Modern metal detectors can have a range of features, and it’s easy to lose track of what functions you really need and what is just good marketing.
Some features are important to know about even for buyers on a budget. Sometimes the cost of having certain features is often worth paying a little more because you really are getting more for your money. The best features will reduce the problem of interference or false signals, which is the main issue a user faces when using a detector.
The best features to look for in a metal detector
Discrimination, notch and ground balance are three essential metal detecting concepts you need to understand to get started.
Discrimination is the term referring to the metal detector’s ability to recognize a valuable item surrounded by other metal objects, minerals, or debris. Therefore, it is one of the most important features on any metal detector.
Fortunately, this can be found in all price ranges and even on very cheap detectors. Quality and consistency can vary, but good discriminators can be found even on the beginner detectors at the bottom of the list below.
The term notch is also used as a part of the discrimination system. It is useful to reject materials that are creating false readings.
The notch provides a kind of threshold value, which can be set at a specific point. This allows the detector to reject any item outside of the band, so this is a refined setting.
The ground balance setting allows you to filter out the noise caused by various minerals in the earth. This includes salts and iron particles.
Soil with high concentrations of minerals can give signals that mimic a target, so filtering out this noise is critical to your metal detecting. The ground balance setting can be manual, automatic, or continuously adjusted.
7 Best Metal Detectors for the Money
1. Minelab Equinox 800
If you have no budget limits, this is the best metal detector for the money.
The main reason for that bold statement is that this detector reduces the time spent digging for worthless metal scrap, bottle caps, and other metal debris better than anything else available.
This is the top end of the Minelab Equinox series, which allows for the use of five distinct frequencies, simultaneously. The Minelab Equinox 800 provides a choice of five single frequencies as well, covering a larger range than the previous model which only had three frequencies available.
Multi-IQ (Simultaneous Multi-Frequency)
Minelab’s Multi-IQ technology uses 5 discreet frequencies simultaneously. The user can also select to use a single when desired.
Different metals react best to different frequencies. Metal detectors that are made for detecting gold tend to use a frequency of 18 kHZ for this reason. This metal detector technology greatly expands the range of targets that can be accurately detected, and the conditions where you will be able to find them.
This metal detector uses an 11-inch Double-D Smart coil with a waterproof skid-plate, providing a good balance between sensitivity, ground coverage, power consumption, and weight.
The four detection modes are for beaches, parks, fields, and detecting gold.
The Minelab Equinox 800 is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet. It works fine over wet sand, dry sand, or submerged while scanning the coastline. I would still hose it off with a garden hose when done metal detecting, just to keep your equipment clean.
12 Hour Runtime
A built-in rechargable lithium-ion battery in the handle helps to maintain the wieght distribution of this lightwieght unit, while providing a 12 hour runtime.
2. Garrett AT Pro
This product is designed for serious users who are interested in more advanced features and functionality in a metal detector. The sonic indicators play a major role in assisting users in the process of identifying the types of objects that are being detected in the ground.
This is one of the most sought-after features from any serious user’s perspective. This feature allows the operator to detect subtle alterations, and this helps to define the size, depth and shape of any given target object. This feature also helps to filter out the presence of any nearby targets.
The standard and proportionate settings allow users to start with the more basic features before graduating to the pro setting, which is where the advanced features are located.
Adjustable Notch Discrimination
This is a key feature for advanced users who want to vary the discrimination on the device. The potentiometer will reject items with a conductivity value that is lower than the threshold.
This unit has a total of six search modes. Three of them are standard, and the other three are professional level. In addition, there are eight sensitivity or depth adjustments on the model.
The unit’s weight is just over three pounds, or 1.4 kilograms.
The screen size might cause people with poor vision some difficulty, but this is usually not a problem if normal reading glasses are used.
No Wireless Options
This unit doesn’t feature wireless technology. However, the Garret AT Max model does have Z-Lynk wireless technology enabled, and it comes with matching headphones.
There is no back-light or volume adjustment on this model, which seems strange for a metal detector in this price range.
3. Fisher F75
Fisher is one of the most established brands in the metal detector industry. This model has a variety of features designed to enhance the accuracy of the target identification.
This model is recommended for hunting relics, coins, gold and other treasures. It is ergonomically designed, and it has a lighter body than many competing metal detectors.
The default settings are great for inexperienced users, but advanced users can make adjustments to get a better search method, which is described in detail in the owner’s manual.
Adjustable Audio Pitch
This is a specific feature that enables audio adjustments when using the discrimination mode. The variable audio pitch and target pinpointing features help to get a clear reading of the object.
