By Steve Herschbach
I have now put enough time on all these units to at least reach a basic conclusion in my own mind. And that is that they are far more alike than different. Trying to get clear differences to appear in actual field use in highly mineralized ground is a true exercise in hair splitting.
A couple detectors that can be added to the title list are the Teknetics T2 and G2 models. First Texas owns Fisher and Teknetics. The T2 is the predecessor of the F75. They are not exactly the same detector (they do not share coils) but almost identical in performance. The G2 really is just a Gold Bug 2 in different clothes.
13 kHz - Fisher F75 and Teknetics T2
15 kHz - Nokta FORS Gold and FORS CoRe
19 kHz - Fisher Gold Bug Pro, F19, Teknetics G2
In actual use the frequency just about says it all. The lower frequency F75 and T2 are just a tad less sensitive to very small low conductors, like a small gold nugget. The 15 kHz FORS is almost an exact match to the Gold Bug Pro/F19/G2 for sensitivity to small low conductors and so despite the bigger frequency gap I would say the FORS models come closer to the higher 19 kHz models than the lower 13 kHz models.
I have to say it all just boils very much down to the feature list, and again, they line up pretty well. The less expensive Gold Bug Pro and G2 have a more limited feature set than the F19. The F75 has the most options for tones and settings at the highest price on the list. The Nokta units at their new lower price are a real good value.
For me when it came down to actual performance the Gold Bug Pro/ F19 were so close to the FORS models I let the two Fishers go and kept the Nokta. Basically just to get the automatic ground tracking which can be very useful in variable ground but also the three tone option, which is nice for coin detecting. I also like the way the Nokta units balance better with larger coils. All I can tell anyone at this point if you want a detector to use for nugget detecting and also for other purposes, the Gold Bug Pro/F19/G2/FORS Gold and FORS CoRe are so close in actual field use that it will all come down to the operator and ground variations. I think the machines are a toss up from a performance perspective and so just line up the feature list and go with whatever floats your boat. I think for sheer value at this time the Nokta FORS models are tough to beat.
The T2 and F75 give up a slight edge on small low conductors. What this means is that all the previously mentioned models are better for smaller gold nuggets. The trade off is the T2 and F75 are better all around detectors for general purpose use, gaining in coin and other high end conductors some slight advantage simply because the machines are not quite so sparky on tiny non-ferrous trash. In moderate to low mineral ground conditions the T2 and F75 have a clear depth advantage on high conductive coins but in very mineralized ground the advantage is nearly non-existent.
In my case at least I feel like there is a 90% overlap between my latest version F75 and the two FORS models. If I head out the door right this second to go hunt coins I am more likely to grab the F75 as I like the extra tone schemes. There is the 3H mode that gives a high tone beep on all normal coins but also takes US nickels, which usually reads as a mid tone, and puts it up in the high tone range also. This is a great cherry picking mode. The standard 4 tone mode is great for cherry picking jewelry digging the low mid tones. I like the big screen and the backlight, etc. So I am also keeping my F75.
But if I was heading out the door chasing gold nuggets right now in a really trashy location and not wanting to use a PI, I would grab the FORS instead. It pulls low conductors like small gold nuggets out of the ground better than the F75. Not by a huge margin, but enough to matter to me.
And that is where it will stay for now. I am waiting to get my hands on the new Makro Racer models this summer, and using the F75 and FORS plus Racer units all summer. Then proceeding to phase two of the weeding process. I am trying very hard to get my detector collection down to just a couple PI detectors and a couple VLF detectors. It is down to that stage of the game however where it just needs a lot more in field use to let things sort out for me.
What I can leave you with for sure right now however is that these are all very good detectors that are ridiculously close in performance. You really just can't go wrong with any of them. Mid frequency VLF technology has matured to the point where it is almost impossible for anyone to really stand out from a performance standpoint. Nearly all the performance debates I see on the internet about these models boils down to differences in ground mineralization more than the machines themselves. Just find one that feels right on your arm and sounds good to your ear and get to work!
