Metal Detector Buying Guide

When most of us hear the term ‘metal detecting’ we imagine a crazy old guy  walking up and down the beach but there's much more to it than just looking funny at the beach. Different people have different reasons to detect with the more common reasons being:

  • The love of history and thrill of being able to hold something very old
  • The love of coin collecting.
  • The love of being active and in the outdoors.
  • The financial gain from selling your finds (gold/silver jewelry or even gold nuggets).
How They Work

They often consist of a handheld unit with a sensor probe which can be swept over the ground or other objects. If the sensor comes near a piece of metal this is indicated by a changing tone in earphones, or a needle/number moving on an indicator. Usually the device gives some indication of distance; the closer the metal is, the higher the tone in the earphone or the higher the needle/number goes. 

Basic Metal Detecting Terms

Here are the most basic terms you need to know for buying an entry level metal detector.


Being able to adjust the Discrimination means you can exclude specific types of metal based on its conductivity. Rubbish tends to have low conductivity and coins high conductivity.


Notching is a form of discrimination that allows you to cherry pick the type of metal you want to accept and reject. This feature is very usefully if you know the exact type of target metals you're searching for.

Target Identification

A tool that can distinguish between metal types. The output can be an audible tone (tone identification) or a target ID (a visual on the LCD such as Notch ID or Number ID).

Ground Balance

A feature that allows your machine to read your exact ground conditions and cancel out the unwanted ground signals. This allows you to find and identify targets at much better depths.
Most entry-level machines have Preset ground balance. but higher spec/priced machines have Automatic and Manual ground balancing options.


The higher the sensitivity of the metal detector, the smaller the pieces of metal it can detect.

Operating frequency

Frequency is simply a number of times the signal is transmitted and received by the detector every second. Another feature of more concern on high-spec machines.

Search Depth

The depth to which your Metal Detector is able to search for metal objects. The larger the coil the deeper it can search. You can usually find coins to a depth of one and a half times the search coil diameter.

Coil size

A smaller coil would be better where several objects are close to each other and a large coil is great for low-mineralisation areas and deep searching. 

Headphone input

Headphones significantly increase your chances of finding buried objects by blocking background noise.

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