how-to articles

Metal detector terminology explained

I have always enjoyed learning new metal detectors and for the most part I’ve found it pretty easy. Over the years I’ve been surprised to learn many people have no desire to learn the settings. I’ve literally installed a few programs in people’s detectors for them and that’s all they ever use and they’re clueless on the settings or how their detector works.

 The problem with this is you might run into certain ground conditions where it would be very beneficial to know your settings and how to change them for optimal performance. Recently, a good friend called me to put our heads together to figure out what he could do to optimize his detector for a site he was having trouble with. One small change and his detector was running perfect at the challenging site.

 When the AT Max first came out I was surprised at the conflicting reports. It seemed people either loved it or hated it. I was perplexed over this for a while until I started noticing something. In many cases it seemed like people who had used at least a few detectors over the years were getting along great with the Max while a lot of people who had only ever used the AT Pro were struggling. In my opinion I think a lot of the people struggling with the Max are having issues simply because they don’t understand their settings and how it effects their detector.

 I am going to go over some of the settings you will find on most common metal detectors. Once you understand the basics you can then easily adjust just about any detector for optimal performance.

Ground Balance – Ground balance is the detector reading the minerals in the ground to optimize the detectors performance based on the information received from the ground. The importance of this is often overlooked and Ground balancing should be performed at the beginning of each hunt and sometimes several times throughout a hunt as ground conditions often change. Anytime you notice your detector running unstable or a little more chatter than usual try to re-ground balance, often this is the issue.

 Sensitivity – Also known as gain, in simple terminology the higher than sensitivity the deeper it will detect. Of course there is much more to it than that. A lot of people feel they need to run it as high as possible. I’ve even known people who will run it so high that their detector is chatty, falsing and “noisy”. In most cases and with most detectors I completely disagree with this method. Sensitivity set to high is like running your high beam headlights in fog. In my opinion it’s better to run the detector stable even if going after deep targets. When in high trash or if you’re going after shallower targets sometimes it a much better idea to turn down your sensitivity.

 I used to have a spot to metal detect that was loaded with modern trash yet the site gave up a lot of old, great finds at 6 plus inches deep. Everyone I took there would crank their sensitivity up and struggle through this particular area and have poor success. I would turn down my sensitivity and I always made some great finds. Running Sensitivity high isn’t always the ticket.

Discrimination – often referred to as simply Disc. It is the ability to reject a segment of target range. This can work for or against you depending on the situation and the amount of targets that fall in the range you are discriminating against. One way that Discrimination might be used successfully is at a spot where there is very little iron. You can Disc it out so you don’t have to hear it. There are times where running disc. Or too much disc. Can be  counter intuitive. When I am detecting in heavy iron when running disc to high and sometimes disc. at all it can slow the detectors processor down, false on some of the iron slowing it down and sometimes mask out good targets. While metal detecting high iron areas I find it better to run little to no discrimination. In these cases I also prefer to run fewer tones and prefer two when applicable. It makes it simpler to hear what is going on, at least for me.

Notch – Similar to Disc. but with notch you can chose single ID points and even small groups. Let’s say you’re detecting a park with a detector that has 100 ID points. You have Disc set to 20 (let’s assume iron will come in up to 20) and you want to block out 30,31 and 50. This is where notch comes into play. Again, I don’t like running Notch or at least not to much in most cases. Just like using Disc, Notch will often slow the processor speed down and you will often get clipped, cut up tones on Notched out targets. Can be very useful in some situations though.

Volume gain –  this adjustment allows you to amplify the volume of deeper targets as well as make deep targets come in quieter. A great feature to have but not found on a lot of detectors. While hunting say a trashy park where I know there are deeper coins and relics I will turn the Gain down to make the deeper targets much fainter than the surface targets. Listening for faint targets amongst a lot of louder targets really makes them jump out. On the other hand, in certain situations where you don’t have a lot of modern trash you might want to turn the gain up to amplify the deeper signals especially in noisy areas due to things like busy roadways, wind, running water etc.

Iron Audio – Again, Not found on a lot of detectors but a feature I find very important for myself. When hunting in heavy iron, like I said before, I don’t like to run discrimination. Detectors without Iron audio I would set up with simple tones like a two tone if available, run little to no disc. and I would have to listen to all those iron targets at full blast. This can be rather annoying. With Iron audio present on some detectors I can now turn down the volume of the iron signals to no more than a whisper. I can still hear it and “read” the ground to know how much iron I am in, how fast I can sweep my coil but at the same time I don’t have to listen to the volume at full blast which leads to fatigue for me.

Depending on your detector you might have a lot of other settings but I think the list I provided will give you a good start. I think many people are scared to play with the settings and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not playing with your settings. If you find what works for you, stick with it. If you run into different ground conditions, do different types of metal detecting or just want to get the most out of your detector then it pays to learn the settings, what they do and how they effect your detector.

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