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If this question has been addressed elsewhere, I apologize in advance and hope someone can give me a link for it.  I have noticed that other companies besides Minelab are coming out with PI detectors for less than $3K.  How do these detectors compare to the best Minelab detectors for Gold and also relic hunting?

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This thread lays it out in great detail.

You are talking about ground balancing PI detectors. Non-Minelab models made so far:

Garrett Infinium (discontinued)

Garrett ATX

White's TDI (various versions, discontinued)

Australian QED

Due to various bad reports on QED build reliability, I do not recommend the machine, leaving only the Garrett ATX as a current contender.

Garrett purchased White's, so we may see a TDI or other PI variant from them someday. Nokta/Makro is working on a PI for release next year. So is First Texas - the Impulse Gold. No one can say how detectors not produced yet will compare.

So basically at the moment there is not much in the way of genuine competition. The Fisher Impulse Gold will probably be the next contender, sometime by end of this year.

Garrett ATX vs Minelab GPX 5000

garrett-atx-waterproof-pulse-induction-metal-detector.jpg

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I  can’t say too much about relic hunting even though gold prospecting is a form of relic hunting at most of the places I hunt. I do know that using a DD coil with several of the Minelab GPX series with an iron discrimination setting is preferred by some. I just use a DD coil and listen for two successive low/high tone sequences which works for shallow and medium depth elongated iron targets and don’t worry about iron discrimination.

I use the same for gold/non ferrous and ferrous target identification for shallow targets with clear, no doubt signals gold prospecting when the targets are big enough whether using a Mono or DD coil. Otherwise, I dig all faint sounding targets.

Right now, you can buy GP Extremes, GP3000 and GP3500s for around $1200 used in the USA with a working battery and multiple coils. I haven’t seen any GPX 4000s for sale lately. Used GPX 4500s and 5000s are between $1800 and $2200 depending on condition and accessories. These have enough power and settings to work with any sized compatible coil. These are private sale prices, not used dealer prices.

I know nothing about the Garrett ATX or the new Fisher AQ aside from what I have read on this forum.

The Whites TDI Pro/OZ, TDI Pulse Scan and TDI SL are decent PIs if you can find them. I have only had good experiences with these detectors using smaller coils under 12”. They are a bit hard to ground balance, have finicky threshold tones (except for the SL) and are underpowered for deep targets in my opinion and also are not very sensitive on really small .5 gram or less targets either. They do very well on shallow to medium depth coin sized targets.

The QED is technically only available in Australia and New Zealand.......... I have one and so does one other USA forum member. For some reason, mine was not setup to handle 60 Hz electrical interference from populated areas and large power lines before it was imported to the USA. That seems to be kind of normal with the QED manufacturer. Some of the problems Steve is referring to above seem to center around the PL3 August 2019 software updated ground balance system which frankly is hit or miss depending on how well each QED was calibrated before sale or during the update. I really can’t tell if mine ground balances correctly or not since 60 Hz EMI continues to interfere. Until I can get to an area miles away from power lines and towns, I just can’t get a good read on my QED and what it is really capable of.

I have been able to do some SDC 2300/GPX5000/QED PL3 head to head testing using similar sized coils. I have two large plastic containers with about 6” depth of dirt from northwest of Phoenix and from a site here in Colorado where I have detected gold nuggets. The Arizona dirt in moderately mineralized and will pull down Minelab Equinox target IDs into the upper iron range on .1 gram or smaller gold nuggets. Larger gold nuggets will retain their non/ferrous qualities on the Equinox down to 6” or more. The Colorado dirt can turn any non-ferrous target the size of a US penny or smaller into a ferrous target even sitting on the surface and definitely if it is 1” or deeper.........so definitely PI dirt.

My stock SDC with 8” mono coil had no problem with .25 or larger targets in the Arizona dirt. Smaller targets deeper than 1” were next to impossible to hear due to the unstable threshold. It had similar results in the hotter Colorado dirt but the threshold was even more unstable. My GPX 5000 has no problems with either test dirt using an 11” Commander Mono or NuggetFinder Sadie coil on .15 gram sized targets down to 3” or so using Enhanced and moderate settings. .25 gram up to 1 gram nuggets are no doubters in my test dirt. The QED had similar results as the GPX 5000 using 11” Commander or smaller coils even though EMI is still a problem.

