We decided to get a spa about two years ago. We were living in a house that had a pool, but no spa, and the swimming season is only about 4 months long, even here in Phoenix, as I really, really don't care for cold water. Plus, I can swim, but I'm not what you'd call real enthusiastic about it. We're also getting older to the point where we have the old timers' aches and pains once in a while, so a spa sounded like the perfect compromise. We had also decide that we wanted a spa that would be large enough to accomodate us and some friends. So, when we moved to this house, we got a spa.
That said, I'd been doing research on spas for most of that two years. This board, the Other Board That Cannot Be Named, and store visits were probably the most informative. I did hear some interesting variations on the traditional laws of physics from several spa salesmen in the process.
Two brands of spas are made here locally. Of the two, Diamondback (formerly "Arizona Pacific Spas" until the Diamondbacks won the World Series) does by far the most business. In the process of hanging around their showrooms for a couple years and talking to them at home shows and the like, I met the sales manager, the production manager, and the service plus delivery manager. One of the things that encouraged me was that all these folks are pretty lifelike; they do all their own service, delivery and setup as well. They've been making spas for something like 17 years and have managed to maintain a clean record with the Better Business Bureau, too.
We got the Monsoon which sets seven, but does not have a lounge; I'd read that most people buy their first spa with a lounge, and their second spa without a lounge - we just decided to short-cut that process.
We got the 46-jet mid line unit; you can basically order this spa any way you like it, with anywhere from 35 to 100 jets custom placed, moved, added or subtracted. These folks will even custom build you a spa for a slanted foundation (for instance, if you're placing it on an existing slab that's sloped for drainage)!
They have a "special sale" just about every major holiday, which gives you a credit of 10% of the cost of the spa toward accessories. This spa came standard with stainless jets, ozonator, waterfall, neck jets in two seats, synthetic skirt material, two real 56 frame pumps, an air blower, a cover, and dual control panels (on a top of the line Balboa box). They also threw in a spare set of neck cushions and an extra filter cover! They never said a word about it up front - just delivered them with the spa! We added a couple more neck jets, an entry rail, a cover lifter, and a storage step to use up our credit. I've since added a color-glo led light, and I'm about to add a tray table, both of which we got cheaper off EvilBay.
Even with all the customization, we took delivery in 3 weeks after placing the order. Unfortunately, this was before we got the pad and the electric done, so they just set it empty on the back patio, and came back later at no extra charge to move it to its final location, and do the final connections, fill, and startup.
What I don't like about the spa:
The frame is basically 2x2s and not of treated wood. My gut feeling is that I'd like to have gone heavier, with treated wood. On the other hand, the frame is guaranteed for like 5 years, so I've managed to convince myself that it's gonna be fine.
Some of the seats could also use a couple more jets. But I guess if we weren't so cheap, we could have ordered more jets, huh?
The side panels come off easily enough, but you really need either two people or some kind of auxiliary support (I use left-over pavers) to get them back on.
What I really do like about this spa:
Power. There are absolutely no diverter valves on this spa, except for the ability to turn off the neck jets on those two seats. When the pumps are on high, this puppy will blow you right out of every seat at the same time.
Plumbing design. These guys actually seem to know a little bit about fluid dynamics, and so the pump discharge aims right out at the jets. No right angle turns, just smooth curved pipe heading toward your back.
A solid feel. The shell feels like it's an inch and a half thick.
Quiet. All you hear is a little pump hum and water whooshing by.
Quality controls. Balboa, and the top of their line, at that.
I honestly wouldn't say that we would change anything. I'm planning, at some point in the future, to add a thermostatically controlled power vent system to capture the motor heat for a towel-warmer, but that's not something I would have asked them to do anyway. They'd probably give you a look like a cow lookin' at a new gate and tell you it would be a zillion dollars more. So, I'll do it and it'll be cool. BTW, I call it "DOOT" - Dynamic Overheat Optimization Technology
So far, in about 6 weeks, we've had absolutely zero problems with this unit. (insert sound of Don knocking on wood)
So far, so good!