Reviews Bath Fixtures & Fittings

The American Standard Spectra Plus Duo Shower Head: A 2-in-1 With 4 Settings

This shower head marries luxury, functionality, and versatility. Discover how it performed in our hands-on testing.
Chrome American Standard Duo Spectra Shower head on cream stone countertop

Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

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With its ability to deliver a soothing mist, a luxurious rainfall, a massaging stream, or a powerful rinse, the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo shower head uses a unique design to create one of the most attractive and versatile shower heads on the market today. Since this two-in-one shower head can be used in either a fixed or handheld configuration, it can meet the preferences of all users.

I tested the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo along with nine other shower heads as part of a larger test of the best shower heads to determine how each model performed in the categories of ease of installation, coverage, water pressure, versatility, and durability. Once the steamy air cleared, I found that the Spectra Plus Duo is one of the best all-around combination shower heads available.

American Standard Spectra Plus Duo Shower Head: At a Glance

Rating: 9/10

Chrome American Standard Spectra Plus Duo Shower Head mounted on square taupe tile wall
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

SPECS

  • Type: Combination
  • Spray patterns: 4 (Drench, Sensitive, Massage, PowerWash)
  • Size: 10.56 inches long by 9.5 inches wide

PROS

  • Integrated design combines a handheld and fixed shower head to deliver shoulder-to-shoulder coverage
  • Magnetic mount makes it easy to detach and reattach the handheld unit from the fixed shower head
  • Toggle button system and paddle-style diverter simplify changing the spray pattern and switching from using both shower heads to only the handheld unit
  • Available in 6 different finishes to suit the decor of a variety of bathrooms

CONS

  • Tight wall clearance limits its range of adjustment unless installed with an extension arm
  • Futuristic-looking design may not mesh well with some types of bathroom decor
  • One of the pricier combination shower heads on the market

Get the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo (price may vary based on finish):

What is the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo shower head?

The American Standard Spectra Plus Duo shower head is a combination model with a novel design. A detachable 9.5-inch handheld unit attaches via a magnet to the middle of a conventional fixed shower head. The fixed shower head then mounts to the shower spigot.

An AquaToggle button system on the handheld unit allows the user to cycle through each of the four spray patterns, while a paddle-style diverter on the fixed shower head alternates the spray between both shower heads and the handheld unit only.

Spray patterns include a drenching spray that provides maximum coverage, a mist spray that is gentle on sensitive skin, a pulsating massage stream to soothe sore muscles, and a power wash for effective all-over cleaning.

The Spectra Plus Duo shower head is available in six finishes to match a variety of bathroom decor: brushed cool sunrise, brushed nickel, polished nickel, polished chrome, legacy bronze, and matte black.

Installing the Spectra Plus Duo 

As with all combination models, the hoses that connect the two pieces make installing the Spectra Plus Duo shower head a bit more involved than for a conventional fixed model. That said, I found the installation to be easy, and it took me less than 10 minutes to complete. The process involved threading the main shower head onto the spigot, followed by the hose and handheld unit, all of which I completed by hand.

The only tools required are plumber’s tape, which is included in the kit, and—depending on the spigot—a crescent wrench to tighten the main head a quarter turn or so.

Versatile Performance

Most combination shower heads function with the main shower head and the handheld unit as two separate fixtures. However, the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo fuses the two by positioning the handheld unit between the jets of the main shower head, creating one large fixture.

While this design may look a bit unusual, it makes the shower head very versatile. With both the main shower head and the handheld unit turned on, the Spectra Plus Duo delivered a broad spray pattern that easily covered me from shoulder to shoulder. When I switched the diverter to the handheld-only function while the handheld is still mounted, it emitted a narrower high-pressure spray that I found effective for rinsing shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. Since the diverter is a paddle-style lever conveniently located at the bottom of the main shower head, it was simple to switch between the broad stream and the narrower stream.

