By Steve Herschbach
I find myself in the position of having a large number of metal detectors recently acquired or headed my way. I plan to review these detectors soon on various forums and have published my thoughts on various detectors for many years.
Many people may be familiar with who I am but many are not and so I decided it was a good time to do a full disclosure statement. I do think it is important for people to know why I publish detector reviews and what my motivations are.
I got my first metal detector in 1972 and have been detecting ever since. I got into prospecting for gold around the same time, and the two activities have provided focal points in my life. So much so that a partner and I founded a company in 1976 to sell prospecting equipment, including metal detectors. That company, Alaska Mining & Diving Supply of Anchorage, Alaska, went on to become one of the largest retailers of its type in the country.
That means that for most of my life not a single day has gone by without me thinking about metal detectors and prospecting equipment. I continued to use the gear myself not only prospecting but coin and jewelry detecting. One of my main work responsibilities was deciding what equipment to stock and because of this I had the perfect excuse to try and and use hundreds of metal detectors over the years. I could simply borrow them and use them for free, or buy them at dealer cost. I have not paid retail for a detector since 1976. The only limitation on my ability to try a detector was my own interest in it.
It is not unusual for me to grab six or eight detectors and take them all out and test and compare. My excuse often was business but the truth has always been it is because I am interested in metal detectors to the point of obsession. I like using different detectors and learning about them. I like figuring out how to best apply one to a given situation. Always, I am on the lookout for better machines for myself. Everything else is just happy side effect or excuses for doing what I do. Metal detecting is my thing.
I am also a computer nerd and was the IT guy at AMDS. I built the company website and ran the network. I think the Internet is one of the best things to ever happen to metal detecting. I joined various forums and found I could trade information with like minded people from all over the globe. I have come to know people I would never have met prior to the Internet. I read all I could find and shared what I knew. I learned who to pay attention to and who to ignore.
I made a key decision early on. I wanted people to know who I was. I was not interested in hiding my name or my motives and so I went the other direction. I have always used my name and never post under a pseudonym or nickname. I always wanted people to know where I was coming from and that I was in business. The truth however is that I never let business get in the way of my integrity in reporting my personal opinions about metal detectors. I had the benefit of being a multiline dealer and so could talk about all brands because in our business, we did not care what brand you bought. My goal was always just to promote metal detecting and metal detectors. The particular brands never mattered.
The main thing though is for me it never was this versus that or any particular desire to find the perfect metal detector. I simply do not believe there is such a thing. It is like wanting to declare one car the best and all others worthless. The goal is to get from point A to point B. Every car can get you from here to there. But they look different, they sound different, they act different, they cost different amounts. People own various models for various reasons. Metal detectors are no different and that is why they all sell and they all have their fan clubs and followers.
With that being the case, who am I to say my detector is better than your detector? In my opinion, if your $49 made in China detector truly serves your purpose and makes you happy then it is every bit as good as any detector I own. As a retailer, if there really was such a thing as a perfect detector I could just hang one on the wall, and sell every person that one detector. My goal was always to try and figure out what my customer wanted and what detector, at the lowest cost, could do everything they wanted. Honestly, I got very, very good at it. I became a walking talking metal detector catalog stuffed full of facts and figures and if I ever got stumped by a question, it did not happen twice in a row.
My partner and I engineered a sale of our company to our employees in 2010. I also due to some great success with a mining property at Moore Creek, Alaska was able to purchase a new home in Reno, Nevada. I sold everything in Alaska and moved to Reno, and a major goal in doing so was to be able to continue prospecting and metal detecting while I am still physically fit enough to really get out and do it to the max. Reno is centrally located in the western US and makes a perfect base for heading in just about any direction looking not only for gold, but for coins, jewelry, and meteorites. About the only type of detecting I do not actively pursue is relic hunting, as all the laws pertaining to that put a damper on my desire to get involved much in it.
I did not retire so much as just focus my life around my prospecting and metal detecting more fully. I finally was able to devote more time to another interest, writing, to help supplement my income. Another retirement income strategy is my website at www.detectorprospector.com where I derive some income from Google ads. I always enjoyed building websites and my goal is to over time make it a fabulous resource on prospecting and metal detecting, and hopefully make a little money doing so. I also have numerous books in my head that will finally see the light of day.
I have always got along well with people at the various metal detector companies and over the years I sometimes was sent a detector to try out and keep for my own use. I found that being a known, visible person on the Internet made companies sometimes desire to put a detector in my hands. Frankly, I can find about anything with any detector made so it makes sense. I have found that my officially no longer being attached to a company has removed any last feeling that maybe I am trying to sell people something, or maybe it is just coincidence, but in the last couple years it seems like everyone wants to send a detector my way.
In the last two years I have received free detectors from Fisher, Garrett, Minelab, and White's. I just received one from a newer company, Nokta.
Now, I do not always get stuff for free and I do not count on it. If I am interested in it, I get it one way or the other. I still have my company contacts and can get new stuff at dealer cost if I want it. That means I can get it, use it, and generally sell it for what I have in it. I have a pot of money wrapped up in detecting gear that just kind of rotates. I buy some and then I get too many so I sell some. The key thing is I am not actually spending household money, so my wife does not care. I just rotate the funds. I even buy a used detector now and then. The bad news for the manufacturers is they cannot escape me even if they wanted to. If they do not send me a detector, I will get it anyway. Big hint guys - you do not actually have to give them to me. Well, maybe some you do!
This may seem whiny but it does get to be a bit of work. I am getting jaded and so I am getting less kick from trying new detectors out than I used to get just because they all are so capable these days. They all do the trick one way or the other and so it all can get to be a bit ho-hum at times. When I get sent a detector for free I do have a certain responsibility to go use it and report on it that does get to seem a bit too much like work at times so I need to be careful about that. I have found it never pays to make fun too much like work.
