By Steve Herschbach
I have used many metal detectors over the years, and right now I have to say that the new Makro Racer 2 has perhaps the easiest to understand, best laid out, most practical display and menu system I have ever seen in a top end detector. Now, you can sure say you hunt by ear and do not need a screen and I get that, but if we are going to put a screen on a detector, then let's do it right.
Simple detectors with few functions are easy to make screens for - there is not much you need. But even then just the basics are often wrong. Machines that feature target id numbers, what is the thing you will most look at on screen? The target id numbers! Yet these are often way too small or off to the side as if an afterthought.
The Makro Racer 2 id numbers are huge, much larger than on the original Racer and Gold Racer, which are already good sized. The number 88 display in the diagram above is fully 1.5" x 1.5" in size in real life. Other machines have some pretty big numbers but I think this sets a record as I can't think of any machine with larger id numbers on screen though some are close.
Makro Racer 2 LCD display and controls
Makro Racer 2 screen layout
Makro Racer 2 screen and control descriptions
The number can be the ground balance number, target id, or depth reading. You get a text display just above the number confirming which it is. Below the numbers are three zone references, Fe, Gold/Non-FE, and Non-Fe, that are used to set tone breaks and audio for the three main zones or bins as they are sometimes called.
Another basic feature lacking on a lot of machines - the meter backlight. With the Racer 2 you get off, intermittent, or full time backlighting, and it includes the translucent red control buttons. The control ranges between 0-5 and C1-C5. At 0 level, the keypad and display backlight are off. When set between 1-5, they light up only for a short period of time when a target is detected or while navigating the menu and then it goes off. At C1-C5 levels, the keypad and display will light up constantly. I do not know of anyone doing a better backlight.
The right side of the meter is informational - ground phase (ground balance number), mineral % (ground magnetite content), coil warning notices, and a six segment battery meter.
Across the top below the 0 - 99 reference sticker, is a series of 50 "bullets" each of which covers 2 target id numbers. Open bullets (which appear gray in the diagram but are invisible in real life - see top photo) indicate accepted target id numbers. Blacked out segments show what discrimination and notch setting you have programmed in a single quick glance. When a target is detected, the big number on the display will be mirrored by one or more of the bullets flashing dark.
The four control buttons are simple as can be - up and down takes you through the left hand menu area. Right or left lets you set each function selected by going up and down. The menu is basically the entire feature list just laid out right there for you to see. You want to know what this machine can do, just look at the screen. Most other machines you have no clue without reading the owners manual or at least pushing buttons to see what functions appear.
Some settings like the backlight are system wide for all modes. All other settings like Gain are independent in each mode, and can be saved independently in each mode. This means you can play neat tricks like setting up a couple modes with dramatically different settings and then flip back and forth easily between two modes for target checking.
You even get to decide what mode is the default start up mode. The Racer 2 starts up in the last mode where the save function was performed. If you always want to start in Beach mode, just modify and save something in Beach mode. Next time you start the detector, you will be in Beach mode.
It is simple. It makes sense. No cryptic abbreviations or acronyms. No sub menus. It is, in metal detector terms, a work of art. Whoever designed this should sign it so I can frame it and hang it on my wall.
By Ridge Runner
I was just wondering if you had the opportunity to test a new detector before it came on the market would you be willing to do it ?
Most of the time it’s given to people you could say that their name is in lights . We have so many people that has been swinging a detector for years that are more qualified than the so call star .
Let me hear your view point on this subject . If you ever have the pleasure or opportunity to do it in the pass let us hear that too .
By Steve Herschbach
High Frequency Gold Nugget Detector Roundup
Our cup runneth over!
Just a few years ago the market for "over 30 kHz nugget detectors" was quite limited. For a long time there were only a few options:
Fisher Gold Bug 2 (71 kHz) $764 with one coil
Minelab Eureka Gold (6.4, 20, & 60 kHz) Discontinued $1049 when new with one coil
White's GMZ (50 kHz) Discontinued $499 when new with one coil
White's GMT (48 khz) $729 with one coil
Things were that way for over a decade. Then in 2015 Makro introduced the Gold Racer (56 kHz) $599 with one coil. Sister company Nokta released the AU Gold Finder (56 kHz) $799 with two coils
Then in 2017 we see the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 (45 khz) at $799 with two coils. And although not a dedicated nugget detector, the Deus high frequency coil options (up to 80 kHz) were also released, $1520 for complete detector with one HF coil.
Now in 2018 we get another general purpose machine, the Equinox 800, that can hit 40 khz, $899 with one coil. And just announced...
the Makro Gold Kruzer (61 kHz) $749 with two coils and
the White's Goldmaster 24K (48 khz) $699 with two coils
These last two announcements have made barely a ripple in the prospecting world, or at least going by other forums that seems to be the case. There are various reason for that (forums not being prospecting oriented or being Minelab centric) but still the lack of buzz is interesting. I do believe people are both burned out by all the new introductions and that the market is saturated with high frequency models. Leaving out the general purpose machines to sum up the current options it looks like the current "sweet spot" for pricing is a high frequency model at $749 with two coils.
