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Shark APEX DuoClean Vacuum Review

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Avg. consumer rating = 90/100 

Shark refers to the APEX series as their “most advanced upright vacuums”.  These are full size vacuums with DuoClean Technology (2 brushrolls), HEPA filtration, an anti-allergen complete seal system, noise reduction technology, a lift-away canister, and Active-Glide Technology.  There are several APEX models and in this review we discuss the AX952.  Owners are mostly very pleased with this powerful, all-around, bagless upright vacuum.  This is a versatile machine and it can clean bare floors and carpet, it can do overhead cleaning, and also portable vacuuming (using the lift-away feature).  The full size APEX vacuums are not particularly lightweight however.

Quick Specs
Type Upright
Bagged/Bagless Bagless
Best for... Hard Floors & Carpet
Pet Hair Features Yes
Approx. Weight 16 lbs
HEPA Level Filtration Yes
Power Cord Length 30 ft
Motor Driven Brushbar Yes
Warranty 7 Years

 

Shark AX952

Different APEX Models

There are 4 different models of APEX DuoClean Powered-Lift-Away Uprights.  3 are full size and 1 is compact.  The 3 full size models include: AX950, AX951, AX952.  These are all pretty much the same vacuum, however they have different tool sets: 

AX950
- Anti-Allergen Dust Brush
- Pet Multi-Tool
- Duster Crevice

AX951
- Anti-Allergen Dust Brush
- Pet Multi-Tool
- Duster Crevice
- MultiFLEX Under-Appliance Wand
- Accessory Bag

AX952
- On-Board Deep Cleaning Motorized Pet Tool
- Anti-Allergen Dust Brush
- Pet Multi-Tool
- Duster Crevice
- Accessory Bag

The compact model is known as the APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away Speed Vacuum.  It is model AX912 and it weighs about 1.5 lbs less than the full size versions.  Tools are as follows:

AX912
- MultiFLEX Under-Appliance Wand
- Anti-Allergen Dust Brush
- Pet Multi-Tool
- Duster Crevice 

APEX Consumer Ratings

We have collected and analyzed APEX owner ratings in order to determine a vacuum score.  All vacuums on our site are scored based on owner ratings (you can read more about our scoring formula in our list of best rated vacuums if you like).  We also remove, where possible, ratings from folks who received free samples.  You can see owner ratings for APEX vacuums in the table below.  When averaged these result in a score of 90 out of 100  (4.5 stars out of 5).  This is a good score.  You can compare it to scores of other uprights in our upright vacuum ratings table or you can view all vacuum ratings on our vacuum finder page

Source Consumer Rating #Ratings
Amazon 4.3 stars out of 5 21
Bed Bath & Beyond 4.5 stars out of 5 33
Kohl's 4.6 stars out of 5 16
Best Buy 4.7 stars out of 5 15
Wayfair 5 stars out of 5 1
QVC 5 stars out of 5 1

 

What Are Owners Saying?

A thorough review of owner comments alongside our own AX952 observations resulted in the following pros and cons:

PROS
- Very capable on both bare floors & carpet
- Good at removing/pulling-up pet hair
- Cleaner head turns and maneuvers well
- Not too noisy – has a low pitch
- Powerful suction
- Front roller really cleans/polishes bare floors
- Washable HEPA filter
- Sealed system
- LED headlights
- Motorized Pet Tool works well
- Very versatile vacuum

CONS
- A bit on the heavy side
- Some owners feel it is bulky
- Lift away feature makes it a little top heavy
- Can bunch up or get stuck to some area rugs
- Brushrolls may struggle on deep shag carpet
- Hose feels short

Most owners are very pleased with their new Shark Apex vacuum.  Most also gush about the power and versatility of the machine.  But some folks struggle with the unit’s size and weight.  This is not a particularly lightweight vacuum and it is actually slightly heavier than the Shark NV752 (another very popular full size upright).  

Another issue brought up by some owners is a tendency for the vacuum to feel “self propelled”.  While the spinning brushrolls make the vacuum easy to move forward (as they claw the machine forward), they conversely make it tough to pull back.  This puts some strain on your arm.  We also noticed this.

DuoClean Technology
 
Also, quite a few people have brought up that the vacuum sometimes sticks to area rugs.  The vacuum bunches up these kinds of rugs and makes cleaning them awkward. In our experience this could happen due to the spinning brushrolls but others indicate it occurs due to strong vacuum suction.