Sorry if I am boring you with all this but I plan on this being a sort of definitive statement I can point to in the future should people ask. Or accuse. Or whatever. I just want to lay it all out so you know where I am coming from. And this is it.
There is no perfect detector. There is no ability to put them all in a pile and declare one a winner. Metal detecting involves looking for nearly infinite different types of targets in almost infinite different types of ground conditions. There are other variables like electrical interference, and proximity of one type of target to another. The key thing as others have pointed out is you never know what it is you did not find. What is in the ground your detector missed?
So you detect a 20 foot by 20 foot area, and your detector finally cannot find anything else. Then you try another detector, and you find some things the first detector missed. Does that mean the second detector is better? No, because if you did it in reverse, the same thing would almost always happen.
Whenever you use a detector you chose a frequency or combination of frequencies, a coil, and various settings, all that combine to work on a certain set of targets that are in the ground. Changing nearly any of those parameters results in a few targets previously detected now getting missed, and other targets previously missed now being detected. The biggest offender is discrimination of any sort. Rejecting any undesired target can cause other desirable targets to be missed through what we refer to as target masking. Target masking is when a rejected target hides or "masks" another target near or under the rejected target.
Nugget detecting is a particularly pure form of metal detecting, in that the goal is to find all metal in the ground. Or so you would think. Due to the huge volumes of junk out there people do still rely on discrimination to eliminate trash items and find gold nuggets, and so target masking still is an issue. But in many cases prospectors really do want one detector that will suck every metal item out of the ground.
Even that is much harder than it appears. The ground itself represents a target that must be dealt with, and worse yet are the so-called hot rocks that go off like a good target on a metal detector. Dealing with ground effects and hot rocks introduces its own type of target masking. If you reject a certain type of ground, there are nuggets that will be missed because the ground rejection method employed also rejects this nuggets. You only need to air test a detector on a nugget then bury the nugget in the ground and test again to see this in action. Only in the rarest of circumstances can detectors find targets as far in the ground as in the air due to the effects of ground minerals. Size matters a lot, as a detector made to find large nuggets at absolute best depths tends to not do as well on tiny nuggets and vice versa.
It is all about trade offs. The detector engineers have an end goal they are trying to achieve, and almost always seeking to do one thing perfectly means giving something else up in the way of performance. This means the only way to truly detect any given plot of ground is to dig absolutely all targets, and to use multiple detectors with differing characteristics to find things with one the other will miss. In nugget detecting this can be practical at times. It may even be practical for beach or relic hunters. It will almost never work for urban detectorists or people who look for non-ferrous targets in the midst of undesired ferrous stuff as the sheer volume of junk targets makes digging everything impractical.
So here it is, my full disclosure. First and foremost, I do not care what detector anyone purchases or if they purchase one at all. My goal is to simply share what I know and to offer what advice I can best offer. My only motivation from a monetary aspect is in promoting my website where I derive some revenue from Google ads, and hopefully to entice people into reading my magazine articles and purchasing any books I may write. I do appreciate and thank the metal detector manufacturers for any free detectors I receive, but all it buys them is a guarantee I will use the detector and report on it. It does not buy my opinions or my integrity in reporting what I think. However, my mother did raise me well and so I do strive to be polite.
Like most people I tend to find magazine reviews a bit bland. They are useful and informative, but they take being polite too far. I think I do nobody, most of all a detector manufacturers, a service by not pointing out places where improvement can be found. I also cannot stand it when people criticize without offering solutions, and so I practice constructive criticism. I want the manufacturers to know where they can do better and I wish always they would be more responsive. The truth is I and nearly anyone who is given a detector to test rarely influences the main design of the detector, which is 99% set in stone by the time any of us see it.
Seriously, don't you all wonder why detectors are the way they are and why silly design things happen? It is because when I get a detector to test all they really want to know is if it basically just works. But if I point out that a certain design feature is weak or needs improvement, especially from a physical standpoint, it almost always is ignored. The basic design in done already. Now, you would think then that perhaps the asked for improvement or commentary might get taken into consideration on the next go round, but that never really seems to happen either. It is why after all these years there is still room for new manufacturers to jump in and give people what they want. Which I believe simply is light weight powerful detectors able to tackle multiple tasks that can be updated and modified via software. The idea should be that perfect detector that really can do it all just by pushing a button or flipping a switch.
I digress. Since I wholeheartedly believe that all detectors have strong points and serve certain purposes well, my goal in testing and comparing detectors is not to declare one a winner and one a loser. My goal is to figure out when I should use one over the other for certain tasks based on the particular strengths of the detector. And then share that with people by trying to best help them get the best out of their detector.
I will pick on Garrett and Minelab since I have a Garrett ATX and Minelab SDC 2300, both courtesy of those respective manufacturers. Thank you guys and gals at Garrett and Minelab! Now, these detectors are similar, but in my mind they are also totally different. My reports on the ATX are very enthusiastic as are my reports on the SDC 2300. Is that because I am fawning over the detectors to please the manufacturers? Sorry, but in my world it would never occur to me. I find life to be easier when I just say what I think. I really, really like both of these metal detectors. I am a big fan of pulse induction detectors and have been lucky enough to see ground balancing pulse induction detectors slowly grow into a force in the industry. They are rude and crude in some ways but very powerful, and getting more refined all the time.
The Garrett ATX and Minelab SDC 2300 are both good detectors. One is not better than the other. Both detectors have strengths and weaknesses and can very well serve individuals with slightly different goals and pocketbooks. If I am to do what I see as my job properly it is for me to try and explain where they each excel and to help anyone that owns one or the other get the best out of it. But do I care if you buy one or the other or something else entirely? Nope, not at all.