Adjust the two-way armrest until you find the right angle to maximize your leverage while using this device.
This increases visibility in dark areas where there is minimal surrounding light available. There are non-volatile memory settings, and it can be used for 40 hours with only four AA alkaline batteries.
Use the headphone jacks to extend the amount of time the unit can be in use. The built-in speaker system reduces the total amount of time, and it also helps you to hear the signals with greater clarity. Tonal accuracy reduces the time spent digging up debris and junk.
This device weighs 4.7 pounds and it is one of the lightest models on the market, which is important for endurance hunting because it won’t fatigue your arms.
4. Garrett ACE 300
This metal detector has enhanced features to help hunters fine-tune their search methods in order to locate more valuable items and eliminate junk metal.
This model is also a good starter unit for anyone just getting into metal detecting. However, it also has the kind of advanced features sought by experienced users. The ACE 300 is an upgrade from the previous ACE 250, which was discontinued. It has a larger search coil, cam locks, higher frequencies, and better iron and audio resolution.
This unit features twice the number of segments for detecting iron than previous models.
Digital Target ID
This is an advanced feature that provides accurate and detailed information about the metal target. There is a numerical scale from 0-99 to indicate the conductivity of the target. Larger targets will display a higher number, for example.
The 8kHz adjustable frequency is in the exact mid-range when it comes to similar models. This strikes a balance between the 6.5kHz fixed and 10kHz adjustable frequency available on both ends of this spectrum.
This is the only model in the series of lower-priced units that comes with adjustable notch discrimination, so it provides the best value for the money.
Headphones, a coil cover, an ACE cover-up and a manual come with the unit right in the shipping box.
The total weight is around 2.8 pounds, and the adjustable length feature allows you to move the length between 40 to 53 inches.
This device comes with a two-year warranty for limited parts and labor.
This model lacks an adjustable ground balance, and there is also no iron audio enabled. These advanced features might be critial for some users.
5. Fisher F22
This metal detector is designed to function right out of the box for the beginner user, but it also comes equipped with plenty of advanced features to interest seasoned treasure hunters.
This model is considered to be an upgrade from a previous version, and it features additional search modes, a new coil design and iron audio with volume adjustment enhancements. The focus of this model is affordability, lightness and ease of use.
This is an adjustable audio feature designed to preset the volume level for ferrous targets to be lower than non-ferrous objects. This helps to filter the debris from the potentially valuable targets.
The weatherproof model makes this an ideal purchase for anyone interested in hunting in all kinds of terrain and conditions.
4 Search Modes
There are four distinct search modes to enhance the quality of your treasure hunting experience.
Jewelry mode discriminates for iron. Coin mode discriminates for iron, pull tabs and various trash. Artifact mode includes all iron signals without discrimination, and the custom mode allows you to set your own pattern with the notch feature.
New Search Coil Design
This is a new design created just for this model. It is a 9-inch concentric coil that is elliptical and triangulated. The small, narrow coil allows you to move around tight spaces.
Four distinctive audio tones offer a feedback range that optimizes accuracy when detecting various types of metal objects at different depth levels. The audio volume and sensitivity are also adjustable.
Numerical Target ID
This numerical range is from 1 to 99, and it allows you to see the conductivity of the particular metals.
This model is considered to be an ultra-lightweight metal detector, wieghing only 2.3 pounds. This will extend the amount of time you can use it without experiencing arm fatigue.
This detector has no manual ground balance feature.
6. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV
The Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV metal detector is a model that streamlined many features in order to make it as easy as possible to operate. It has only two knobs and a dual audio tone system, and this minimizes the amount of time necessary to get up and running.
This metal detector is designed for beginners who want to get started hunting at a reasonable price. It is adjustable, so it can accommodate people of different heights. This is also a great starting product for children who want to get an early start in experiencing the joys of treasure hunting.
3 Search Modes
Search modes to precisely locate coins, precious metals and iron relics by using the toggle switch to find the right operational mode for your purposes.
Two-Tone Audio Discrimination
The internal speaker uses advanced audio technology to assist in identifying valuables using the audio signals.
The armrests allows you to use the unit for longer stretches of time while minimizing arm fatigue.
Waterproof Search Coil
This is an eight-inch search coil that can be safely submerged under water for use in areas where there are rivers, lakes or oceans in the search zone.
This warranty is good for five years, which is higher than comparable metal detectors on the market.
This unit is 4.2 pounds, which is comparable to some of the metal detectors at the top of our list.
