By Steve Herschbach
Despite all the noise about pulse induction (PI) metal detectors these days I firmly believe that in the United States most beginning and many professional nugget hunters are often better served with a good mid-frequency VLF. For beginners I think it is more important to master the real skills involved in prospecting before investing a ton of money in a metal detector. If you can't find gold with a $700 detector there is little point in investing thousands of dollars in a detector that still probably will not find the person any gold.
Perhaps a PI is required in most of Australia but I have seen very few places in the United States where a good VLF will not work very well or at least well enough. Certainly in Alaska that is the case, where low mineral ground and smallish gold is the norm. Even locations where large gold lurks are so loaded with iron junk a PI detector has a hard go of it. It is nearly impossible to convince die-hard PI users to accept this until they experience it for themselves.
One of the best detectorists I know has found hundreds of ounces of gold including two nuggets each weighing over a pound, all with a White's MXT. He also has a Minelab GPX 5000 and is very good with it. This last summer we hunted a lot together in junk infested tailing piles. I tended to use my GPX 5000 and he tended to use his MXT. We ran neck and neck for finds, and he detected less and dug way less junk than I. When all the shallow stuff is gone a PI shows its value with extra depth. But in target rich environments, especially ones filled with junk, a good VLF is a worthy choice.
Let's set the VLF versus PI thing aside though and accept for the purposes of this article that VLF detectors are still a good choice for many people in the United States. I know for a fact I could own nothing but a VLF and do very well indeed. So what VLF to own?
Two detectors stand out in their high operating frequency as dedicated nugget detectors, the Fisher Gold Bug 2 and White's GMT. I could make a great argument for why either of these detectors will eke out gold where other detectors fail and do it consistently enough that a skilled operator would be wise to own either one. However, I think overall a better case can be made that if a person had to own just one VLF detector, a mid-frequency model would be a better choice. There is much more versatility offered plus a better balance of performance on all ground types and all gold sizes than the hot high frequency models.
The contenders from the "Big Five" brands? The Fisher Gold Bug Pro (also sold as Teknetics G2), Garrett AT Gold, Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold, Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ, and White's MXT. All available for around $700 more or less. This is the choice I personally faced, and the decision took several years of use to settle. What follows is purely personal but I will explain why I ended up where I did.
Fisher Gold Bug Pro, Garrett AT Gold, Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold, Tesoro Lobo, White's MXT
First up, the White's MXT. Simply a superb detector, and one that has found me pounds of gold. Yet I am just going to go ahead and blow White's off at this point! Why? The weight. I am sorry White's, but at 4.3 pounds the MXT is the heaviest detector in this slug-fest. I love what the detector does, but I am no longer willing to forgive detectors with poor ergonomic factors, weight being the most obvious. In the 21st century, the day and age of the iPhone, poor ergonomics is not acceptable. The MXT needs to lose a pound, plain and simple. So I sold my MXT after one particularly arm wearing day.
Now the Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ is a great beginners detector in that it is very easy to operate, but it also gets put aside. The detector is locked in ground tracking at all times while in all metal nugget mode. This is great for beginners but I personally find it unacceptable. I almost never use ground tracking systems as they mess with the signals from weak targets. If there was a locked or fixed mode it would be fine. Worse yet, the alternative discriminate mode has a factory pre-set ground balance. Sorry, fail. Just my opinion, but the Lobo is way overdue for an update after 16 years on the market.
Garrett is to be commended for finally producing a waterproof detector that does not penalize the owner by weighing a ton and removing all the features. The AT Gold is a miracle in being waterproof and yet fully featured, with even the speaker being waterproof. And only three pounds with batteries! This detector is so wonderful I really do feel bad about taking a pass on it here also. Why? Sadly, the waterproof design also means special o-ring connectors for the coils and headphones. If you do not need the detector to be waterproof they are delicate connectors that collect dirt and require quite a bit of care to not mess up. The coil connection in particular is in a maddening location making it almost impossible to connect coils with bare fingers alone. A special adapter must be purchased if you want to have a choice in headphones. If you want waterproof the AT Gold is an obvious choice but I do not need waterproof for most of my nugget detecting.