Am I afraid if I say the wrong thing Garrett or Minelab might get mad at me and never send me a free detector again? There are things I worry about in life, but that is not one of them. I have no problem telling Garrett publicly I think the ATX weighs too much or Minelab that the SDC 2300 is priced beyond the reach of many people. It just is what it is folks, and trying to pretend otherwise is a game I am not interested in playing. What I really am attempting is to influence the manufacturers in some small way to make the detectors that I want personally. If that benefits anyone else that is nice but ultimately I am being pretty selfish about the whole thing. I am trying to tell the manufacturers what I want and I am trying to get them to listen to me. Being in a position to sway public opinion gives me a stronger hand to play in that regard.
The bottom line is if I irritate somebody by saying what I think and they decline to send me a detector I want to check out I will just get the silly thing anyway and report on it anyway so in the end it will make no difference at all.
In that regard I finally worked myself up an interest in the XP DEUS and since they never saw fit to just send me one (and believe it or not I am too shy to ask) I went ahead and bought one at a price few will ever see and have it on the way. The whole thing with several detectors got my interest up on the White's V3i again and so I just bought one on eBay that only has a few hours use and transferable warranty. I suppose I could have tried to wheedle one out of White's but they have been so generous to me over the years that would have been a bit embarrassing for me. Kind of like going out with my hat in hand and asking for a buck, if you know what I mean. So I just got one for what I can sell it for at some point, same difference to me.
I am not trying to set myself up as some kind of final say in all things metal detecting. I am only one guy with one opinion. I have my own built in bias as to what works best for me doing what I do, and all detectors I look at get seen though that filter. My best advice is to seek out and read multiple reviews of any machine you are interested in on the internet and kind of average them out. Beware the new posters who pop out of nowhere when new machines come out. You can always use forum searches and Google to find out which posters have been around the longest and by reading some of their posts find out if their interests mirror your own. It is kind of like seeking out a movie reviewer who likes the same movies you like.
Well, again, I apologize for the length of this but I just wanted to get it out there and said so you all know exactly where I am coming from and why I have all these detectors and where I get them and what is in it for me. The bottom line is I love metal detecting in all its aspects and enjoy not only doing it but using the detectors and yakking it up with any and all that are similarly interested. I am very fortunate to have found a passion in life and a little niche where I am happy as the proverbial clam. I can only wish that each and every one of you are half so fortunate as I in that regard. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and happy hunting!
If anyone has any questions about any of this that I have not made clear, please just ask. I have nothing to hide and will answer any and all questions as honestly and as clearly as I can. Thanks.
By Steve Herschbach
The Makro Gold Racer has been one of my most anticipated new VLF metal detectors in years. This completely new model represents something I have wanted for a very long time – a high frequency VLF metal detector that does not skimp for features, in particular as regards discrimination options.
A little background. First, I have been testing prototypes of the Makro Gold Racer, and this review is based on those prototypes. The final version due soon has a completely new LCD display layout, audio boost, refinements to other settings, and physical refinements like a change in the handle angle, etc. That being the case this review should be considered preliminary and final specifications are subject to change, as well as details you may see in my photos regarding the physical design of the detector.
Second, what is the intended market for the Makro Gold Racer? The machine looks deceptively like many other detectors aimed at general purpose metal detecting. I want to emphasize that first and foremost this is a gold prospecting detector. There are only a few other detectors that directly compare to the Gold Racer which is running at a very high frequency of 56 kHz. Comparable detectors would be the White’s GMT at 48 kHz, the Minelab Eureka Gold running in its 60 kHz setting, and the Fisher Gold Bug 2 at 71 kHz.
The intent with very high frequency detectors is to sharpen the response on extremely small metal targets. High frequency detectors are in a niche all their own when it comes to finding the tiniest of gold nuggets. This sensitivity does come at a cost however, in that the detectors are also responsive to ground mineralization and hot rocks that less sensitive, lower frequency detectors might ignore completely. There is no free lunch in detecting, and I want to caution anyone thinking that the Makro Gold Racer is going to be a magical solution to all their detecting desires to be realistic about things. Inevitably when new detectors come out people fall victim to wishful thinking, and I would like to try and avoid that here.
When it comes to reviewing detectors I do the best I can to describe detectors to help people decide if they might be interested in them or not. Do realize again however that this review is based on preliminary information. Also, I honestly do not want people buying new metal detectors based solely on my reviews. There will be some of who want the latest and greatest right now, and I appreciate that, but being a first adopter does have its risks. My normal advice to people is to never buy anything based on a single review, but to wait for more of a consensus opinion to emerge.
I have used the Gold Racer in the field, and I have found gold with it. Right now though if it is just a matter of you wanting to know if the Makro Gold Racer can find gold then I refer you to the excellent field review with photos posted by Ray Mills at the Detector Prospector Forum.
In outward appearance the Makro Gold Racer resembles its immediate predecessor, the Makro Racer, but this really is a new detector, not just a Racer running at a higher frequency. Feedback on the original Racer has been incorporated as well as extensive testing and commentary from prospectors around the world. Besides the obvious color difference, major physical changes include completely redesigning the layout of the LCD display to better differentiate what are all metal functions and what are discrimination functions. All metal functions are on the left, and discrimination functions are on the right. I think the new display is more intuitive and better accommodates the extra functions implemented on the Gold Racer.
The angle of the bend in the S rod handle grip has been relaxed based on feedback from Racer owners. The vibration mode was eliminated, shaving a tiny amount of weight and freeing up room on the display menu. The Gold Racer with stock 10” x 5.5” DD coil and NiMH batteries installed weighs in on my postal scales at exactly three pounds.
Coils available at launch are the 10” x 5.5” DD that is stock on the detector. Optional coils include a 10” x 5.5” concentric coil, 5” round DD coil, and a light weight 15.5” x 13” DD coil.