Unfortunately, when trying to get the most value for the money you are investing in a metal detector, it is sometimes necessary to compromise features for a lower price. That is the case with this unit. It provides great value for the money, but comes with the following drawbacks.
Preset Ground Balance
This results in the unit performing poorly, or not at all, with poor ground conditions. This is not the right metal detector for use on wet soil, wet sand, or in areas with high soil mineralization.
There is an intersection between the search coil and lower stem that has a plastic, curled knob. This might be a liability for some users, but it works properly.
7. Bounty Hunter Gold Digger
Dectectorists will enjoy the versatility of the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger, which has a variety of features to help you discriminate valuable treasure from debris and scrap metal.
The penetration level is up to two feet beneath the surface, and coin-size objects will be detected within six inches.
This is an ideal starter product, which makes it good as a gift for children and beginners looking to enjoy the treasure-finding experience without being distracted by complicated settings. There are only two knobs, for example. One is a power control, and the other adjusts the sensitivity level to avoid mixing junk metal in with signals that indicate the presence of a target item.
This device is designed to work in all kinds of terrain, and this includes the waterproof design that also makes it work well over wet grass.
This motion mode is effective at eliminating the interference from trash, junk and debris. Reducing this interference makes it easier to focus on finding the valuable items on your treasure hunt.
The 1/8-inch headphone jack is useful for filtering out unwanted environmental noises so that you can concentrate on finding treasures.
Limited Coin Depth
The searching distance for coins is limited to six inches beneath the ground level, but this is the maximum depth that beginners or children will be willing to engage with for purposes of digging.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What conditions affect how deep the metal detector can function?
Magnetism, conductivity, size and shape of the object are main factors in determining how well the metal detector will perceive an item. The length of time the object has been underground also affects detection.
What is the best way to use the sensitivity controls?
Sensitivity refers to a metal detector’s capacity for responding to the electromagnetism of conductive materials.
The best way to understand the sensitivity controls is to think of the sensitivity increasing the metal detector’s ability to detect even the smallest amounts of target substances. This often has the effect of increasing the amount of debris and junk your detector recognizes; however, it also allows the detector to penetrate deeper into the earth.
What can you do to avoid false signals?
False signals happen when a metal detector’s settings respond to undesired substances. This includes minerals in the earth like iron oxides and magnetite, for example. Gold is often surrounded by iron oxides, which is good to know. Certain types of clothing can also produce false signals.
Avoid footwear that has any metal eyelets or other parts. Take off all metal jewelry, and make sure you stay clear of power lines. If you hunt with a friend, keep a good distance because a metal detector can pick up on the metal in the other device if it’s too close. Make sure the control box of your detector doesn’t have a build-up of moisture. Review your swinging technique to avoid false readings.
Should people with pacemakers be concerned about their safety when using a metal detector?
Pacemaker manufacturers are aware of the potential for electromagnetic interference from cellphones, CB radios and security metal detectors used at airports. The electromagnetic signals coming from a hobby metal detector are much weaker than these other signals, so there is no threat of interference. In addition, the radius of the electromagnetic field is limited to a few inches from the search coil, which is a safe distance from the human torso.
What Are The Best Metal Detector Brands?
This article reviewed some of the best brand names in the metal detector industry. Each product can be evaluated according to the combination of features in relation to the price.
Advanced features will enable you to get more out of the experience by enabling refined searches in all kinds of conditions, but the price goes up. The basic metal detectors from top brand names will give you everything you need to get started within your budget.
How Do Metal Detectors Work?
Metal detectors function by leveraging the technology of electromagnetism in a specific way. The design of a metal detector allows it to detect objects that produce an electromagnetic field. The discrimination and sensitivity settings allow the hunter to adjust the field’s range according to various conditions.
Correct Way to Use A Metal Detector
Stay within an inch of the ground without scraping, and maintain the same level throughout the swing. Your sensitivity setting might also be set too high, which will make the detector pick up on smaller conductive metal scraps. Always refer to the owner’s manual for detailed instructions on the particular model.
What Is Ground Mineralization?
Ground mineralization refers to the amount of magnetism created by the mineral density in the soil, which often has a reddish color. The metal detector reacts to the magnetism, so highly mineralized soil permits less penetration. It can also cause false signals, which makes it harder for the metal detector to separate junk from valuable items.
The settings on advanced metal detectors allow you to adjust for these conditions, so always review the sensitivity and discrimination controls when hunting in highly mineralized soil.
Is Coil Size Important?
The size and shape of the coil is important, but bigger isn’t always better. For searching in tight areas, an elliptic-shaped coil that is smaller will get better results.
