Best Metal Detector Guide

Updated November 2023

Navigating the world of metal detectors can be overwhelming, but at Serious Detecting, we're here to simplify the process for you. With years of experience and expertise, we've crafted a detailed guide to assist you in making an informed decision. Our goal is to address the common question: "What are the best metal detectors on the market today?" In this guide, we'll explore the diverse realm of metal detecting, providing insights into essential terminology, features, and factors to consider when purchasing a metal detector.

Contents

Understanding Key Terms
Factors to Consider
Best All-Purpose Metal Detectors
Best Coin and Jewelry Metal Detectors
Best Relic Hunting Metal Detectors
Best Gold Detectors
Best Beach and Saltwater Metal Detectors
Best Freshwater Metal Detectors
Conclusion

Understanding Key Terms:

Before diving into the metal detecting world, familiarize yourself with essential terms:
  • Ferrous: Metals containing iron. Non-ferrous metals like gold, silver, and brass are not magnetic.
  • Frequency: Metal detectors emit different frequencies, which affect their detection capabilities. Frequencies are measured in Kilohertz (kHz) and determine how different metals respond.
  • Multi-Frequency: Some detectors use multiple frequencies simultaneously to detect a wider range of targets. Examples include Minelab’s Equinox 800 and XP’s Deus II.
  • Mineralization: The presence of iron and salt in the ground, affecting metal detection signals.
  • Interference: Electromagnetic fields from devices like cell phones can interfere with metal detector signals.
  • Control Box: Contains controls, speaker, batteries, and processor of the metal detector.
  • Search Coil: Detects metal in the ground; various sizes and shapes offer different sensitivity levels.
  • Discrimination: Allows filtering out specific types of metal or objects by adjusting settings.
  • Notch: Segments used in discrimination; "notching out" eliminates signals from undesired objects.
  • Ground Balance: Adjustments made to the detector for different soil types.
  • Target Separation: Measures a detector’s ability to identify closely located targets.

Factors to Consider:

When choosing a metal detector, several factors come into play:
  • Weight, Size, and Ergonomics: Consider the detector's comfort during prolonged use.
  • Ease of Use: User-friendly interfaces enhance the detecting experience.
  • Durability and Reliability: Choose a detector built to withstand various conditions.
  • Price Point: Balance features with affordability.
  • Customer Ratings and Reviews: Consider user feedback for real-world performance.
  • Warranty Length: Check the manufacturer's warranty for peace of mind.
  • Weatherproofing and Waterproofing: Assess resistance to different weather conditions, especially if you plan to detect in wet environments.

Best All-Purpose Metal Detectors:

All-purpose metal detectors are versatile, suitable for diverse environments and conditions. These detectors, like the Minelab Equinox 700, are the go-to choice for detectorists seeking a reliable and adaptable machine.

Nokta The Legend
Nokta's LEGEND, the first simultaneous multi-frequency metal detector, stands out as the ultimate multi-purpose tool with adaptability to various targets and ground conditions. Praised for its robust and waterproof design, exceptional performance in challenging environments, and affordability, this legendary detector offers advanced discrimination in trashy sites, stable operation underwater and on the beach, making it ideal for both land and beach hunters, including gold prospectors seeking small nuggets in highly mineralized fields.

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  • Weight: 3.0 lbs
  • Frequency: Multi(3), 4kHz, 10kHz, 15kHz, 20kHz, 40kHz
  • Waterproof: Coil only
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
Pros:
  • Multi frequency technology
  • Good value
  • Fully customizable
Cons:
  • Learning curve for beginners
  • FerroCheck may be misleading
  • Tones can be harsh and confusing
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Minelab Equinox 700
The Minelab Equinox 700 is an advanced metal detector that leverages cutting-edge technology to deliver high-performance results across diverse terrains. Sharing the innovative features of its counterpart, the Equinox 800, the Equinox 700 caters to the needs of both seasoned detectorists and newcomers to the hobby.