Let’s take a look at the functions. Under All Metal on the left side of the meter are the functions that apply only to the All Metal mode. On the right are the functions for the two Discrimination modes. The settings are independent in each mode, and once set can be saved when the detector is powered down. This simple and intuitive setup is also part of the power of the Makro Gold Racer. It is incredibly easy once each mode has been customized to flip quickly between the three modes, cross checking target responses to make a dig/no-dig decision.
All Metal is the heart and soul of nugget detecting, and the Makro Gold Racer has an extremely powerful, smooth, and sensitive threshold based all metal mode. The Sensitivity setting is familiar to anyone who has used a metal detector, except that there are three base levels of sensitivity or gain. Significant boosts occur between 39 - 40 and again between 69 - 70. Most detectors max out at what is a setting of 69 on the Gold Racer. Settings of 70 and above are a type of hyper gain setting that takes the machine above and beyond, but in extreme ground overload signals may occur. Overload signals are indicated by a “warning siren” audio and the machine is telling you that there is either a large metal object under the coil, or that you are encountering extreme mineralization. In the case of mineralization, either raise the coil slightly while scanning, lower the sensitivity setting, or both. Overloads occurring at 70 will almost always be eliminated by dropping to 69.
Rest assured very little is lost by lowering sensitivity to 69 or below, again, because many detectors cannot be set as hot as the Gold Racer even at their maximum setting. Do you ever run detectors and have the distinct feeling some performance has been left on the table, because the detector can always be run at maximum settings? Makro has given you that extra power for where it can be used, but in doing so they expect you will lower settings in places where that extra power works against you. Luckily, the audio alert makes it easy to know when this is. Most people do not know it but many detectors simply shut down and quit working under similar conditions with no indication at all to the operator, a situation referred to as “silent masking”.
The threshold setting is the normal control that sets the volume of the slight audio tone that is key to any experienced nugget hunter finding the tiniest or deepest gold nuggets. The most minute variations in the threshold tone can indicate a gold nugget, and the ability to read the threshold is what sets most really good nugget hunters apart from everyone else. Makro has added a feature to the Gold Racer called iSAT, for “Intelligent Self Adjusting Threshold”. This setting consists of several levels of adjustment that vary the rate at which the threshold tone steadies itself. Higher levels of iSAT smooth the threshold more aggressively which aids in maintaining a smooth threshold in rapidly varying ground. Lower levels allow for faint variations to be heard more clearly in milder ground for extra depth and sensitivity.
The Gold Racer can be ground balanced three ways. Holding the trigger switch under the control pod in the forward position activates an instant automatic ground balance. Just pump the coil over the ground a couple times, release the trigger, and you are done. There is a short delay when you release the trigger, and during this delay you may manually adjust the ground balance setting. The instant ground balance is neutral to slightly negative. Those that like a slightly positive ground balance need only perform the instant balance, then tap the right hand control button three of four times.
The Tracking function on the control panel engages and disengages automatic ground tracking. This is most useful where the ground conditions vary wildly, a perfect example being mixed cobble piles or river bars. The tracking is very quick yet resists tracking out genuine gold signals as much as possible. This can also be an aid to anyone new to ground balancing detectors as it makes the process entirely automatic.
The Backlight setting adjusts the illumination level of the backlit screen. The FD/Save setting allows adjustments to be saved when the detector is powered off, while the FD function resets Factory Defaults. There is also a Frequency Shift setting to help eliminate outside electrical interference from power lines, or another Gold Racer being operated nearby. This is set through a combination of control buttons but not visible on the menu. Finally, although this is a true threshold based all metal mode, the meter acts independently in discrimination mode at all times and indicates target id information when the signal strength is sufficient to do so.
Under the Discrimination menu are settings that are completely separate from the All Metal settings and also saved or reset separately. Disc 1 is a standard two tone mode with low tone ferrous and higher tone non-ferrous. Disc 2 is a similar but deeper, more powerful mode. Quick switching between these two modes, each with fully independent settings, creates a many layered and subtle approach to target discrimination. Both discrimination modes are silent search, no threshold based systems. However, new to Makro models is the ability to set the point at which low tones flip, or “break” over into being higher tones. Typically 39 and lower target id will cause a low tone, and 40 and above a higher tone. This ability somewhat replaces the three tone mode on the original Racer because by increasing the Tone Break setting it is possible to create various coin detecting scenarios. For instance, all targets with an id number below copper penny could register low tone, and therefore copper pennies, dimes, quarters, and dollar coins a higher tone.
Conversely, lowering the Tone Break setting would create a more conservative approach for nugget detecting by accepting a little more ferrous digging in return for possibly finding another nugget or two.
The Sensitivity control on the Disc menu is the same as but independent of the All Metal setting of the same name. ID Filter is a variable discrimination control, with higher settings eliminating or blanking out id numbers lower than the current setting. This setting is independent for each Disc mode, and again flipping back and forth can create some interesting scenarios for comparing targets at completely different sensitivity and ID Filter levels. This quick mode switching between All Metal, Disc1, and Disc2, all with independent settings, is a very powerful tool once you get used to it.
Also new with the Gold Racer is the iMask setting. I noted at the start of this review that all metal detector designs involve making trades of some sort. Extreme high frequency sensitivity to small metal targets does increase chatty false responses in extreme ground when in the discrimination modes. iMask attenuates or suppresses weaker target responses in the discrimination modes and provides a secondary level of adjustment separate from and in addition to the Sensitivity and ID Filter settings. If the detector is producing lots of quick, spurious signals in the discrimination modes, reducing sensitivity or increasing ID Filter settings or both is the first line of attack. If this does not work, go back to the original settings on those functions, and try increasing the iMask setting. If this does not work, again lower sensitivity or increase the ID Filter or both on top of the current iMask setting. iMask acts as a pre-filter giving an extra level of control to help deal with extremely bad ground conditions. Finally, Disc1 is a less aggressive mode than Disc2, so using Disc1 offers even another level of possible options when dealing with bad ground in the discrimination modes.
