a legacy unit and not as good as their newer CD technology, but they continue to sell it due to demand from manufacturers who do not wish to change. I was a little shocked about this since I asked about the Ozone and was told that it was CD, but the problem is I did not ask the dealer I bought from*. I called the factory and they told me that the CD unit is an option only available with a mixing chamber. Apparently I would need to order this option, but there is no data on the web site or in any of the litature that indicates there is an optional ozone unit. I told the customer support guy that I thought it was inexcusable they would use a disposable UV unit on their top of the line $10K tub. He told me that since it only runs for 6 hours a day that the life expectancey was more like 4 years. I thought this made it worse since the Del Ozone site made it clear that they would like to discontinue this unit, so what will I do to get one in 2008 when I need it. The best result I got from Artesian was that they would pass along my feedback to marketing , and an expression of suprise that I could not find out about the option. It is funny this would have been a great review were it not for the choice to cheap out on the ozone device, but look at how much space I spent venting about this dissapointment. All they had to do was mention the choice in the literature or on the web site and I would have known.
I am a little worried about the need to remove the cover lifter if I ever have to remove the side pannels for access. Maybe I never will need to access the panel, but I would have preferred to see a design that accomodated a cover lifter.
So over all I am very happy with the tub. I am suprised to have never recieved a follow up call from my dealer asking how it was going, but then again this is the dealer that never mentioned the ozone option so maybe I am expecting too much.
Advice to other shoppers: Try the tubs, one of them will stike you as "it". A wet test is very different than a dry test. If you think you may want a sound system, I would definatly get the built in unit. I know some people poh pa them as overpriced and only moderate sound quality. I am building a room around the spa, I could have put in any kind of sound system I wanted. The convienence of a stereo remote in the tub is big (even if I have no idea how to use it due to lack of a manual). I have not closed in the room yet, it is still just a deck and roof. So I have some observances for those in cold climates. I have seen pictures of paths through the snow to get to the tub and such. I do not thik we could do it in the cold. Currently my tub is 10' under roof from a french door into the master bedroom, and my wife still will not venture out if it is to cold. Also if you are over 6'2" you may want to be aware of how much of you sticks out of the water in a given seat. If there is any wind, the warm steam from the tub will blow right away yeilding to cold. Just got a towel warmer so I look forward to using that.
* for anyone who wonders why I got the Ozone CD question answered at a different dealer than I bought from I will answer here as I know allot of people believe in being loyal to your dealer. I live in south NJ, the Philadelphia Metropolitan area and the dealer listed on the web site of Artesian no longer carried the brand. When I called Artesian to find a dealer I found I was about 1.3 hrs from a NJ dealer or 2.3 hrs from a PA dealer. I visited a NJ dealer and tried a piper glen, but they had no option to try the Dove canyon other than "visit some other dealer". I called the PA dealer and was told they had a dry Dove Canyon on the floor, I asked about wetting it and was told they would have it ready for me on Sat. Called fri and it was not wet yet, but he would try to do it, worst case he would fill it via transfer of water if I was serious. I got there and it was dry. I was serious about buying and we discussed many aspects of the tub including ozone. When it came time to discuss the wet test he informed me that he could not wet it since his electrician was off. I just took whole day and drove 2+ hours and I was pissed that his answer was "why don't you come back tommorow", so that took him off the list. I was fully prepared to buy as PA would be tax advantageous. I ended up wet testing one while on a business trip a few weeks later.