Blends great -- unless it breaks. In 2009, testers at Cook's Illustrated thought they'd found a winning blender. The KitchenAid KSB560 "could easily do it all: crush ice, make frozen drinks, and blend lump-free smoothies, milkshakes, and hummus -- and without damaging our eardrums." It wasn't too pricey, either. They named it their No. 1 recommended blender.
Experts at another testing agency weren't as impressed. The KitchenAid KSB560 did an excellent job of puréeing soups and grating Parmesan cheese, but plenty of rivals did a better job crushing ice.
In Popular Mechanics' blender shootout, testers agree that the ice crushed by the KSB560 is "a bit rougher" than that produced by costly heavy-duty blenders like the top-rated Vitamix 5200 (*Est. $450). In their test, the KitchenAid pulverizes whole fruit more readily than the Vitamix. They award it first place -- but signs of wear after testing make them wonder how well the KitchenAid will hold up.
Not too well, Cook's Illustrated editors say. After they recommended the KitchenAid KSB560, many readers and staffers bought it, only to have the pitcher crack or leak within months.
So in 2012, Cook's Illustrated tested it again. The KitchenAid KSB580 (*Est. $150) (identical to the KSB560, but with different finishes) still breezed through frozen-fruit smoothies, milkshakes, hummus and more -- "but its blade apparatus loosened and lost a rubber gasket midway through testing, guaranteeing eventual leaking," editors write. "Given the leaks and cracking of the base reported by readers who own this model, we can't recommend it."
Owners tell a similar story. With more than 725 owner reviews at Amazon.com, this blender earns more than 400 5-star reviews. Users say it makes quick work of crushed ice, frozen-fruit smoothies, green smoothies (made with kale and other tough-to-blend greens) and more.
However, nearly 20 percent of reviewers at the site give the KitchenAid KSB560 the lowest possible rating, usually with complaints of jar leaks.
Dishwasher-safe, but the one-piece design gets mixed reviews. The KitchenAid KSB560 earns a middle score of good for convenience in one major test. Other blenders rate very good or excellent on the scale, which considers cleaning difficulty, pouring ease, whether the controls are intuitive and more.
The 5-speed KitchenAid's polycarbonate jar holds a roomy 56 ounces and has a preprogrammed Ice Crush button. The soft-start feature slowly builds up to the selected speed, which KitchenAid says, "reduces start-up kick and allows hands-free operation." The blender's IntelliSpeed automatically adjusts power for thicker mixtures. And the lid and one-piece jar/blade assembly are dishwasher safe (although KitchenAid recommends hand-washing the lid for best results).
"It's so simple and user friendly," writes one owner at Amazon.com. "The cover seals great and yet is easy to remove ... [and] it has drain holes in the pitcher so when it's upside down in the dishwasher, the water doesn't stay in the base. So smart!"
Like other one-piece jar/blade blenders, KitchenAid says you can also clean the KSB560 by whirring soapy water in the blender. Some Amazon.com owners say this cleaning method is easy and works well, but others say it doesn't get the blender clean enough. "The fact that you can't remove the blade to clean [the bottom of the pitcher] seems to be a pretty significant design flaw. You have to be very careful when washing it to avoid cutting yourself."
And then, of course, there's the mess it makes if -- or when -- the jar starts to leak. One Amazon.com review titled "Now, Lick It Off the Counter," says the KSB560 "suffers from blender incontinence."
Lots of color option for countertop display. Owners like the looks of the KitchenAid KSB560. It comes in 12 colors, with a heavy, die-cast metal base that keeps it feeling sturdy on the kitchen counter. At 15.5 inches tall, it fits nicely between the counter and upper cabinets, too.
Looks sturdy, but reviews say it's not. For more than five years, reviewers at Amazon.com have been complaining that the blender jar leaks.
"I was loving this blender until a couple weeks into owning it and making smoothies daily, I noticed that it was leaking from the bottom of the carafe below the blade," says the first such complaint, from February 2007. "The longer I used it, the worse the leak got until it was virtually pouring out of the bottom of the blender every time I used it." The owner sent it back -- but the replacement leaked, too. Users say the plastic nut holding the blades to the jar loosens and can't be tightened.
In the first three weeks of August 2012, alone, we found five similar complaints -- including one saying the blender failed within about a month of daily use. "Clearly this is a chronic problem, five years after the first leaky post," the owner writes. "It seems to take multiple uses for the problem to present itself."
Some owners who use the blender less frequently don't see leaks until after the first year -- after KitchenAid's one-year warranty has expired. A replacement jar costs $50. Some recent reviewers say the manufacturer sent them a new jar for free, even though their warranty had run out.
Experts at Cook's Illustrated found one major difference between the KitchenAid blender and their trusty Vitamix 5200, which has withstood years of test-kitchen use. KitchenAid builds its blender jars out of commercial-grade polycarbonate, while the Vitamix uses Eastman Tritan copolyester, "considered more durable and resistant to impact and the harsh combination of heat, water pressure, and dishwasher chemicals," editors say. Their top-rated mid-priced blender, the Breville Hemisphere Control BBL605XL (*Est. $200) also uses Eastman Tritan copolyester.
Average noise level. On a noise scale of 1 to 3, Cook's Illustrated testers give the KitchenAid KSB560 a 2 (they measure decibels). Another top test gives it a similar score.
For owners, loudness is a matter of opinion. One says this blender is quieter than his or her previous Oster model, but "don't think you can turn it on and expect the baby to sleep through." Another reviewer thought the KSB560 would be quieter and was disappointed to discover it was as noisy as the blender it replaced. Others say it seems quieter than industrial-strength blenders like the Blendtec Total Blender Classic Four Side TB-621-20 (*Est. $430) and Vitamix 5200 -- but one expert source says the KitchenAid and Vitamix are identically loud, and Cook's Illustrated finds the Vitamix a little quieter.
A chronic leaky-jar problem frustrates owners and experts alike, dragging down the KitchenAid KSB560 from its top-pick rating. The Breville Hemisphere Control BBL605XL costs more, but it also blends better, is quieter and proves more durable in expert tests and owner reviews.
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1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Excellent Although they're usually available only to subscribers, Cook's Illustrated shares their blender test results with the public. They used to recommend the KitchenAid KSB560 -- until readers and Cook's Illustrated staffers who bought one reported that the KSB560 leaked or the jar cracked within the first year. So testers bought a new copy (the KSB580, which is the same except with different finishes) and re-tested it -- but halfway through the test, it showed signs of breaking down.
Review: KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Sept. 1, 2012
Very Good A leaky jar drags down the KitchenAid KSB560's score here. More than half of the more than 725 owner-reviewers praise the blender, but one in five gives it the lowest possible rating, usually because the jar starts to leak, sometimes within the first month.
Review: KitchenAid 5-Speed Blenders with Polycarbonate Jars, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Oct. 2012
Good After it "destroyed" whole fruit and crushed ice nicely, Popular Mechanics editors name the KitchenAid KSB560 the best value in their five-blender test. However, black marks show up on the jar near the base, leading testers to wonder how long it would hold up.
Review: 5 Blender Show-Down: Abusive Lab Test, S.E. Kramer, Oct. 1, 2009
Fair Ordinarily, ConsumerReports.org is one of our highest-rated sources -- and indeed, editors' comparison tests of more than 50 blenders is as unbiased as usual, with tough frozen-drink and ice-crush tests. However, the durability test (45 ice-crush cycles) isn't extensive enough to show the durability problems with the KitchenAid KSB560 that show up in other reviews after months of use.
Review: KitchenAid KSB560, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, June 2012