The Backlight setting is independent for the discrimination modes, as is the Factory Default/Save Settings function. I think it goes without saying that there has never been a high frequency metal detector ever produced with this level of options and control. There are a lot of variables to play with here, and I would not be truthful at all if I said I have this machine all figured out. In fact, I think part of the fun with the Makro Gold Racer is we are entering uncharted territory. Until the final version of the machine is released, and until quite a few people get their hands on it and experiment, it is very difficult to say just what applications creative detectorists may find for the Gold Racer. It is a very powerful VLF gold prospecting detector, I can vouch for that. Applications also may be found for jewelry detecting and relic hunting in particular, and even coin detecting, due to the unique combination of features the Makro Gold Racer offers.
OK, finally – some notes on real world use! Again, this is all based on prototype models and so I can only speak in generalities for this report. However, there is no doubt in my mind that even the prototype detectors rival anything currently available in a VLF detector for finding tiny gold nuggets. I can easily locate flakes of gold weighing under one tenth grain with the Gold Racer and the stock 10” x 5.5” DD coil. In fact, the machine is so hot with the stock coil I thought using a smaller coil offered minimal if any benefit, mostly because of lost ground coverage and possibly lost depth on larger nuggets. I would only use the smaller coil myself for nooks and crannies where the stock coil can’t fit, but otherwise the stock coil really is the way to go in my opinion. Keep in mind I did say grain not gram. There are 480 grains per Troy ounce and in my opinion I can find flakes all day long with the Gold Racer that weigh less than 1/10th grain, or less than 1/4800th ounce.
Smallest nugget unweighable, largest 2.4 grams
In trashy locations I generally preferred running in all metal and just checking the meter for ferrous targets, which tend to lock in hard at 21 or 22 on the numbers. In theory anything under 40 is ferrous, but to be safe I might investigate items as low as 35 or even 30 depending on the situation and amount of trash. However, as I noted most ferrous locks in hard around 20 leaving no doubt what the target is. In All Metal mode very tiny or very deep targets beyond discrimination range give no target id at all, automatically meaning they need investigation. The main reason I prefer to always hunt in All metal is the extra depth and sensitivity it affords, and checking targets visually is very quick and more efficient than toggling back and forth to a Disc mode under normal circumstances.
For areas with too much trash where meter watching might get to be a bit too much, I jnormally use one of the disc modes set for two tone ferrous/non-ferrous. Iron targets just burp away, while non-ferrous target pop out with a beep. If even that got to be too much for some people, increasing the ID Filter to eliminate most ferrous responses completely can make for a quieter experience in really trashy locations. As always, I must include the warning that the more discrimination applied, the more risk of missing a good target. Use no more discrimination than needed to preserve your sanity!
I used the Gold Racer to hunt a couple trashy areas where I just could not go with my big dollar all metal machine, and easily located nuggets in the midst of trash. For me personally the Makro Gold Racer fills in two areas where the high price big gun detectors come up short. The ability to find the tiniest, most dispersed gold possible, both in flake form or enclosed in specimen rock. And the ability to deal with really trashy areas where good discrimination is needed.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was when I decided to give the 15.5” x 13” DD coil a try. Honestly, I did not expect much from it. You normally do not see a coil this large for high frequency machines because the ground feedback usually overwhelms them, negating any gains that can be had regarding depth. Instead, the Gold Racer seemed to be even better behaved with the larger coil than with the smaller coils. I hunted some cobble piles with it and it ran smooth as can be at higher sensitivity levels. I then wandered into some moderately hot ground with it, still with no problems, and was actually surprised when I came up with a couple small gold nuggets with it. The first was only 0.8 grams which I thought was pretty fantastic. So I put a little more effort into it, and found a 0.3 gram nugget. With a 15.5” x 13” DD coil on a VLF? That is really kind of unheard of, and I was thoroughly impressed. I am not sure what is going on there but I do know the Makro detectors can sense what coil is on the detector. Something different going on with that big coil? I don’t know, but the results and performance surprised me. Also surprising was that for such a large coil it actually was not bad swinging it for half a day. That could be from my using large, heavy detectors all summer however. Still, it was an eye opener all around and changed how I think my Gold Racer might get used in the future. It looks to have more use for covering very large areas blue sky prospecting than I would have imagined.
I would be remiss if I did not include at least a note on the versatility possible with the Gold Racer. I recently took it to a local park. Now, my ground in Reno is screaming hot, full of magnetite. The mineral percentage graph on the Gold Racer and similar machines all come up one bar short of maxed, and ground balance numbers run around 88-90. A magnet dropped in this stuff comes up with a lump of magnetite. As a result getting accurate target id numbers with even the best coin detectors past 5” is a chore. I know that sounds crazy but it is the truth. I ran the 5” DD coil and even then had to back the sensitivity down to 69 to prevent overloads in the worst areas.
One thing about the Racer detectors that I have heard people complain about, and that is that they tend to up average target numbers in bad soil. For me this is a good thing. Many detectors will see target id number average lower in bad ground, and so fringe targets are more likely to get identified as ferrous when they are in reality non-ferrous. This is obviously not a good thing for nugget detecting. The Racer and the Gold Racer both tend to up average, and so targets like lead sinkers or aluminum that you would expect to give lower numbers often give coin like responses with the Racers. It is odd to see in practice. I got a good high signal reading near 80 at about 5” that when dug up turned out to be a common round lead fishing sinker. Out of the hole the target id promptly dropped to about 45. This effect whether by design or by accident is common with European detectors. I think it is by design because first and foremost these machines are made to pull non-ferrous targets out of ferrous trash. Improperly identifying a non-ferrous item as ferrous is the worst possible result, and so up averaging helps insure that non-ferrous items will not be missed. However, it also means these types of detectors are not as efficient at cherry picking coins as common coin detectors are. You get the coins for sure, but you dig more trash doing it.