This is very much a work in progress and so as I get a chance to use the large coils or hunt under different ground conditions if I come up with anything if interest I will add it here. There is a related thread on VDI numbers and tones at http://www.detectorprospector.com/forum/topic/526-fors-gold-f75-v3i-tone-and-vdi-tidbits/
For detailed information on each model plus the latest prices visit Steve's Guide to Gold Nugget Detectors
By Steve Herschbach
I held off on posting about this one for a bit while I got around to some unfinished business. Since my move from Alaska I have been slow to get another safe deposit box set up. I have always had one for my gold and other important valuables. The problem with posting about this stuff on the internet is it can attract the wrong kind of attention. This is something I would encourage everyone to think about. Now that all my gold and other goodies are residing at Wells Fargo I feel a little more free to post about this.
Chris Ralph and I were prospecting in Northern California not too long ago. I was running the Nokta FORS Gold and concentrating on some areas littered with square nails, cable bits, rusted cans, and other ferrous junk. There were places the Nokta running in dual tone DI2 mode sounded like a machine gun from ferrous low tones. I would go along with the detector going "putt - putt - putt - putt - putt - beep - putt" and on hearing that beep, stop to dig a bullet or some other non-ferrous item.
The weather was a bit wet but not unpleasant; kind of brings the forest smells out and makes for softer walking. I was afraid we were going to get rained out but it keep just on the edge of really starting up. There was not much sign of detecting, no doubt due to all the trash. Chris was off hitting some bedrock with his detector while I wandered around in the trees and duff overlying the old tailing materials.
There was a bit of a mound around the base of a tree and I swept around it getting ferrous tones, when all of the sudden I get a strong non-ferrous beep. I looked down at the target id displayed on the end of the FORS Gold handle and it was showing 82. I thought "That's odd, a coin." I was still not tuned in one what the numbers meant exactly on the Nokta but on a typical 1-100 scale an 82 would be something like a penny or a dime. I have yet to find a really decent old coin since moving south, so I thought I was maybe going to dig some nice silver.
I gave a couple digs and was surprised to see nothing pop up. Hmmm... must be bigger, deeper. So I open the hole up and dig deeper, and this dirty gray lump pops out of the ground.
My exact thought "you have got to be kidding me!" It was a filthy lump but I knew instantly it was gold. I could not believe my good fortune. I got out my water bottle and washed it off a bit and saw gold and large chunks of white quartz - I had found something really special. After cleaning it ended up as 1.83 ounces of stunning gold and quartz that would do a museum proud. Just a really spectacular specimen, the best I have ever found. I won't claim that only the Nokta would have found it because any good detector would have. Yet I do think this is a case where a good discriminating VLF detector proved to be of benefit in approaching an area that might cause most pulse induction operators to wander off in another direction.
I thought this post would be a fine way to wrap up my nugget detecting finds for 2014 in anticipation of the New Year. I want to offer special thanks to Chris Ralph for being my guide and mentor while I learn my way around the Lower 48. I literally could not have done this without him. Thanks Chris! I also wish each and every one of you a fantastic nugget laden 2015. Happy Hunting!
By Steve Herschbach
Snow on the ground so time for a little bench testing. Fisher F75 SE version 7.0A (2013) with 5" round DD coil, Nokta FORS Gold with 5" semi-round DD coil, and White's V3i with 4" x 6" DD coil.
The table shows VDI numbers on some standard items. The little allen wrench is like a small nail - a ferrous item. The BIC ballpoint is my standard simulated small nugget. The ring is my 14K plain gold band, around 7 grams.
The VDI range on the Nokta runs from 1 - 99 with 40 and under generally ferrous. The F75 runs from 1 - 99 with 15 and under generally ferrous. The White's V3i runs from -95 to +95 with negative numbers generally ferrous. I say generally because in all three cases gold can run well into the ferrous range. Like by 10 - 20 VDI numbers into it!
A few big lessons. The Nokta FORS VDI 1 - 99 range is skewed with high conductors bunched on the high end of the scale with most of the scale devoted to ferrous and low conductive items. This is ideal for relic hunters and prospectors. Silver coin hunters however usually prefer the scale to devote more room on the high end to possibly get a better handle on what is silver and what is not.
The ferrous range of the Nokta actually runs all the way down into the ferrous ground range itself which is why there are 40 numbers devoted to it. The ID Mask setting defaults to 10 and if set lower allows ground signals to sound off. Since non-ferrous starts at 40 and I arbitrarily end low conductors at zinc penny on the upper end you have 40 - 82 or a spread of 42 points for low conductors. This really is no more than an average spread due to the large ferrous range.
