What to look for in a metal detector?

What to look for in a metal detector

If you’re planning on acquiring a new (or perhaps even your first) metal detector, you’ve come to the right place.

Before anything else, you need to decide what type of items you’re looking for;the most common types are gold, jewelry,historic relics, and coins. Depending on this, you might need to look for certain specific features in your metal detector. Also, you need to know what types of terrain you’ll be searching for items, and especially if you’re planning to search underwater.

Having clearly defined what you have in mind, you can then choose the most appropriate metal detector. Here are a few tips on the main 6features you should look out for:

 

#1: Technology

There are 3 different types of technology in metal detectors:

  • Very Low Frequency (VLF)
  • Pulse Induction (PI)
  • Beat Frequency Oscillation (BFO)

The most common type is VLF, which works simply by emitting magnetic waves to the ground and receiving the reflections from the objects below. VLF detectors usually allow users to adjust the magnetic waves that are emitted, thus only picking up certain types of objects; however, they are usually less efficient at higher depths.

On the other hand, PI detectors are very effective to use when the objects are buried deep below the surface. They work by sending a pulse and receiving it from the ground, and can very effectively tell how deep the objects are. PI detectors are usually more efficient than VLF detectors, but also more expensive.

BFO detectors are usually suitable for beginners since they use the simplest of all technologies. They are not usually recommended because they are very prone to be affected by outside interferences and don’t offer a great level of sensitivity or discrimination.

 

#2: Discrimination

This is a very important feature in any metal detector. Discrimination is basically the ability of a metal detector to distinguish between targets. A metal detector with a good discrimination level allows the user to know what is a treasure and what isn’t. It works by identifying different types of metals (which have different magnetic responses), thus allowing the user to filter out “trash”.

#3: Sensitivity

Sensitivity is another very important feature to have in a metal detector. It’s the ability to detect objects at a distance and according to size. Higher levels of sensitivity allow the detector to reach deeper into the ground and identify smaller objects. However, if the sensitivity is set too high, there is the risk of getting interferences, especially if the detector is being used on a highly mineralized soil.

Nonetheless, the manufacturers always indicate what the recommended sensitivity level is, and you should be able to manually adjust it if it doesn’t suit your needs.

 

#4: Coil design, number, and size

The search coil is the object at the bottom of your metal detector which you use to scan the ground.

The shape, placement, size, and the number of coils in a metal detector are crucial to its performance since they determine how far (depth) and wide (range) the detector will be able to send signals. There are 4 different types of coil shapes:

  • Concentric (these are the most common, they have a fairly decent range and can reach about 12 inches deep);
  • Double D (can’t reach as deep as the others, but have the largest range of all);
  • Elliptical (the range is bigger than that of concentric coils, and the depth reach is similar);
  • Spider (range is similar to that of elliptical and concentric coils, but spider coils are more appropriate for very dense grounds).

Regarding coil size, the general rule is: the larger the coil, the deeper you can search for items. However, this usually raises a lot of issues, especially in highly mineralized places or with lots of trash (too many objects setting off the detector means you’ll likely miss the important ones).

 

#5: Ground balance (also known as calibration)

This feature can save you a lot of time in your hunts. When searching on highly mineralized soils, all those microscopic metals can set off your detector. As a result, you’ll be left with a lot of interferences and false signals.

Ground balance is a detector’s ability to take into consideration the type of soil you’re using it on and adjusting accordingly. Usually, there are two different sets of ground balance: manual or automatic. Although it is alittle bit harder, sometimes you’ll need to use to manual mode to adjust to the specific soil you’re in, but it’s worth it.

 

#6: Target and Tone ID

Some of the more recent metal detectors already come with this incorporated function, and it’s very helpful. Having target ID means a detector can roughly guess the size, content, and shape of the items it picks up, leaving you to decide if it’s worth digging up or not. The image is usually shown on a screen, but some detectors use a different method, giving you a number that indicates the conductivity of the item on a scale of 1 to 99. The screen target ID is usually more comfortable and appealing to work with.

Also, there is a feature called “tone ID”, which basically consists of an audible target ID system. Usually, detectors emit a beep sound when they find an object, but more advanced models have more than one tone integrated with their discrimination feature. That means that, just by listening to the sound the detector makes, you can distinguish if the target is a treasure or trash. In fact, some detectors have more than 3 different tones, which become increasingly higher according to how high the target is on the discrimination scale.

 

There are also a few more interesting features, such as the pinpointer function (which can give you a very precise guess of where the target is located), the prospecting function (usually the most advisable for detecting gold nuggets), and the depth indicator feature (which tells you how deep the target is buried).

These are the most important features you need to look for when acquiring a metal detector. And remember, the most important thing is to find one that perfectly suits your needs, so do your research thoroughly before deciding.

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