So down to two models, the Fisher Gold Bug Pro and Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold. Both under the magic 3 pound mark! Both with extremely powerful all metal modes. So powerful that in all metal mode these detectors give the PI units a run for depth in most ground on most gold in the US. This was tough for me as the X-Terra has a far richer feature set than the Gold Bug Pro and for many all around users would be the better choice. But I looked at both from strictly a nugget hunting perspective where those extra features are extraneous to the task at hand. It came down to this. In all metal mode the Gold Bug Pro is simultaneously and separately running in discriminate mode. The audio response is pure all metal, but you also get the probable target id, when possible, displayed on the screen. Very deep targets will have no target id, which is why we are using all metal prospect mode in the first place.
The X-Terra 705 you can run in Prospect Mode or Discriminate Mode, but not both at once. This one thing leads to more efficient detecting with all the information you need on screen at once. The Gold Bug Pro gives you the target id, ground phase, and magnetic susceptibility reading all on screen at once while in all metal mode.
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That is how I settled on the Fisher Gold Bug Pro as my all around do everything nugget hunting model. It is not a coincidence it is also the lightest of the bunch at only 2.5 lbs with battery and 5” round DD coil and 2.7 lbs with the 5” x 10” DD coil. It is a basic unit that gets the job done, and that appeals to me. Plus, it does just fine for coins, relics, and jewelry if I wish. if I could improve only one thing it would be to swap the position of the target id and phase readout on the meter.
I have to wrap this up by pointing out that these are all fine detectors. I can actually find gold about as well with all of them. The engineers have mid-frequency all metal detectors figured out, and in all metal mode these models are practically equivalent. Small nuances that help one model in certain ground cost it in another and it all evens out. So from a straight up all metal nugget hunting perspective I think a person can use any one of these detectors and be just fine. What differences there are show up far more when comparing discrimination features which are of little use to the nugget hunter.
With that said, the final lesson in this article is that it is all the other factors a person should be looking at when making a choice. For me it was just lightweight basic operation. But if waterproof is important, the AT Gold is a no-brainer. The Lobo is very forgiving for beginners simply because it is locked in ground tracking mode. The MXT is a superior all-arounder, and the X-Terra has various tone schemes and notch discrimination features common on top-end detectors. You can make the case for any of them depending on your own particular needs and desires in a detector, and know you will be well served for basic all metal nugget hunting capability. We are lucky to have so many fine choices, all at very affordable prices.
By Gerry in Idaho
On one of my posts, GM_Amateur asked about the newer version Fisher Gold Bug and Gold Bug-Pro. He wanted to know if they are Gold Detectors or Multi Purpose. I classify the Gold Bug and Gold Bug-Pro as true Multi Purpose detectors. I put the MXT series and F75 in the same category too. To me, it's a detector with medium kHz operating in the teens and having an adjustable Discriminator capable of rejecting ferrous and nonferrous targets if desired. When I tested the 1st prototypes of the Gold Bug I was very impressed with its sensitivity to small pickers (see photo). Then when the GB-Pro came out and I was able to get my hands on the larger coil, I was very happy with the performance. The GB & GB Pro were priced right at the time (less than many others), but performed well. I could take 1 detector on a trip in the mountains and use it for both gold and coin/relics.
Your thoughts and input please?
By Rivers rat
Hello to all I wanted to work on that project for a while,Fisher has always been synonym for me of Treasure discovery since I started the hobby 26 years ago,reading French magazine Tresor de l Histoire with pictures of Fisher detectors all over the place ...................O0000 boy how many hours I spend staring at the 1266xb.............I really like my F75DST et had a few Goldbug pro and G2 so I decided to start a bid of DIY .I am im Europe so parts aren't as available as on your side of the pond,i contacted couple of dealers and managed to get the parts for the handle,Arm cup is XP as it is 100 gr lighter than the fisher one,all carbon bits bought from Italy and Chian,the Clamp is from Sweden and designed for pole for window cleaning,coil will be an 13" Ultimate it is on her way from Bulgaria anyway here we go :
Ladies and Gentlemen (DRUM ROLLS):
the GOLDBUG PRO 2 lite:
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 Pro 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 https://www.detectorprospector.com/forums/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
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.