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  • Weight: 2.8 lbs
  • Frequency: Multi, 4, 5, 10, 15
  • Waterproof: 16 ft IP68
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
Pros:
  • Multi IQ technology
  • Lightweight design
  • Waterproof up to 16 feet
Cons:
  • Manual not included
  • Charging block sold separately
  • Learning curve for Minelab beginners
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Garrett ACE Apex
The Garrett ACE Apex is a cutting-edge metal detector renowned for its advanced technology and versatility in treasure hunting. With its multi-frequency detection capabilities, adjustable modes, and a lightweight design, the ACE Apex is a go-to choice for both beginners and experienced detectorists, offering high-performance features for detecting a wide range of targets in various terrains.

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  • Weight: 2.5 lbs
  • Frequency: Multi-Flex, adjustable frequency technology
  • Waterproof: Coil and shaft, rainproof control box
  • Warranty: 3-year
Pros:
  • Multi-Flex technology
  • Versatile detection
  • Lightweight design
Cons:
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Limited range of frequencies with Multi-Flex
  • Not ideal for smaller targets
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XP DEUS II
XP has introduced the DEUS II, the first wireless, multi-frequency metal detector featuring a patented radio protocol system that ensures seamless communication between the coil, remote control, headphones, and optional pinpointer with zero latency. Boasting unparalleled speed and accuracy, the DEUS II excels in all terrains and conditions, both on land and underwater up to 20 meters, thanks to its Fast Multi Frequency (FMF®) technology.

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  • Weight: 2.08 lbs
  • Frequency: Fast Multi-Frequency [4 > 45 kHz]
  • Waterproof: 65 ft
  • Warranty: 5-year limited
Pros:
  • Wireless technology
  • Lightweight and ergonomic
  • Fully submersible
Cons:
  • Higher price point
  • Learning curve
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Best Coin and Jewelry Metal Detectors:

When it comes to the exciting pursuit of coin shooting or searching for rings and jewelry, having the right metal detector is crucial. Targeting areas frequented by pedestrians such as parks, beaches, schools, churches, and sports complexes increases the likelihood of finding valuable items. Abandoned locations with a rich historical past also make for excellent hunting grounds.

To optimize your search, select a metal detector with easy usability and effective target separation or discrimination capabilities. This feature helps filter out unwanted items, especially in areas with a high prevalence of "junk" like foil and pull tabs. Notch discrimination, a valuable feature in some machines, enables you to focus on specific targets by filtering out irrelevant signals.

Look for a metal detector with a frequency ranging from 10-15 kHz and a depth capability of 6-8 inches for optimal performance.

Minelab CTX-3030: Best of the Best
Minelab's CTX-3030 stands out as the highest-performing, all-around metal detector. With the ability to locate objects in various soil types, including mineralized ground where gold is present, this machine boasts five preset search modes and full customization for advanced detectorists. Its versatility extends to all terrains, including wet beach sand and underwater exploration up to 10 feet.

  • Weight: 5.20 lbs
  • Frequency: 1.5 kHz – 100 kHz
  • Waterproof: Up to 10 feet
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
Pros:
  • Programmable for individual needs
  • Most accurate target identification
  • GPS for tracking finds
Cons:
  • Heavy (over 5 pounds)
  • Higher price point
  • Slower processor compared to newer models
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Garrett AT Pro: Best Value
The Garrett AT Pro, fully submersible up to 10 feet, offers versatility with 40 discrimination settings to filter out various ferrous metals. Equipped with the upgraded MS-2 headphones, this all-terrain detector features Pro audio mode for target depth indication and a digital target ID for quick identification.