On the other hand, the powerful suction and multiple brushrolls make short work of dust and debris on both carpet and bare floors.  They also help the unit pull up pet hair.  Many folks highlight the vacuum’s strong suction and cleaning abilities (especially the ability to engage bare floors and pull up stuck-on dust).  Also, despite being large and a bit heavy, the vacuum moves well and the swivel steering allows one to turn very tight corners.

Many people have highlighted the “noise reduction” technology.  Owners report that the vacuum is fairly quiet and that there is no high pitched whine which you often get with other machines.  Shark has made an effort to reduce noise and this is clearly appreciated by owners.

Finally, folks frequently comment that the APEX can tackle almost any cleaning job.
- Provides typical upright vacuum cleaning capabilities
- Comes with a motorized pet tool which is great for stairs and upholstery
- The lift away feature allows you to treat it like a handheld and is useful for getting into awkward areas
- With hose, wand and tools it can do overhead cleaning

Shark AX952 hose wand tools

You can read more Shark APEX reviews on Amazon if you like.


Aside: Are Shark Vacuums A Good Buy?

According to a recent report from the market research firm Mintel, Shark has surpassed Dyson as the top brand in the United States.  Also, in 2017 Consumer Reports magazine (a non-profit organization dedicated to unbiased product testing) reported that they have over 24 recommended Shark vacuum cleaner models in their ratings.  Consumer Reports also highlighted that in terms of upright vacuum satisfaction Shark scored only second to Miele, and in terms of stick vacuum satisfaction they scored higher than both Dyson and Hoover. 

On Vacuum Cleaner Advisor we recently analyzed over 160,000 consumer ratings to determine which vacuum brand was providing the best bang for your buck.  Shark did very well.  You can see the results in our article on the Best Vacuum Brand


Details & Specifications

The Shark AX952 is a full size bagless upright vacuum.  We think of it a little like an upgraded or more up-to-date version of the Shark NV752.  It is similar to the NV752 in many ways but it also has a few extra features – the most significant perhaps being DuoClean Technology.  The two vacuums also come with very different tools sets and Shark has incorporated additional sound reduction technology into the APEX. 

APEX Noise Level

The noise level of the APEX is indeed rather low.  We already found the NV752 to be fairly quiet but the APEX seems even quieter.  We have a noise level meter so we set out to check the maximum decibel reading with the brushroll(s) on.  This was done at a distance of 3 ft from the vacuum.  We did this for the Dyson Ball Animal 2, the Shark NV752 and Shark AX952 and found the following: 

Shark AX952 - 72.5 dB
Shark NV752 - 75.2 dB
Dyson Ball Animal 2 - 78.7 dB

Shark APEX Noise Test

Whatever noise dampening features Shark added appear to have worked.  There is also no high pitched, annoying whine.  We found the noise level almost refreshing for an upright vacuum and it is frankly very nice not to have deal with the loud noise typically emanating from these machines.  Oddly the Dyson was louder in stationary mode than with the brushroll on - this seems to be due to the suction being bypassed through the smallish hole in the top of the handle when the vacuum is fully upright. 

Shark DuoClean Technology

As the name suggests there are two cleaning brushrolls on the underside of the cleaner head.  There is the usual stiff bristle brushroll in the middle of the cleaner head and there is another very soft brushroll at the front of the nozzle.  According to Shark “DuoClean's soft brushroll and bristle brushroll work in unison to pull in large debris, high piles, and stuck-on dust on carpets and floors.”  We’ve also seen the function of the soft brushroll described as “grabs large particles, pulls in piles, and directly engages hard floors for a beautiful, polished look” and the function of the stiffer brushroll as “the bristle brush deep cleans carpets”.  

That’s all well and fine but does it work?

AX952 DuoClean Top of Nozzle

AX952-DuoClean-Underneath-Nozzle

We’ve worked with three different DuoClean Technology vacuums prior to this one – the NV801, the HV382 and the IONFlex IF252 cordless.  In all cases the technology has performed well (better on the corded vacuums though).  We found the same thing with the AX952.  Performance on both carpet and bare floors is excellent and indeed the front brushroll does make contact with bare floors and help remove stuck-on dust – something you don’t get with most other uprights. 