So, I am fairly satisfied with the QED PL3 I have. It is more sensitive than any of the Whites TDIs I have owned and used and despite its present EMI shortcomings, is easier for me to hear smaller targets than the SDC 2300 due to the SDC’s wavering threshold. Until the 60 Hz EMI issue is fixed I will stick to smaller coils so I have no idea about overall depth/sensitivity using larger coils on the QED. I doubt that would be the best use for this diminutive detector.

I am going to send my QED PL3 back to Australia for the latest update which is supposed to fix the unreliable ground balance problem, 60 Hz adjustment and for anything else it might need internally.

 

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I hunt gold on dry land hillsides with generally low mineralization but some very mineralized fossil black-sand bearing sandstones and wet clay after (very infrequent) rain. My GB2 struggles with these and I figured I needed a PI. I agonized long and hard over whether to buy the ATX or the GPX 5000 and in the end got the ATX (in 2019) given the large price differential and low performance differential between the machines. I had not seen Steve's 2014 review until this post but his experience mirrors mine exactly. It's a great machine but the bad ergonomics are a huge downside  particularly if you are patch hunting; to the extent that I usually leave it in the back of the truck and default to the GB2 with the 10" DD coil. It comes out of the truck for the clay and the fossil black sand and then it's a pleasure to use compared to the GB2 that in fairness isn't designed for such stuff. I will persist with the ATX and out of curiosity I'm looking for an Infinium 10" DD coil that is compatible with the ATX, lighter and can get closer to the big rock strewn ground I have to deal with. I'm not expecting miracles but it'll be interesting. Also, in fairness I've got maybe 25 hours on the ATX and several hundred on the GB2 so the jury is still out but, in hindsight, buying a used MineLab might have been a better decision for me. Having paid $2.2k for the ATX I was then offered a used GPX5000, here in Africa, for $3k (Arghhhhh!). Such is life. In foresight I'll be very interested to see how the upcoming Fisher PI works out

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Wow....thanks for the detailed responses.  I'm amazed at the wealth of knowledge to be found in this forum. 

I am not an engineer, but, based on the price of the Minelab detectors, I would guess there is a huge profit margin.  This situation usually breeds competition in a big way.  Are there patents that are blocking development of PI detectors that are comparable in quality and performance?  I guess MineLab is being smart, unlike most US companies, in not outsourcing manufacturing to Asia, which would make the detectors cheaper short term, but would ultimately, probably destroy the brand.

I understand that the market for detectors is relatively small compared to a multitude of other electronic devices and that situation always supports a higher profit margin.  Maybe the high price is a good thing, since only the serious detectorists will be the ones out there hoovering up the last of the decent gold to be found?

I am involved in detecting for the excitement of discovery, not for profit.  I'm not sure many of us are in it trying to make a living, but it would be nice to at least have a fighting chance at making enough $ in found relics, jewelry, and gold to pay for the detector before the warranty expires.

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2 hours ago, AUgetter said:

Wow....thanks for the detailed responses.  I'm amazed at the wealth of knowledge to be found in this forum. 

I am not an engineer, but, based on the price of the Minelab detectors, I would guess there is a huge profit margin.  This situation usually breeds competition in a big way.  Are there patents that are blocking development of PI detectors that are comparable in quality and performance?  I guess MineLab is being smart, unlike most US companies, in not outsourcing manufacturing to Asia, which would make the detectors cheaper short term, but would ultimately, probably destroy the brand.

I understand that the market for detectors is relatively small compared to a multitude of other electronic devices and that situation always supports a higher profit margin.  Maybe the high price is a good thing, since only the serious detectorists will be the ones out there hoovering up the last of the decent gold to be found?

I am involved in detecting for the excitement of discovery, not for profit.  I'm not sure many of us are in it trying to make a living, but it would be nice to at least have a fighting chance at making enough $ in found relics, jewelry, and gold to pay for the detector before the warranty expires.

 

I forgot to say welcome to the forum!!!  My bad....

You are definitely new to the forum and possibly detecting too, based on your above post. You might want to do your own Minelab research online.

Many on this forum easily pay for their detectors with their finds. Most who do are either very experienced and/or detect nearly everyday, and/or have great locations and connections to locations, which means they put in the time and they get results. A few very fortunate people are just lucky............I am not in that category unfortunately.