  • Weight: 3.03 lbs
  • Frequency: 15 kHz
  • Waterproof: Up to 10 feet
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
Pros:
  • Waterproof design
  • Easy to use
  • Upgradable for wireless headphone use
Cons:
  • Limited depth in saltwater
  • Zero mode not a true all-metal mode
  • No backlight
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Nokta Makro Simplex: Best for Beginners
For beginners, the Nokta Makro Simplex offers simplicity with auto ground balancing and four preset search modes. Fully submersible up to 10 feet, it includes an 11-inch search coil and features VLF technology for efficient discrimination between metals.

  • Weight: 2.9 lbs
  • Frequency: 12 kHz
  • Waterproof: Fully submersible up to 10 feet
  • Warranty: 3-year
Pros:
  • Turn on and go functionality
  • Lightweight and well-balanced
  • No false signals
Cons:
  • Basic features
  • Large coil
  • Tones may seem amateurish

Best Relic Hunting Metal Detectors:

For metal detecting enthusiasts, relics from past wars and historical events are a thrilling discovery. Uncovering a colonial buckle or a fragment of a musket connects metal detecting with archaeology, creating a haven for history buffs. If you're an avid relic hunter, the choice of a metal detector is crucial, especially when venturing off the beaten path.

Prime relic-hunting locations include churches, old homesites, and areas where people historically congregated, like abandoned train depots or steamboat landings. To effectively unearth relics, a sturdy and rugged metal detector is essential. The key features valued by relic hunters include excellent target separation to differentiate valuable items from construction materials like nails or railroad spikes.

A quality relic machine should offer a depth range of 12-14 inches and operate within a frequency range of 12-15 kHz. Multiple coils, preferably a minimum of 12 inches wide, enhance detection at deeper depths. Waterproof coils are vital for tackling diverse terrains encountered while searching for historical sites in wooded areas.

A metal detector with a true all-metal mode or zero discrimination is beneficial for Civil War relic hunting, where valuable items may register as iron. Weight is a consideration, and using a harness can help distribute the load during extended hunts.

Minelab GPX 4500: Best of the Best
Featuring SETA technology for minimized magnetic interference, the Minelab GPX 4500 is a workhorse in relic hunting. With six adjustable timing options, a backlight for night detection, and an iron reject option to filter out unwanted metals, it weighs 5.3 pounds and has a frequency in the advanced pulse induction range. However, it's not waterproof.

  • Weight: 5.3 lbs
  • Frequency: Bi-Level, Advanced Pulse Induction
  • Waterproof: No
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
Pros:
  • Best general-purpose gold & relic machine
  • Excellent in highly mineralized ground
  • Full range of coils for deep finds
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Not waterproof
  • Battery life declines over time
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Best Gold Detectors:

Discovering gold no longer requires the laborious methods of yesteryears, thanks to the efficiency of metal detectors designed specifically for gold hunting. Whether you're exploring mountains or areas with rivers, streams, and exposed rock beds, increasing your chances of striking gold, especially in the western U.S., is now easier than ever.

When selecting a metal detector for gold hunting, it's crucial to consider its performance in highly mineralized soil. Opt for a detector with a frequency of 20 kHz or higher, as this is ideal for detecting gold. Additionally, having a waterproof coil is essential, even though the entire machine doesn't need to be waterproof. To handle the weight of heavier machines during prolonged gold searches, consider using a harness or guide.

In regions with mineral-rich ground, a stable detector with minimal noise in mineralized areas is vital. The western U.S., for example, has iron ore in its soil, making it imperative to choose a detector that can distinguish a gold nugget surrounded by iron ore.

Minelab GPZ 7000: Best of the Best
The Minelab GPZ 7000 is a top-tier metal detector designed to uncover even the tiniest gold nuggets that might elude other detectors. Its Super-D Smart Coil, featuring a central transmit winding and two outer receive windings, minimizes interference from magnetic and mineralized soils. This detector can locate nuggets up to 40 percent deeper than previous models, making it an investment worth considering.