Makro Gold Racer 56 kHz - $599 one coil
White's Goldmaster 24K 48 kHz - $599 one coil
White's Goldmaster 24K 48 kHz - $699 two coils
White's GMT 48 khz - $729 one coil
Makro Gold Kruzer 61 kHz - $749 two coils
Fisher Gold Bug 2 71 kHz - $764 one coil
Minelab Gold Monster 1000 45 kHz - $799 two coils
Nokta AU Gold Finder 56 kHz - $799 two coils
Added 1/2019 XP ORX up to 81 kHz - $899 one coil
High frequency nugget detectors compared
White's Goldmaster 24K, Minelab Equinox 800, Gold Monster 1000, Makro Gold Kruzer
Minelab Gold Monster, Fisher Gold Bug 2, Makro Gold Racer, Nokta Impact
This is something that has me a little perplexed, especially when a whole raft of opposition detectors from abroad are offering such an option on their detector platforms. How easy would it be to improve current popular models like the F75, AT Pro, etc with additional frequencies to make some US made detectors a more attractive proposition, or are we talking about the requirement for a completely new platform for this to happen ( too much cost for not enough return)?
If just worries me when we see little or no response at all on trying to compete on the selectable frequency front. Some may say the market is already flooded with such detectors, though if you do not offer up an alternative to just single frequency VLF's, then customers may look elsewhere for detector platforms offering more flexibility/features for the money.
Some of the selectable frequency detectors made abroad:
Minelab Equinox (plus multi)
Minelab 705 (coil change for different frequencies)
Makro Kruzer Multi
Nokta Anfibio multi
...and many other lesser known Euro manufacturers with at least dual frequencies.
It is evident that there are two distinct lines of thinking when it comes to producing a detector, either make one that has the capability of covering all or most fields of detecting (ie. prospecting, relic hunting, coin shooting, beach detecting), or produce several detectors, each with a specific purpose. The obvious downside is the sheer cost of owning a whole raft of detectors for specific purposes, something that used to be common place, though now not such an issue with the advent of very capable multi-use detectors suitable for low conductors right through to sub gram gold.
Will be interested to see other views on the subject, have we seen the end of single use or specialist detectors, and whether multi-role/multi or selectable frequency detectors will rule going forward.
This coming new year provides an interesting contrast between two companies who’s fortune rests on technology. One company quite established that has either by choice or constraint had a rather stagnant new technology history. The other a new startup that feels that it has a new technology. And is entering the marketplace at a price point that would be considered by most as a Flagship statement model.
While the Minelab Equinox has pressured the lowering of prices for some competitors, Tarsacci has demonstrated the confidence to offer a product at close to double the price of the Equinox’s. If Tarsacci were a new company with limited experience in metal detector design and manufacturing, then success might be more tenuous. However the principal engineer has a strong background for the task at hand.
On the other hand if Tesoro had the engineering horsepower then I would place my bets on them, as standing up a new company is usually riskier than re-invigorating a known entity. I’m really sad to say that Tesoro evokes a woulda, coulda, shoulda of Technology from me.
By Steve Herschbach
A common misperception among those new to metal detecting is that metal detectors can identify one metal from another. How much we wish that were true. The reality is that for all practical purposes the common metal detector target id scale is based on a combination of the conductive or ferrous properties of the item multiplied by the size and shape of the item.
There are two common terms in use for this scale. The Target ID or TID scale is the most generic. White's also popularized the use of Visual Discrimination Indicator or VDI numbers. You will see references to both TID and VDI numbers and both refer to the same thing. The problem when you use Google is that TID also refers to Terminal ID number, which is for credit card machines. VDI gets far better results as the preferred term and so is what I will use from now on.
The VDI scale is almost always arranged the same way by common convention although in theory it can be rearranged any way you want. The common scale has ferrous items on the low end and non-ferrous items on the high end. Ferrous items are like mirror images of non-ferrous items and so the most common arrangement of the VDI scale is with small items in the middle with ferrous getting larger in one direction and non-ferrous getting larger in the other direction. The ferrous and non-ferrous ranges actually overlap in the middle.