The standard coil size is eight inches, and this performs under most conditions. Larger coils will perform better under conditions where there is minimal amounts of trash and mineralization. However, large search coils are often heavier, and this can affect your ability to maintain the coil head equidistant from the ground, which is critical for any good searching technique.
What Is Adjustable Sensitivity?
The sensitivity control is an adjustable setting that is designed to be used according to the various types of terrains you could encounter. Just like the transmission of a car, there is no single setting that will work optimally for all environments.
Lower the sensitivity whenever there are power transformers nearby, ground mineralization, radio stations and other types of interference. The trade-off is a slight loss of the total depth you can detect underground.
What Is Ground Balance?
Ground balance refers to an advanced feature that isn’t available on every metal detector model. It permits the detector to adjust for the highly mineralized soil content and get a greater detection depth.
The ground balance setting removes the interference caused by the mineral’s magnetism inside of the soil. This allows you to hear the signal created by the target item without the additional noise.
What Is Notch Discrimination?
Discriminators have settings that can be adjusted, and advanced models have more refined and finely tuned adjustment settings to help you remove the junk from your search. This will allow you to swing the metal detector over items without having them register. Notch discrimination functions as a filter, so only the most likely targets will create a signal, and audio signals also give you information about the target.
Is the Frequency Important?
It is very important to understand how frequencies affect your ability to find valuable objects. Objects can be different sizes. The orientation and depth of the object also affects the frequency needed to detect it, for example. High frequencies detect small objects, and low frequencies penetrate deeper into the ground.
Adjustable settings give you more control, and multi-frequency devices allow you to refine your search settings.
How Deep Will A Metal Detector Go?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The depth depends on a variety of factors as well as the power and the settings used on the metal detector itself.
The amount of ground mineralization can affect the total depth the metal detector can read. The same metal detector will be able to penetrate deeper into ground that has low mineralization, for example. However, if the target object is large, it can also be detected at a deeper level than a smaller object at the same depth.
What Accessories are Important?
Basic accessories for hunting with a metal detector include items to make the hunt easier, but you have to think ahead to the moment when you plan to dig for treasure as well. This includes a carrying bag for the metal detector, headphones and optional pinpointing probes. Digging equipment, flashlights and cleaning gear are also essential accessories.
Do You Need A Pinpointer?
A pinpointer is an optional item, but many hunters refuse to work without them in the hunting kit. They allow you to quickly locate the target after localizing the area where you plan to dig. The pinpointer also helps you to get the target out of the ground without the guesswork of how wide or deep to dig. Many pinpointers also come equipped with external LED lights for night hunting, which also assists in the searching process.
Are All Metal Detectors Waterproof?
Not all metal detectors are waterproof, so you should always check the technical specifications if you plan to hunt near bodies of water or in wet grass.
This is another advanced feature found on the more expensive metal detectors. Cheaper detectors use a single frequency, which is fixed. The length of the wave determines how deep the detector can get into the ground because low frequencies can go deeper, and higher frequencies are able to detect targets with a smaller size.
Very Low-Frequency (VLF)
Very low frequency technology, or VLF, is a very popular method used in many modern metal detectors for receiving and interpreting the electromagnetic fields given off by metal target objects. It is made from a transmitter and receiver coil. The first is the outer coil loop, and the second is the inner coil loop.
The frequency is sent out through the transmitter coil. The receiver coil functions as an amplifier for the signal so that it can be interpreted by the control box. It can also differentiate between different types of metals based on their electromagnetic properties, which are picked up with the signal.
Pulse Induction (PI)
Pulse induction technology is used on some metal detectors instead of VLF. An example of a pulse induction device is a metal detector that uses a single coil for both the transmitter and receiver, but they might also be designed using several coils.
The technology is based on the short bursts of electrical currents sent through the coil or coils, and these are called pulses. The pulse creates a magnetic field, which reversals polarity and causes the object to emit an opposite magnetic field. The reflections from the target object indicate its size and shape.
Metal detectors have discrimination and sensitivity settings that allow you to find valuables while sorting out junk and false signals.
Each unit has different features, and some of them are more advanced. Before you go hunting, practice using the discrimination settings on various objects including common junk as well as valuable coins and relics so that you become familiar with how the detector sounds when registering each of these items.
Practice filtering out the junk, debris and scrap metal to refine your searching abilities. It can be best utilized after practicing with target coins and rings with a mixture of debris, scraps and bottle caps. This will help the user to learn the sounds associated with valuable treasures as well as the sounds of the metal debris and scraps.