  • Weight: 7.32 lbs
  • Frequency: ZVT (Zero Voltage Transmission)
  • Waterproof: Standard coil is waterproof to 1m/3ft.
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
Pros:
  • Deepest detection depth on all types of gold
  • Electronically updateable via Minelab’s website
  • Full range of gold timing for all situations
Cons:
  • Very heavy
  • Not waterproof
  • No arm rest strap
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Best Beach and Saltwater Metal Detectors:

When it comes to metal detecting, beaches are prime locations due to their popularity and the myriad of items lost and washed up on the shore over the years. This article explores the best metal detector specifically designed for saltwater and beach environments, emphasizing key features essential for successful treasure hunting.

Metal detecting at the beach requires the ability to manually adjust ground balance, crucial for overcoming the interference caused by saltwater, akin to highly mineralized soil. This feature ensures better focus on valuable items amid potential noise. Multi-frequency detectors, adept at handling the constantly changing beach terrain, are highly recommended, along with ground tracking to adapt to varying soil and sand conditions.

Given the dynamic nature of beach environments, detectors must be waterproof to withstand potential exposure to waves and ensure durability. A waterproof detector is not only resistant to splashes but can also be submerged in water, providing versatility for beachcombers who may encounter both wet and dry conditions.

Minelab Excalibur II: Best of the Best
For enthusiasts seeking an all-encompassing metal detector, the Minelab Excalibur II stands out as the top choice. Boasting a waterproof capability of up to 200 feet, this detector is suitable for both land and underwater exploration. With 17 different frequencies ranging from 1.5 kHz to 25.5 kHz, it excels in uncovering buried treasures like coins, rings, and relics.

  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • Frequency: 17 frequencies
  • Waterproof: Up to 200 feet
  • Warranty: 1-year limited
Pros:
  • Exceptional waterproof depth
  • Utilizes Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) multi-frequency technology
  • Unique tone for each frequency enhances target identification
Cons:
  • Hardwired headphones
  • Seals may wear down without proper care
  • Slightly heavy at over 5 pounds, particularly when used underwater
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Best Freshwater Metal Detectors:

While many treasure hunters focus their efforts on beaches, the freshwater shoreline offers a hidden bounty often overlooked. Lakes, creeks, streams, and rivers can be lucrative grounds for uncovering jewelry and coins. Unlike salt-laden beaches, freshwater locations provide a unique advantage, allowing for a broader selection of metal detectors.

When selecting a detector for freshwater exploration, prioritizing waterproof and robust models is crucial. Although a waterproof coil might suffice for ankle-deep excursions, the associated risks, such as equipment damage and financial loss, make it imperative to choose a fully waterproof machine. Additionally, considering a coil cover is advisable to protect the detector when navigating rocky and rugged terrains.

Minelab Excalibur II: Best of the Best
For those inclined towards both metal detecting and scuba diving, the Minelab Excalibur II stands out as an excellent choice. With a waterproof capability of up to 200 feet, this detector is equally effective on land. Boasting 17 frequencies ranging from 1.5 kHz to 25.5 kHz, it enhances the chances of uncovering buried coins, rings, and relics.

An intriguing feature of the Excalibur II is its emission of different tones for each frequency. This means that the tone for gold will be distinguishable from that of silver, adding a layer of precision to your detecting experience.

  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • Frequency: 17 frequencies from 1.5 kHz – 25.5 kHz
  • Waterproof: Up to 200 feet
  • Warranty: 1-year limited
Pros:
  • Waterproof up to 200 feet
  • Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) multi-frequency technology
  • Unique tone for each frequency
Cons:
  • Hardwired headphones
  • Seals may wear down without proper care
  • Slightly heavy at over 5 pounds (especially when used underwater)
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Conclusion:

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced detectorist, our guide aims to empower you with the knowledge needed to choose the perfect metal detector. At Serious Detecting, we're committed to offering expert advice and top-quality products, ensuring your metal detecting journey is both enjoyable and successful. Happy hunting!