Still, I experimented a few hours and if you are content to live with the limitation I just described you can actually make some good finds with the Gold Racer under almost any conditions. The ID Filter works very well, and by just running it all the way to 79 it was easy for me to cherry pick a few coins though larger aluminum items like screw caps or big pull tabs often came up in the 80s also. I do think this is a result dependent on ground conditions to some degree, but really the Gold Racer is best suited for people like me who want to recover all non-ferrous targets. I prefer to hunt jewelry rather than coins myself, as one gold ring makes up for a pile of coins. And to hunt jewelry you have to dig aluminum, no two ways about that. The Gold Racer will suit me well hunting jewelry, especially micro jewelry like ear rings and fine chains.
This report is very long, and yet I really am just skimming over the features and possibilities inherent in the Makro Gold Racer. I will close by once again noting that while everything regarding the Gold Racer is pretty much set in stone at this point, last second changes are possible. Look for more soon when the factory production models hit the street. I also get frustrated when people want information on new units, but then turn right around and characterize reports trying to provide that information as hype or a sales pitch. I have tried my best here to just present what facts I can without leading anyone to think that the Gold Racer is anything other than what it is. And that, in my opinion, is a very interesting, unique, and capable metal detector. I look forward to hearing for myself in the future what people think about it and the applications and tricks they come up with, because you pretty much need to toss anything you think you know out the door when approaching this machine.
Many thanks to the folks at Makro and in particular Dilek Gonulay for providing me with the opportunity to be one of the first to use the Gold Racer. I admit that VLF detectors were beginning to bore me, and the Gold Racer has reignited my interest in seeing what they can do for me.
Specifications and details on the Makro Gold Racer
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be offered the use of a Macro Gold Racer with an 8x4 inch coil by a prominent local metal detecting personality. His name is Julian and has the blog at www.marlboroughmetaldetecting.com where he keeps track of all his finds and such.
My first outing was with the racer was a lazy Sunday trip to a spot on a local river that you can literally drive right into the river. I was with 4 other guys, one intended to snipe and the others had three different detectors between them. We spent a few hours here which saw me locate quite a number of very small lead shot targets in bedrock crevices but gold eluded me right to the end of the day when I found a tiny 0.12g flake. Initial thoughts about the detector after this outing was that it was quite hot at finding tiny targets and it was the only detector that found gold on this day.
My next trip was to a somewhat more remote area that turned out a little trick to get to. I had suspicions that there might be gold in this particular waterway based on local geology and nearby discoveries. As soon as we go to the river it became apparent that the VLF detectors we had with us were not going to handle the local levels of ground mineralisation. Bedrock was a mixture of igneous rock that in some cases overloaded the detector completely. Despite the racers variety of settings to enable detecting in tougher ground I found it impossible to get it to function here. I could get it to run reasonably quiet but then I was only able to detect a half grammer at a couple of cm and the signal was far from crisp.
And lucky last trip. I took the detector to a mates’ claim for a run. This spot is also in quite a public spot and myself and others have hammered it in the past. At an estimate I have taken a couple of oz’s from it in the past in the form of predominantly <0.5g nuggets. The racer ran very nicely here with sensitivity at 80 and isat at about mid-way. It didn’t take long before I started pulling tiny lead shot soon followed by a crevice that gave a weak signal. With a bit of chipping I recovered about 20 small flakes and colours to for a total of maybe 0.1g from the crevice (not in picture). The gold was all located in an area the size of a 10c coin. I was impressed at having found such small gold despite it being shallow as normally an aggregation of targets seems to be quieter than one large target of similar weigh. Or so I have found.
I carried on for a couple of hours and got 6 further pieces of gold for a total of 0.2g as well as a bunch of lead. In fact, 5 of the pieces together weigh just 0.1g!
So, it seems the racer is ridiculously sensitive to small gold and has plenty of scope to be manually adapted to different ground. Personally, I found the detector a bit on the “manual” side with the option of setting a lot of search parameters yourself. I know this is preferred by some and less so by others, just like manual and automatic cars I guess.
I’d like to say thanks to Julian for the opportunity to let me use his Racer, especially as he didn’t know me at all. It’s always fun trying a new bit of kit.
By Steve Herschbach
Here is a list of nugget detectors sorted by weight with my own somewhat arbitrary categories. Weight is not everything as balance is also very important, as is the handle design. Obviously the ability to hip mount counts for a lot. Properly designed bungee systems can render even heavy detectors weightless on the arm.
XP DEUS - 2 lbs with built in batteries, one ounce less with control box dismounted from rod.
Fisher Gold Bug / Gold Bug Pro - 2.5 lbs. with 5" coil and one 9v battery (2.7 lbs with 10" coil)
Teknetics G2 - 2.8 lbs. with 11" coil and one 9v battery
Fisher Gold Bug 2 - 2.9 lbs. with two 9v batteries (may be hip mounted)
Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold - 2.9 lbs. with four AA batteries
Garrett AT Gold - 3 lbs. with four AA batteries
Garrett Gold Stinger - 3.2 lbs. with three 9v batteries (may be hip mounted)
White's GMZ - 3.4 lbs. with eight AA batteries
Tesoro Lobo Super TRAQ - 3.5 lbs. with eight AA batteries (may be hip mounted)
Fisher F75 - 3.5 lbs. with four AA batteries
Teknetics T2 - 3.5 lbs. with four AA batteries
White's TDI SL - 3.5 lbs. with eight AA batteries
White’s GMT - 3.9 lbs. with eight AA batteries
Nokta FORS Gold - 4.3 lbs. with four AA batteries
White’s MXT - 4.3 lbs. with eight AA batteries
Minelab Eureka Gold - 5.3 lbs. including rechargeable battery pack or optional eight AA batteries (may be hip mounted)
Minelab GPX 5000 - The GPX weighs 5.3 lbs. not including the harness mounted proprietary rechargeable battery, which weighs another 1.7 lbs. Detector weight normally supported by bungee.