APEX CLEANING LARGE DEBRIS

APEX CLEANING LOW PILE CARPET

APEX CLEANING TILE FLOOR

Brushroll maintenance is also easy to perform.  Both brushrolls are very easy to access and to clean (the soft brushroll can even be washed in water).  The main brushroll (stiff bristle brushroll) can be accessed through the top of the nozzle which is rather novel. Shark has built something they call the brushroll garage and a panel in the top of the nozzle can be lifted off to provide easy access to the brushroll.  

As an aside, we also noticed that the stiff bristle brushroll in the AX952 has 4 rows of bristles while the brushroll in the NV752 has 2 rows.  And the brushroll in the NV752 is not as easy to remove so it is more difficult to clean.

AX952-Handle-Controls

Designed for Bare Floors & Carpet

There is a slider on the vacuum handle that can easily be moved with your thumb.  This slider has 3 settings: 

1) Hard Floor 
In hard floor mode the brushrolls spin slowly.  This mode is best for bare surfaces and some delicate area rugs (presumably the slower moving brushroll would not agitate as much)

2) Carpet / Low Pile
This setting is best for cleaning low pile carpet, and in this mode the brushrolls are spinning faster than Hard Floor mode.  We also notice that a suction release valve in the handle is slightly opened.

3) Thick Carpet / Area Rug
Best for thicker carpet and area rugs – this also has the fastest brushroll speed.  We also notice that the suction release valve is opened more in this mode.

Some people have found that the vacuum will stick to area rugs.  We found that it would bunch up a very low pile area rug if it was in either low pile or hard floor mode.  But in Thick Carpet / Area Rug mode it was ok (barely).  Others may have had issues with deeper pile area rugs.

APEX CLEANING AREA RUG

 

Shark Powered Lift-Away Technology

This is another very popular feature on Shark vacuums.  It provides the ability to detach the dust canister and motor assembly and carry it in one hand while using the wand/hose/tools in the other hand.  This provides portable cleaning although you are still tethered by the power cord. 

Shark-APEX-Lift-Away-Feature

You will notice this is called “Powered” Lift-Away Technology".  This means that power is provided all the way to the end of the handle or the end of the wand (if you use the wand) so you can use a power tool.  As the AX952 includes a motorized pet hair tool, the Powered Lift-Away Technology is very helpful.

APEX IN POWERED LIFT AWAY MODE

 

Length of AX952 Hose

Tools can be attached to the end of the vacuum handle or to the end of the wand.  It all works very well and everything fits into place quickly, intuitively and easily. Like many uprights the hose on the AX952 is a stretch hose, so it is designed to stretch out and provide a good cleaning reach.  However, for us the hose is altogether too short.  We found that when using the hose / wand / tools the machine was easily pulled over.  We measured the cleaning reach to the end of the wand before the vacuum is pulled over and we got about 7 feet.  That's not a lot.  When we took the same measurement for the Dyson Ball Animal 2 we got 13 feet 7 inches.  You can see some of the issues we had with the hose in the video below: 

APEX HOSE & CLEANING REACH

 

AX952 Weight

This is an area where some owners struggle.  The vacuum weighs about 16 lbs (the NV752 was 15.6 lbs).  Like many folks we did find the AX952 a little hefty.   But before we jump the gun let’s put this into perspective by providing the weights of a few other popular uprights. 

Shark APEX952 - 16 lbs
Shark NV801/NV803 - 14.5 lbs
Shark NV752 - 15.6 lbs
Dyson Ball Animal 2 – 17.4 lbs
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy – 19.8 lbs

We did notice the vacuum weight on the wrist (not a lot but some).  This is because the lift away feature sits above the wand and strains the wrist some when turning the machine – although swivel steering really helps.  In addition, we noticed that the 2 brushrolls have a tendency to pull the vacuum ahead.  This is fine when moving forward, however when you wish to pull the vacuum back it tends to fight you.  You do have to strong-arm it some.  This was ok for us but did become more noticeable over time as our arms tired.  People looking for lightweight, easy mobility may be a little disappointed.. 