The magnet mounting design was another plus. I’ve tested many combination and handheld shower heads that use plastic mounting brackets, which can make it challenging to remove and remount the handheld unit—especially while it’s blasting out water. With the magnet mount, I only needed to get the handheld unit close enough to the cradle for the magnet to grab it, which is something I could accomplish with my eyes closed if needed.

The mounting design also positions the handheld unit’s handle lower, so it was easier to reach than those of other combination and handheld models I tested. This is a feature my wife appreciated, too, since she is just 5 feet 2 inches tall.

My one complaint has to do with the Spectra Plus Duo’s range of adjustment for the direction of the water stream. Since the shower head sits so close to the shower wall, there isn’t enough clearance to make more than small adjustments to the direction of the water stream, which is on the high side. While this wasn’t an issue for me at 5 feet 11 inches tall, it was for my wife, who wished she could lower the stream. Many Spectra Plus Duo customers have solved this issue with the addition of an extension arm, although it requires an additional purchase.

Chrome American Standard Spectra Plus Duo Shower Head mounted on taupe tile wall
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

Quality of the Spectra Plus Duo

The Spectra Plus Duo, like most shower heads, is constructed primarily of plastic. However, of the shower heads I tested, this plastic is on the more durable end. In fact, the handheld unit survived several unintentional drops on the tile shower floor unscathed during my testing process.

Like other shower heads I tested, the Spectra Plus Duo features silicone nozzles that resist buildup from hard water deposits and can be cleaned by simply running your fingers over them, making this shower head essentially maintenance-free.

I didn’t like that the connections between the hose and the handheld unit and the main shower head are all plastic. While I didn’t experience any leaks during testing, nor did I find reports of leaks in customer reviews, I wondered how long those connections would last.

Is the Spectra Plus Duo shower head worth the money?

The American Standard Spectra Plus Duo shower head is one of the pricier models, ranging between $90 and $165 depending on the retailer and the chosen finish. That’s a steep price tag, especially considering that it is made mostly of plastic.

That said, this is a well-designed shower head. It provides better coverage than most combination models, and all of its spray patterns are effective. The Spectra Plus Duo also offers several user-friendly features. Switching between the combination shower head and handheld unit and cycling through four spray patterns is easy thanks to the paddle-style diverter and the AquaToggle button system. In addition, the magnetic mount makes attaching and reattaching the handheld unit a simple process.

One item to note is that the large size of the shower head limits its clearance from the shower wall and restricts how far you can direct it. It’s possible to install an extension arm, if desired, although this adds to the shower head’s overall price.

However, given the versatility and performance of the Spectra Plus Duo shower head, it’s worth the higher price tag for shoppers willing to pay a bit more for these luxuries. For those who aren’t, there are other quality combination shower heads on the market that are more affordable.

Should you buy the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo shower head?

Whether the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo is the right shower head for you is largely a question of personal preference. For those who like a variety of spray patterns, this shower head delivers. Its four patterns offer a versatile shower experience, whether you prefer shoulder-to-shoulder coverage or want to massage sore muscles, power rinse your hair, or soothe your skin and nerves with a gentle mist spray. The handheld unit is especially useful for bathing children or pets and for cleaning the shower.

The Spectra Plus Duo also provides user-friendly features that you won’t find on all combination shower heads, including a magnetic mount, a paddle-style diverter, and a toggle button system to easily change spray patterns. Plus, this shower head is available in a variety of finishes, making it easier to match with existing bathroom decor than models that are only available in one or two colors.

However, there are reasons to consider an alternative to the Spectra Plus Duo, especially given its high price tag. Shoppers who only want or need one or two spray patterns for their bathing needs may find the number of options unnecessary. And while the Spectra Plus Duo comes in a variety of finishes, its bulky size and modern look may not be suitable for all bathrooms.

Where to Buy the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo Shower Head

Get the American Standard Spectra Plus Duo (price may vary based on finish):

Meet the Tester

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Popular Mechanics, Futurism, Field & Stream, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Pro Tool Reviews, and more. Carrick has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.