Tiny Ferrous/Non-Ferrous Overlap
We can assign a numeric range to this basic VDI scale any way we want. Many early machines went with a 0 - 100 scale, with the ferrous compressed into the low end of the scale:
100 Large Non-Ferrous
50 Medium Non-Ferrous
20 Small Non-Ferrous
5 Tiny Ferrous/Non-Ferrous Overlap
3 Small Ferrous
1 Medium Ferrous
0 Large Ferrous
The idea of ferrous as negative numbers made sense due to the mirror imaging in size between ferrous and non-ferrous. A very common White's scale runs from -95 to 0 to +95
95 Large Non-Ferrous
50 Medium Non-Ferrous
15 Small Non-Ferrous
0 Tiny Ferrous/Non-Ferrous Overlap
-15 Small Ferrous
- 20 Medium Ferrous
- 40 Large Ferrous
The "positive only" 0 - 100 VDI scale seems most popular these days with other manufacturers, but the scheme varies. Two very common setups are 0-40 ferrous and 41-99 non-ferrous OR 0-10 ferrous and 11-99 non-ferrous. But as I noted you can set this up any way you want and so other scales do exist.
When we look at just the non-ferrous part of the scale, what is important is how the detector "sees" the target. In very simple terms conductive targets are either very weak or very strong or somewhere in between. Small items are weak targets. Low conductive metals are weak targets. Large items are strong targets. High conductive metals are strong targets. The shape matters. Irregular shapes or thin items are weak targets. Rounded and thick items are strong targets.
On a conductive scale of 0 to 100:
0 = very small targets 100 = very large targets
0 = very thin targets 100 = very thick targets
0 = very low conductive metals 100 = very high conductive metals
0 = very irregular shaped targets 100 = very rounded targets, especially is a hole in the middle
Add this all up and small gold items are low on the VDI scale and large gold items high on the scale. Silver being a better conductor than gold, a silver item will read higher on the scale than the identical size and shape gold item. In general silver will read higher than gold. However, a very large gold item can read higher than a very small silver item. Chasing thin hammered silver coins in the U.K., especially the cut varieties, is not that different than hunting gold nuggets.
What you rapidly figure out is the metal detector VDI scale can only get repeatable results on certain man made items that are the same every time, like a U.S. nickel or a U.S. dime. And even these signals degrade when deep in the ground or in proximity to other items under the search coil at the same time. Given all the limitations, it is a wonder we get any degree of accuracy at all with detector discrimination systems.
With that, I give you a standardized White's VDI scale taken directly from the control box of my White's DFX. This -95 to 0 to +95 scale is common on many modern White's detectors. Nearly all other detectors have the same relative positioning of items just with different numeric scales, an exception of note being the Fisher CZ detectors, which use a rearranged scale. This DFX scale is helpful because it includes gold coins.
The main thing I want you to focus on here is the relative positioning of items on the scale. As a detectorist operating in the United States, I always pay attention to just three things 1. where do the ferrous numbers start? 2. where does a U.S. nickel read? and 3. where does a U.S. dime read? If I know those three things, I can adjust almost instantly to any detector scale in existence, because I know how everything else reads in relation to those three points on the scale.
Standard White's VDI scale
Looking at the scale you can use gold coins as a rough guide to where large gold nuggets will read, although coins being pure gold and round will read much better than gold nuggets of the same size. It might take a one pound gold nugget to read the same as a one ounce $20 gold coin, which in turn reads very close to the U.S. silver quarter reading.
On the other end, tiny gold, tiny ferrous, and salt water, being a low conductive target, all overlap. This is why if you tune out salt water on the beach, you also tune out single post gold ear rings and thin gold chains, which read like small gold nuggets. If a prospector tunes out salt alkali readings on a salt lake, there go the small gold readings. And the chart shows that if you get too aggressive in rejecting all ferrous items, good items can be lost also.
When I say small it is important to note what we are really talking about is small/weak readings. A large gold item buried very deep in mineralized ground will have a very weak reading and appear as a small target to the detector. This means a very deep large items can appear just like a very small gold item and be lost for the very same reasons as those small items. Again, think weak targets and strong targets to get a better feel for how things react in the field.
To sum up, gold and platinum are low conductive metals, and when also small in size read very low on the VDI scale, even dipping into the ferrous range. The foil range is the sweet spot for ear rings, thin gold chains, small womens rings, and platinum items. In general women's gold rings will read below a U.S. nickel and men's gold rings will fall above a U.S. nickel on the VDI scale. Nearly all gold nuggets found by most people are going to read nickel and lower just because nearly all gold nuggets are small. However, as this photo I made using my DFX and some gold nuggets shows, gold nuggets can read all over the place due to their shape and purity. Surprisingly, if you add silver to gold the conductivity drops as alloys are less conductive than pure metals. This makes many gold jewelry items and gold nuggets far harder to detect than would be the case were they pure gold. See this article for details on this nugget photo Some Gold Nugget VDI Numbers
Target id numbers for naturally occurring gold nuggets
You can get some great spreadsheets for jewelry VDI numbers for White's and Minelab detectors here.
There are no doubt many people who have read this who are just shaking their head and thinking "this is why I just dig everything". I absolutely agree, when at all possible, that is the best solution. Unfortunately it simply is not possible in some locations where trash targets outnumber the good by thousands to one. This is where knowing the VDI scale and how it works can pay off.
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.