The Best Metal Detectors For Gold 2023
Gold prospecting in the soil, just a couple inches beneath the sandy upper strata, is the nugget you’ve always dreamed of and a few inches above that, a metal detector. With the best metal detectors for gold, you’ll come to the field equipped with the tools needed to find that pocket, seize that seam, and sniff out the deposits.
Metal detectors come in a few basic varieties, but all follow a general principle: an electric charge is used to create a magnetized wave that is directed at the ground; if this wave comes into contact with metal, the metal begins to vibrate in a specific manner, which can be detected by the device. When the sensor finds metal, it alerts the detectorist via a set of earphones, or a moving dial.
How We Choose the Best Metal Detectors For Gold
The people who love metal detecting love it for the hunt. If you’ve ever swept sandy shores looking for a little pot of washed up relics, or scoured scree fields in searching for a glimmering something that’s freshly rolled off the mountain, you know the thrill of the hunt. However, a successful hunt can’t happen without two things: the right know-how and the right tools.
We researched numerous models from lots of different leading brands, looking for the best of the best. We took into account metal detectors we’d used, ones that peers had recommended, and ones that users spoke favorably of. Along the way, we did a deep dive into the technology behind our picks.
VLF Vs PI
The methods used to detect metal falls into a few categories. The two most common technologies are very low frequency (VLF), and pulse induction (PI). These technologies both use electromagnetic waves to locate metal.
VLF detectors use a sensor coil and transmitter coil. The transmitter coil emits constant electromagnetic energy at a tuned frequency. When this energy encounters metal underground, it creates an eddy current in the metal that results in a phase shift of the reflected frequency.
The sensor coil is then able to read this phase shifted frequency pattern. VLF detectors make up the majority of metal detectors out there and tend to be the most versatile. However, they don’t do as well in more mineralized soils without calibration. VLF detectors meant for finding gold will usually be tuned to a higher frequency. Some VLF detectors at higher price points are able to emit varying frequencies.
PI detectors, on the other hand, emit rapid pulses of electromagnetic energy. These pulses quickly decay. When the pulses encounter a magnetic object they cause an eddy current to form in it. This magnetic eddy current then causes a measurable delay in the decay of subsequent pulse transmissions.
PI detectors do a better job than VLF detectors at picking out gold in more mineralized soils and can generally be effective at ID’ing gold at greater depths. The newer technology is also generally quite expensive, but can be worth it for veteran prospectors who want a device that will give them the edge in more difficult terrain.
Coil size is an important factor in VLF detectors. While smaller coils will generally be more sensitive for gold, larger coils will allow you to scour more ground quickly. Luckily some detectors allow you to swap out coils. These enable you to hone in on a gold rich area, then switch coils for a more accurate search.
Detection depth varies substantially. PI detectors usually do a better job at detecting gold that’s buried deeper, sometimes up to two feet. Only the higher priced VLF detectors have the penetration required to find deep gold.
Ground balance is used to tune a detector’s frequency to the mineral you’re after (in this case gold) and filter out everything else. A properly ground balanced detector will filter out the frequencies of other minerals and mineralized earth you encounter, and dial you into gold, at deeper levels and with better accuracy. Many detectors offer automatic ground balancing, while some allow you to fine-tune their balance manually.
Frequency describes the transmission of electromagnetic waves from your detector. Since gold is a very low conductivity metal, higher frequency transmitters with shorter wavelengths do a better job at spotting it. Most detectors will have one frequency that they are able to transmit, while some have a range. We looked for detectors that transmit at good frequencies for finding gold, generally 14kHz and above.
Before you start prospecting, there’s a few considerations to make:
Most metal detectors are tuned to a specific frequency. However, some metal detectors do a better job than others at versatility. If you’re looking for a great metal detector for gold that can also moonlight as a detector for silver, relics, and rare ores, then look around for a more versatile detector that has multiple frequencies or swappable heads.
Metal detectors get expensive quickly. Before you commit to a metal detector, it’s usually a good idea to determine exactly what you want. While there are budget options out there, if you’re serious about looking for gold, an investment in a true prospector-grade detector could be worth it. Pricier detectors are usually better at piercing deep into the soil where worthwhile nuggets of gold remain, and won’t get thrown off by deposits of other minerals. Still, gold is hard to find. Many true prospector-grade devices leave most hobbyists priced out. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind before you begin to shop.
While gold can certainly be found with the right time and know-how, you’re unlikely to find any in Central Park. Before you commit to investing in an expensive metal detector for gold, it’s a good idea to plan your prospecting strategy. When you’re starting out, it’s generally a good idea to search areas that have been known to produce gold in the past, even if larger hauls might come from remote areas, such as Alaska, Northern Canada, or Western Australia.
The Best Metal Detectors For Gold
With the wrong detector for the job, you may have strayed past a life-changing chunk of gold and never been the wiser. That’s why when we were compiling this list we wanted to make sure we could bring an authoritative selection of metal detectors to the table. Here are our picks for the best metal detectors for gold.
With full-waterproofing and multiple frequency modes, this excellent gold detector is ready for all valuables in all sorts of environments. Sometimes a company just hits on a slice of perfect and if you’re after a personal basset hound for the bullion, then the Minelab Equinox is a detector you can’t afford to ignore. Historically, when you bought a metal detector, you picked a frequency and worked within it, but not so here.
The Equinox is one of the most versatile machines out there. With multiple simultaneous frequency responses from 5 – 40 kHz, this detector is as capable of nosing into a patch of gold as it is turning up ancient coins, spearheads, and jewelry—all without committing to a mode in advance. That picture is completed with solid target ID’s that keep you from digging up nails when you’re looking for pieces of eight.
The Equinox offers a great combination of automatic settings and options for manual tuning. With its four distinct detection modes, it’s as easy to set it for beach hunting, as it is for the mineralized mountain soils where gold is usually found.
It also comes with 8 custom search profiles and allows you to save the settings you most frequently use. Advanced settings allow you to tweak how much target audio you hear. The LCD display sums it all up concisely with simple controls that let you instantaneously adjust detect modes and frequency. Special accessory coils for specific situations are also available to expand your range.
With superior sensitivity even for deeply buried objects, salt water immunity, and great resistance to interference, this is a PI detector that’s perfect for rugged environments and mineralized soils.
A draft-horse of the metal detection world, the pulse induction Garrett ATX is a powerful instrument built for deep discoveries in rough environments. Using PI tech, the ATX is built for going deeper and finding gold in rougher locales.
This is a stacked instrument with lots of modes and capabilities that will become second nature with time. The ATX leverages a multi-frequency mode to cut deeper into the ground and uncover more metal. It features 13 sensitivity modes, a capable ground-balance function that takes mere seconds to calibrate to the soil you’re working with, as well as ground tracking. Together, the ATX easily cuts through salty soil, seawater, and mineralized crusts. The iron check feature is another nice capability that audibly checks whether an item is iron, and the pinpoint feature helps you lock onto and find nuggets that you’d like to investigate.
The ATX is indisputably rugged but it’s also heavy—three times as heavy as some of the other leading detectors we follow. However, it’s also sturdier than most. It’s submersible up to 10 feet and won’t be affected by salt water or dust. All in all, if you want a rugged detector that leads the pack in terms of detection depth, this PI detector is it. You’d have to spend considerably more on something like the ultra-premium Minelab GPZ series with its ZVT tech to exceed it.
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