What I was happy to see is the simulated nugget (BIC ballpoint) nailing at 44 as a non-ferrous target.
Contrast this to the F75 1 - 99 range. There are only 15 points in the ferrous range with the extreme low end represented on the Nokta scale truncated roughly in the middle. However, this leaves 16 up to 62 at zinc penny for a low conductor spread of 46 or slightly better than that on the Nokta FORS and leaves room for a little better definition for high conductive coins also. There is a ten point VDI spread between a dime and a quarter versus only 3 points on the Nokta.
What disturbs me on this particular F75 is that having tried multiple coils I am getting the same result on the simulated nugget test. It wants to nail at a solid 1 which is well under the ferrous 8 reading for the allen wrench. This is not shocking but it is not good either. I can get the ballpoint to break in at 16 occasionally but it should be there hard and solid, not rarely. I had Keith Southern test his updated F75 and it seems to do better. I need to test this again when and if I ever get an upgraded F75 but it does confirm my suspicion that at least some Fisher units are not properly aligned at this critical break point.
The White's V3i slays both of them with White's standard spread of 190 VDI points with half that devoted to ground and ferrous. A full 95 points is devoted to non-ferrous, giving a nice spread across the whole range. The V3i is a three frequency unit and the 22.5 kHz frequency employed allows it to easily nail the ballpoint test with a solid VDI of 3. White's even allows the 22.5 kHz frequency to use a native VDI range that skews and expands the low conductive range that delivers a VDI of 10 on the ballpoint, a very nice cushion between it and a ferrous reading. you have from 1 all the way up to 55 for zinc penny slightly beating both the Nokta and F75 for VDI resolution on low conductors and still room left for very good definition in the high conductor range.
These detectors can employ a dual tone mode that delivers a low tone on ferrous targets and a higher tone on non-ferrous targets. The break point on the Nokta and F75 is preset at the factory VDI breaks of 13 and 40. The V3i you can customize not only the VDI break point but the tones.
The F75 dual tone mode is pretty straight forward, with the volume being weaker or louder depending on the strength of the signal. In other words, a modulated audio. The Nokta Boost or DI2 mode uses a VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) audio where both volume and tone increases with signal strength. Anyone that uses a Fisher Gold Bug is familiar with VCO audio. It is rather unique and some people like it, others do not. Again, the V3i allows the tones to be customized any way you want, with either VCO, modulated, or even unmodulated options.
Things get more interesting in Nokta DI3 or F75 three tone options. The low tone break for ferrous is the same but a third higher tone is added. On the Nokta zinc pennies and higher or from 80 on up delivers the third high tone. On the F75 it breaks above zinc penny so those pennies fall into the middle tone low conductive range.
Zinc penny is also where Indian head pennies and some other old coins can fall. If you hunt strictly by ear and dig high tones only you are going to pretty much dig all coins but nickels. With the F75 it is geared more towards silver hunters so zinc pennies, Indian heads and possibly other coins would get passed up as low conductors. But wait! The F75 also has a four tone option that puts that zinc range into into own fourth tone - problem fixed. You can chose a tone option that focuses more on silver only or one that breaks out that penny range. Jewelry Hunter would probably prefer the 3 tone mode and dig just mid-tones. The bottom line is the Fisher has more tone options for the coin hunters than what the FORS offers.
Of note is that the Nokta DI2 dual tone mode uses VCO audio, but the DI3 three tone option defaults to a more normal modulated audio. DI3 favors a faster sweep speed than DI2 which benefits from going slower. A generality would be that DI2 is more powerful but DI3 better behaved.
The V3i again is unchallenged. You can actually go so far as to independently set a separate tone for every single VDI number, and the tones can be any from 191 tone options. You can make low conductors high tone if you want. Absolutely nothing on the market compares to the V3i for audio and visual customization options.
Well, this all seems pretty easy, right? Just get the V3i and get on with business. Sadly, these are air tests. You might ask, for instance, which detector did best for "depth" in these air tests, as if there actually is such a thing. I only pay passing attention to that but the F75 seemed to be doing very well in that regard. Here is the problem with this entire lesson and all my typing. When you put things in the ground all these nice air tests rapidly decay and fall apart.