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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:
1987 era analog Fisher Gold Bug
Then about 2010 we got the new Gold Bug:
Fisher digital 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:
Fisher Gold Bug SE
The Gold Bug SE was basically the prototype for the Gold Bug Pro, which got a new faceplate decal and a higher price:
Fisher Gold Bug Pro
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:
Click on images below for larger versions.....
After a busy day on the slopes doing some skiing yesterday I managed to score an afternoon around Queenstown area to myself as my wife had some friends staying there and was hanging around with them, I'm not a social bumble bee and very far from it, in fact I'm a recluse, especially with people I don't really know so I took the opportunity to take off and do some exploring. It's a wonder kiwijw puts up with me, It's said I'm very antisocial which bothers my wife, I on the other hand don't notice it.
A couple of days ago I went to one of the spots kiwijw had shown me that I've done OK at especially with my high frequency VLFs and he's done pretty damn good at using his GPZ but unfortunately that turned into a skunk for me so I wanted to try find some new ground closer to town that I can get to easier. I used my GPX 4500 with Joey coil on that trip.
I had read the previous night about some old workings close to town that could be easily accessed in the time I had. I put my Mountain bike in the back of the car so I could speed up my trek even more rather than walking to these workings. I had no idea where they were and I'm very prone to getting lost, all I knew is a walking track takes me to them so I jumped on my bike and took the track.
I wasn't even sure I was going to do any detecting so I just threw my Gold Bug Pro with Nel Snake in my backpack as it packs down tiny and weighs nothing. It also doesn't overly react to shotgun pellets so I thought may as well use that on the scouting missions so I don't spend my time digging up pellets as I didn't have very long. I have had a bit of a love hate relationship with my Gold Bug Pros, I've struggled to have any success with them but I haven't put the hours on them either as I quickly upgraded off them. Today proves they are very capable of finding TINY gold.
I found various spots along my ride that looked alright for detecting, some that looked to be bedrock. I wasn't sure so I detected around a few locations along the track and wasn't having much joy. I stopped at a spot right by the river which was very rocky with a thin layer of dirt over the rock and looked promising. After 15 minutes of detecting around I got my first tiny little nugget using the Gold Bug Pro. It was in a bit of a crack in the schist, I had to scrape it out with a screwdriver, my guess it was about an inch in a crack. It was 0.021 of a gram, the size I only ever expected to find with my GM1000 or Equinox 800. I only had about 2 hours all up so after another 20 or so minutes checking the area I decided to call it quits and head back to the car. I ended up only being 15 minutes late for the wife pickup 🙂 I didn't have my phone with me so I couldn't take any photos at the time, I left it in the car by accident as I was in such a rush.
What is significant about this for me is it's only my second ever nugget with the GBP, it was absolutely tiny and far exceeding my expectations for the GBP and my first detected nugget that I've had no help with, all my other nuggets I've detected in the past kiwijw showed me where and how to find them. This was my lone wolf nugget, I found the location and the nugget alone.
I never did find the old workings but there is always another day. I am hoping kiwijw hasn't found this location yet so I can finally share with him a spot I've found that has gold, he's been a good teacher, mentor and friend. It would be hard to find a person willing to show you how to find gold in an area you work yourself, thereby taking albeit small bits of gold off him that he would of potentially found. A nice gesture that I am grateful of as I really enjoy the hobby and it's possible I would of given up without his help to get me started.
It looks far bigger in the photos than it is, it's a tiny spec on my finger tip. The Gold Bug Pro is very sensitive to tiny gold especially when combined with a tiny coil like the Nel Snake.