Garrett Infinium LS - 5.6 lbs. including rechargeable battery pack or eight AA batteries (may be hip mounted)
White's TDI and TDI Pro - 5.6 lbs. including proprietary rechargeable battery (may be hip mounted)
Minelab SDC 2300 - 5.7 lbs. including four C batteries
Garrett ATX - 6.9 lbs. including eight AA batteries
Minelab GPZ 7000 - 7.2 lbs. with standard rechargeable battery
By Steve Herschbach
Fisher Research originally released the 19 kHz Gold Bug model about 1987. It was a real breakthrough design at the time with a compact control box, S-rod, and elliptical coils. The detector is a good unit but is strictly all metal (no discrimination). It has no LCD readout and looks much like the current Gold Bug 2 but has a white lower rod and a black control panel face. Some people are confusing this old model with the new so be aware of this when looking at used detectors. The 19 kHz coils for the old Gold Bug will not work on newer versions of the Gold Bug below.
Around 2010 a number of new Gold Bug models were released by Fisher. First came the Gold Bug. Then came the Gold Bug SE (Special Edition) which added manual ground balance at a bargain introductory price. The SE with minor tweaks later became the Gold Bug Pro at a higher price. So now we have two basic versions, the Gold Bug and the Gold Bug Pro. They differ from the old 1987 model by having an LCD readout. The standard version of either detector comes with a 5" round coil. There is a Gold Bug DP (Deep Penetrating) which is nothing more than a Gold Bug Pro with an 11" x 7" DD elliptical coil instead of a 5" round DD coil.
The only difference listed by Fisher between the Gold Bug and the Gold Bug Pro is that the Gold Bug Pro has a manual adjustment option for the ground balance and also offers "higher sensitivity".
Both models use a "Ground Grab" button as a simple ground balance method that is quite effective. The Gold Bug Pro allows you to also manually adjust the ground balance setting up or down. The manual adjustment can be used in conjunction with or separately from the Ground Grab button.
The big question is the "higher sensitivity" claim. There are two possibilities here. First, that the Gold Bug Pro actually allows for higher gain or sensitivity levels. However, I was in marketing too long and have a more jaded thought. Manual ground balance allows for a higher degree of control that if used properly can get you more sensitivity. There is a very distinct possibility the higher sensitivity claim follows directly from the ability to manually ground balance the Gold Bug Pro. This could be tested with both units set side by side with identical ground balance settings and max gain. If the Gold Bug Pro is inherently more sensitive an air test should show it. I have not had the chance to do this my self but if somebody wants to there you go.
My opinion? I believe the Gold Bug and the Gold Bug Pro if outfitted with the same coil are basically the same detector. The only real difference is the manual ground balance option on the Gold Bug Pro. Do you need it? Not really, and especially when you consider that for $499 vs $649 that is probably all you are getting. The Ground Grab function is remarkably effective and would suit most people just fine.
I personally do like manual ground balance and so for me spending the extra money to get it is a non-issue. I do as a rule tell people that if cost is not an issue get the Gold Bug Pro. It is far more popular and would be easier to resell. But in all honesty I think the Basic Gold Bug is the real bang-for-the-buck unit. There is nothing else close to it at the $499 price point that offers full LCD readout target discrimination while in full power all metal prospect mode.
I should note that First Texas owns both Fisher and Teknetics. The Fisher Gold Bug DP (Gold Bug Pro with 11" coil) is marketed by Teknetics as the G2. The Fisher Gold Bug DP goes for $699 and the Teknetics G2 is $749. The $50 extra gets you a pistol grip rod instead of the Gold Bug S-rod and an arm strap. Nice gray paint scheme also. Really boils down to pistol grip vs S-rod, purely a personal preference thing.
I use the 5" x 10" elliptical myself and consider it to be the best all around coil for the Gold Bug. However, right now you have to get it as an accessory or as part of a two coil package. Fisher would be doing us a service to release the Gold Bug with this coil as standard on the unit.
My Gold Bug 2 is slightly better on the tiniest of gold but the Gold Bug Pro easily outperforms the Gold Bug 2 on larger nuggets at depth. For all around nugget detecting the Gold Bug or Gold Bug Pro (and G2) have a better balance of both small gold and large gold capability than the Gold Bug 2.
To recap first came the original 1987 era Gold Bug with knobs and switches:
Then about 2010 we got the new Gold Bug:
Followed quickly and briefly by the Gold Bug SE. Note how the plus and minus buttons now have dual functions, both Disc and Ground Balance, compared to the basic Gold Bug above:
The Gold Bug SE was basically the prototype for the Gold Bug Pro, which got a new faceplate decal and a higher price:
And finally, the Gold Bug Pro was also marketed under the Teknetics line as the G2 with a different rod/handle assembly:
Gold Bug Pro DP compared to Teknetics G2:
By Steve Herschbach
Which metal detectors have the most reliable target ID numbers?