In very mild ground or on very shallow targets detectors can be amazing. In my ground unfortunately VDI numbers start breaking down at around 3-4 inches! What you discover is that if you get too focused on cherry picking VDI numbers good finds deplete rapidly. Almost all accessible public areas have been detected for decades. So the easy accurate VDI results have already all been cherry picked away. The best finds these days often come from digging targets that were passed up precisely because they did not give a perfect response.
In my opinion, these days we have to cast a wider net and be willing to dig more trash to make those exceptional finds. What that means is huge numbers of VDI numbers and tones although flashy and fun often is no better than just using a simple two or three tone method and going for it. Styles differ vastly and because really this is about enjoying ourselves there is no right or wrong way to do things - as long as you are enjoying yourself. For me, something simple like the Nokta DI3 tone option for digging all high conductor possible coin signals actually works pretty well in actual practice. If I want coins except nickels just dig high tones and have fun. The F75 allows a special mode that kicks nickels into the high tone range so you can do the same thing and get the nickels also if you choose. The V3i by now you should know the story - set it up any way you want.
Still, tests like these are very valuable to me in setting the baseline for performance in the field from which I can work to discover how much things vary and hopefully why. The theoretical goal if finding a machine that adheres as closely to bench testing results as possible in the field. Sometimes you get textbook results, but then at another location everything goes haywire. But unless you know where you are starting from you will have no idea what is going on.
I will sum this up for now by saying that the Nokta FORS is a machine that appeals to simplicity and leans towards relic hinting and prospecting. That is not to say you can't do well coin detecting with it, it is just that it is not set up with coin detecting specifically in mind. The F75 nicely straddles the middle for all detecting purposes.
The V3i is in theory the perfect detector but the reality is huge numbers of people have discovered more options does not always mean better detecting, and it is not unusual at all for people to abandon the V3i in favor of simpler machines. Unless you spend a vast amount of time with a V3i it is hard to feel like you have mastered the machine. The V3i appeals to my inner detector nerd but it is usually the case where in the field I prefer simpler machines myself. Still, I made the V3i part of all this just to see how it really does do if given a fair chance and at least when bench testing it is impressive to see all the bells and whistles in action.
This is all just stuff I am finding out for myself. I have no real reason in reporting it to you other than just to be sharing some info that is taking at least a little effort to collect. It helps me digest it better trying to put it clearly in a form you can better understand. Hopefully it will help someone in their own choice in a detector. As you may be figuring out if you have not already, there are no best VLF detectors, just lots of really different VLF detectors. They all actually do a good job finding stuff but it is in how they go about it that differs so much. It is mostly a case of finding out what style and type of detector works best for you.
Chris at AZO set me up with a Fors CoRe yesterday. Been eyeing one for a while. I took it out for a spin today. First, to a local modern park just to get familiar with it then to a 1870s era ghost town that is so trashy that it's hard to find a spot to ground balance. I am very impressed with it's recovery speed/target separation. It hits super hard on coins and really "locks" in on them leaving little doubt that there is a coin under the coil. I know I'm a late comer to the Nokta Fors party and everyone already knows all this so I'll just show the goodies I found today on the CoRe's maiden run...
The coins are all modern and most were found in the park. The shell casings are .30WCF. Notice one has been pounded flat and the end folded over. It's got something in it as it rattles when I shake it. The casings and the little copper things near the casings were found in the ghost town. Looking forward to giving it a spin in the gold fields. HH
By Steve Herschbach
The Nokta FORS CoRe and Nokta FORS Gold have the same target VDI (Visual Discrimination Indicator) number and looking the the Makro Racer I am pretty sure it will be the same. Here is a closeup if the Racer reference label along with numbers I have culled from the FORS manual and put in a more understandable format. This is of course a simplified chart with a lot of overlap in ranges. Tiny gold nuggets could run well down into the ferrous range in the 2 - 40 zone.
Nokta FORS & Makro Racer VDI Chart
0 - 5 Hot Rocks
5 -25 Mineralized Ground
25 - 35 Salty and Alkali Soils
10 - 40 Ferrous Targets (Iron, nails)
40 - 50 Foil, Small Gold
56 - 58 US Nickel
82 - 83 Zinc Penny
84 - 86 US Dime
88 - 92 US Quarter
95 - 99 Hot Rocks
From the FORS owners manual:
More information on the Makro Racer and Makro Gold Racer