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Yeah, since Minelab is made in Malaysia.... lots to learn. Minelab employs over 20 engineers and physicists, and is at least a couple generations ahead of everyone in the technology. They ARE the cutting edge, they do patent prolifically, and protect fiercely. Minelab invested millions and worked a three year product cycle, while the competition pocketed the profits, and worked a ten year cycle. A couple decades of competition being asleep at the wheel leaves us where we are now. A company with a massive lead.

If you do not care about profit then the finds are secondary, and you can use whatever detector you please. Many here are turning profits with detectors, entire countries full of prospectors, so you are more the odd guy out. It is better to have a $6000 detector that finds gold at $500 a week, then a $1000 detector that finds $20 a week. I'm making a single trip this year tat should recoup the entire retail price of a GPX 6000 and then some, in less than three weeks. The big money machines' looked at properly, are the best allocation of funds, if you actually want to make the finds. Machines are normally sold eventually, recouping 50% or more of the purchase price, and it is the difference between that and the original purchase price, that is the true cost of the detector. 

I'm grateful Minelab invested millions where others were not willing, and they deserve to profit from that risk that nobody else would take. Nobody has to pay, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to gold prospecting machines. beware false economy.

 

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I am not dissing Minelab.  In fact, I am applauding them for making the best detectors around.  I'm only wishing that there was some stiff competition to pull the price down a bit.

JM...I'm not new to detecting.  I have been scuba detecting for about 5 years using a Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II.  Fairly successfully, I might add.  Granted, what I do is a niche in this world.  Once retired, I plan on getting into gold detecting more underwater and on land.  My choice for land will be the GPX 6000.  Underwater, I'll probably just get another detector for shallow use that will enable me to find smaller targets, especially gold.  Right now, I'm seriously considering the Gold Kruzer.  The only thing that worries me about it is potential leakage from long term underwater use.  Most of the small stuff in scuba is found at under 10 feet, but in poor vis it's easy for a diver to get distracted and end up at 20 feet, which would probably mean bye bye Gold Kruzer.  I'm also seriously looking at the Minelab Excalibur II, but It's way more $ than the GK and at it's lower frequency selections, I'm not sure how great it would be on the small stuff. Either way, I'll not ditch my Mark II.  It has been great for me and I KNOW it...it's limitations and advantages.  What I really wish is that Garrett would upgrade the PI on the Mark II while charging $1K/unit or less.  THAT would be a stupendous thing for me.

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2 minutes ago, AUgetter said:

I am not dissing Minelab.  In fact, I am applauding them for making the best detectors around.  I'm only wishing that there was some stiff competition to pull the price down a bit.

JM...I'm not new to detecting.  I have been scuba detecting for about 5 years using a Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II.  Fairly successfully, I might add.  Granted, what I do is a niche in this world.  Once retired, I plan on getting into gold detecting more underwater and on land.  My choice for land will be the GPX 6000.  Underwater, I'll probably just get another detector for shallow use that will enable me to find smaller targets, especially gold.  Right now, I'm seriously considering the Gold Kruzer.  The only thing that worries me about it is potential leakage from long term underwater use.  Most of the small stuff in scuba is found at under 10 feet, but in poor vis it's easy for a diver to get distracted and end up at 20 feet, which would probably mean bye bye Gold Kruzer.  I'm also seriously looking at the Minelab Excalibur II, but It's way more $ than the GK and at it's lower frequency selections, I'm not sure how great it would be on the small stuff. Either way, I'll not ditch my Mark II.  It has been great for me and I KNOW it...it's limitations and advantages.  What I really wish is that Garrett would upgrade the PI on the Mark II while charging $1K/unit or less.  THAT would be a stupendous thing for me.

Since this is the Advice an Comparison Forum, you can say just about whatever you want about Minelab or any other detector manufacturer.

When you mention gold in your posts, are you referring to gold jewelry or gold nugget hunting and mostly fresh or saltwater? 

Personally, if I was diving I would look very closely at Nokta/Makro’s Pulse Dive for a backup to your Mark ll. It comes with two different sized coils, has vibration on targets and by all accounts is a great, inexpensive, miniature pulse induction handheld detector.

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