AX952 Filtration

The vacuum has something Shark calls “Advanced Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology”.  This essentially means you have HEPA level filtration and a vacuum body and seals that don’t leak.  The Complete Seal Technology ensures that all the air entering the vacuum gets passed through the HEPA filter before being exhausted.  This is very important.  Quite a few vacuums on the market trumpet their HEPA filters, but much of the air entering the vacuum leaks out from cracks in the body joints or poor connections/seals/etc. before it is passed through the filter.  The “Complete Seal” provided with the AX952 is actually critical if you want properly filtered air.  You can see an interesting video from Shark highlighting this issue here (it is from a manufacturer so it is marketing material but it does get the point across).

The AX952 has 2 pre-motor filters and 1 post-motor filter.  There is a sponge pre-motor filter and a felt pre-motor filter.  These are both washable and should be washed about every 3 months or so (with normal vacuum use).  The post-motor filter is the HEPA filter and it too can be rinsed.  Shark writes that the HEPA filter should be cleaned about once a year.

Shark APEX DuoClean HEPA FIlter

Shark-Pre-motor-Filters

 

AX952 Tools

The tools provided with the vacuum are fairly good and there is an accessory bag which is a nice touch.  The dusting brush, pet multi-tool and duster crevice tool are fairly generic but they do what they are intended to do. 

Shark APEX AX952 Tools
- Anti-allergen dusting brush: This tool has fine nylon fibers that are designed to remove fine dust and allergen particles from most surfaces.
- Duster crevice tool: This is the typical combination crevice tool / dusting brush (most uprights today come with something similar).  It’s good for reaching into tight spaces and dusting different surfaces.
- Pet multi-tool: This is a 2-in-1 tool designed to dust different surfaces, pick up larger debris, and remove pet hair from curtains and other delicate materials. 

The motorized pet tool is a bit more interesting.  It is designed to fit on-board the vacuum so you don’t have to fetch it should you wish to use it.  These tools rarely fit on board a vacuum.  Shark designed this with a pivoting head in order to get it to fit onto the upright. 

Shark-APEX-Motorized Tool-On-Board

The tool is good at pulling up pet hair and it is also handy for getting into tight areas the main cleaner head will not fit, and also for doing stairs and even upholstery.  In the following video we show the tool at work:

APEX NON-MOTORIZED TOOL VS MOTORIZED TOOL

 

Other APEX Vacuum Features

The AX952 marketing materials tout the Active Glide Technology.  Frankly we don’t entirely know what that is.  However we do know that the vacuum moves and maneuvers very well (despite being a little heavy).  Although the NV752 moves just as well and it apparently does not have this “technology”. 

There are 2 LED lights on the front of the cleaner head which are nice when vacuuming in dimly lit areas. Shark has also provided an LED light on the vacuum handle (not a common feature on other brand’s uprights).  This comes into play when using a tool on the end of the handle.  It is actually a nice touch.  It isn’t always needed but when you are working in a poorly illuminated area it is appreciated.  The LED lights are designed to last the lifetime of the vacuum and the ones in the cleaner head automatically turn on when the vacuum is on (the one in the handle turns on when the handle or wand is released).

The vacuum also has lifetime belts that do not need to be replaced.  Belt life is extended by an intelligent switch that shuts the motor off should the brushrolls be blocked.

The cleaning path width of the vacuum is 11 inches which is perhaps a little narrower than expected for a full size upright but still reasonable.  The power cord is 30 feet in length which is a decent length.  Longer is always nicer but 30 feet is ok.  The dust canister has a capacity of 1.5 dry quarts to the max fill line.  We certainly did not feel that the unit needed to be emptied too frequently. This is the same capacity as the NV752. 

The Shark AX952 carries a 7-year limited manufacturer's warranty.  You can see a copy of this warranty here: Shark APEX Warranty.

Shark AX952 Vacuum Cleaner Manual

We have a manual for the AX952 and it is fairly good with lots of images.  It is in English, French and Spanish and covers assembly, basic features, using in upright mode, using in above floor mode, using in powered lift-away mode, using the motorized pet tool, maintenance, troubleshooting, and warranty.  You can see the manual here: Shark AX952 Manual 

 

 

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About Me

Hello!

I'm Nigel Russco, a 50 year old professional engineer originally from the west coast of Canada.  I love to review vacuums and I’ve been doing just that since 2008.  

I make every effort to write unbiased, intelligent vacuum cleaner reviews and I provide average consumer ratings for each and every vacuum cleaner I investigate.  My ultimate goal is to ensure you find the best vacuum for your cleaning needs.  

I also like to help when I can so feel free to send comments.


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