Target ID is a function of depth - the deeper the target, the more difficult it is to get a clean target ID as the ground signal interferes. Other items directly adjacent to the desired target can also cause inaccurate numbers. The more conductive the item, the higher the resulting ID number, but also the larger the item the higher the number. Silver is more conductive than gold, so a gold item will give a lower number than the same size silver item. But a very large gold item can give a higher number than a small silver item, so numbers do not identify types of metal. Gold and aluminum read the same and vary in size so to dig one you dig the other. Only mass produced items like coins produce numbers that are more or less the same over the years but a zinc penny will read lower than a copper penny due to the change in composition.
In general iron or ferrous targets produce negative numbers or low numbers. Aluminum, gold, and US nickels produce mid-range numbers. And most other US coins produce high numbers. Other countries coins, like Canadian coins with ferrous content, can read all over the place.
The scale applied varies according to manufacturer so the number produced by each detector will vary according to the scale used. The 0-100 range for non-ferrous targets is most common but there are others. Minelab employs a dual number system on a 2D scale with thousands of possible numbers, but they are now normalizing the results produced to conform more closely to the linear scale used by other manufacturers.
Increasing ground mineralization has a huge effect on the ability to get a good target ID. Ground mineralization is nearly always from iron mineralization, and this tends to make weak targets, whether very small targets or very deep targets, misidentify. The target numbers get dragged lower, and many non-ferrous targets will eventually be identified as iron if buried deep enough. Small non-ferrous readings and iron readings actually overlap. That is why any discrimination at all is particularly risky for gold nugget hunters.
If you want target ID numbers to settle down, lower sensitivity and practice consistent coil control. The target number will often vary depending on how well the target is centered and how fast the coil moves.
Higher sensitivity settings lead to jumpier numbers as the detectors become less stable at higher levels. The interference from the ground signal increases and interference from outside electrical sources also increases, leading to less stable numbers.
Higher frequency detectors are inherently more sensitive and are jumpier. So lean lower frequency for more solid results. Multi frequency detectors act like low frequency detectors and tend to have more solid target numbers due to the ability to analyze a target with different frequencies.
Another issue is the number of target categories, or ID segments, or VDIs, or notches, or bins (all names for the same thing) that a detector offers.
For instance here are the number of possible target id categories or segments each detector below offers:
Fisher CZ-3D = 7
Garrett Ace 250 = 12
Minelab X-Terra 305 = 12
Minelab X-Terra 505 = 19
Minelab X-Terra 705 = 28
Fisher Gold Bug Pro = 99
White's MXT and many other models = 190
Minelab CTX 3030 = 1750
Fewer target categories means more possible items get lumped together under a single reading, but that the reading is more stable. Many detectors will tell you the difference between a dime and a quarter. The Fisher CZ assumes you want to dig both so puts them under one segment along with most other coins.
People who use detectors with many target numbers usually just watch the numbers jump around and mentally average the results. Some high end detectors can actually do this averaging for you! But I think there is something to be said for owning a detector that simplifies things and offers less possible numbers to start with. The old Fisher CZ method still appeals to me, especially for coin detecting. So do detectors like the Garrett Ace 250 or Minelab X-Terra 505 for the same reason.
The problem is that as people strive to dig deeper targets or smaller targets the numbers will always get less reliable. But if you want to have a quiet performing metal detecting with solid, reliable target numbers look more for coin type detectors running at lower frequencies under 10 kHz or at multiple frequencies and possibly consider getting a detector with fewer possible target segments. And with any detector no matter what just back that sensitivity setting off and you will get more reliable target numbers.
Detectors often use tones to identify targets and often use far fewer tones than indicated by the possible visual target id numbers. The X-Terra 705 for instance can use 28 tones, one for each segment. However, most people find this too busy, and so simple tone schemes of two, three, or four tones may be selected. I think it is instructive that many people often end up ignoring screen readings and hunting by ear, using just a few tones. This ends up just being an ultra simple target id system much like the simpler units offer. Reality is that most people do not need or care about huge numbers of target numbers. For many just three ranges suffice, low tone for iron, mid tone for most gold items, and high tone for most US coins. The meter could do the same thing, but for marketing purposes more is better and so we get sold on detectors with hundreds of possible target ID numbers. Perhaps that represents a digital representation of an old analog meter with its nearly infinite range of response but the reality is we do not need that level of differentiation to make a simple dig or no dig decision.
Finally, a picture often says it all. Below we have a shot of the White's M6 meter. I like it because the decal below illustrates a lot. You see the possible numerical range of -95 to 95 laid out in the middle. Over it is the simplified iron/gold/silver range. Note the slants where they overlap to indicate the readings really do overlap. Then you get the probable target icons. -95 is noted as "hot rock" because many do read there.
The M6 can generate 7 tones depending on the target category. I have added red lines to the image to show where these tones sit in relation to the scale. It breaks down as follows:
-95 = 57 Hz (Very Low) Hot Rock
-94 to -6 = 128 Hz (Low) Iron Junk
-5 to 7 = 145 Hz (Med Low) Gold Earrings, Chains - Foil
8 to 26 = 182 Hz (Medium) Women's Gold Rings/Nickel - Small Pull Tabs
27 to 49 = 259 Hz (Med Hi) Men's Gold Rings - Large Pull Tabs
50 to 70 = 411 Hz (High) Zinc Penny/Indian Head Penny - Screw Caps
71 to 95 = 900 Hz (Very High) Copper Penny/Dime/Quarter/Dollar
Note that the screen reading of +14 is noted as being a nickel or ring but it can also be the "beaver tail" part of an aluminum pull tab or the aluminum ring that holds an eraser on a pencil, among other things.
The best book ever written on the subject of discrimination is "Taking A Closer Look At Metal Detector Discrimination" by Robert C. Brockett. It is out of print but if you find a copy grab it, assuming the topic interests you.
Always remember - when in doubt, dig it out! Your eyes are the best target ID method available.