Last updated: August 11, 2021

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It is an unusual hobby that can be very rewarding. The search for valuable objects with a metal detector. Thanks to the latest technology, metal detectors are able to distinguish between different materials at an early stage and can thus make your search for something valuable easier.

In our big metal detector test 2021 we present all the metal detectors we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information as well as advantages and disadvantages of the individual types of metal detectors.

Furthermore, we answer all questions you might have about metal detectors. For example, in which weather conditions you can use them, how expensive a metal detector is and what you should pay special attention to before buying one.

Contents




Summary

  • With a metal detector, you can detect metallic objects that are just below the ground. An electromagnetic field is used to locate the metal objects.
  • You can choose between an impact frequency detector, a low frequency detector and a pulse induction detector. Depending on the type, there are different advantages and disadvantages.
  • In addition to dimensions and weight, the purchase criteria of search method, depth and modes play an important role in choosing a suitable metal detector.

The best Metal Detector in the United Kingdom: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask before buying a metal detector

Are you thinking about buying a metal detector, but don't really know what to look for? Then you've come to the right place, because we explain to you which criteria you should consider when buying metal detectors.

What is a metal detector?

Basically, a metal detector, also called a metal detector or metal probe, is a device for locating hidden metal parts, pipes and electrical conductors on land or water.

Here you can see a man walking on the beach with his beach detector, possibly looking for treasure. A relatively unusual hobby! (Picture source: 123rf.com / miraclemoments)

These can also be buried. They usually consist of a battery-operated electronic circuit and a search coil through which a low-frequency alternating current flows. The magnetic field of the coil should reach as far as possible to simplify and improve use.

How do metal detectors work?

Electricity and magnetism - it is as simple as that to explain how metal detectors work. They basically consist of the following components:

A battery-powered electric unit is mounted on a pole with a handle and arm support. This is connected to a search coil at the lower end of a long rod. For the purpose of ideal depth effect, the coil usually has a flat shape, such as that of a plate, a ring or a double-D.

As soon as the electrical unit is switched on and supplies the coil with current, it builds up an electromagnetic field. This penetrates through the ground and the materials inside.

Metal detectors are used to detect hidden metals.

If an electrically conductive or metallic object enters this magnetic field, it is disturbed. The electrical unit immediately emits an acoustic and/or optical signal.

At the same time, a built-in processor calculates the approximate depth, size and type of metal of the object and displays it via a needle indicator or an LCD display.

Based on this data, the prospector can determine the exact location of the object and assess in advance whether it is worth digging or not.

How much does a metal detector cost?

Metal detectors are available in a wide range of prices, so there is something for everyone. The amount spent increases proportionally to the search performance and the convenient features.

For example, pulse induction detectors with a detailed DLC display, discrimination function and integrated PinPointer (a pinpointing tool for precisely locating finds) are particularly expensive.

Below we provide an overview of the four price classes:

  • Price class 1 (30-100 euros): These metal detectors are very simply built and usually only have a simple needle display and acoustic signals. They are particularly suitable for children and young people.
  • Price class 2 (100-300 euros): In this segment, the market is very competitive, which is why devices in this class have a good price-performance ratio. These entry-level devices often already have PinPointer and LCD displays.
  • Price class 3 (300-1000 euros): These versatile devices are suitable for advanced probe users with higher demands. They can usually be customised with various accessories and have very good, integrated PinPointers.
  • Price class 4 (from 1000 Euros): These professional devices are even used by professional archaeologists, as they allow significantly greater depths in the search.

So before buying a metal detector, you should think about how much you want to spend and how often you will use the device so that the purchase pays off.

What does a metal detector detect and can I use it to search for gold and treasure?

Every electrically conductive metal influences the magnetic field of a metal probe and can therefore be detected by you. That is why every metal detector is also a gold detector or silver detector.

Theoretically, you can also find gold coins with a metal detector. (Image source: 123rf.com / Дмитрий Филин)

Iron, for example, generates a very strong magnetic field, gold, on the other hand, only a weak one. Based on these differences, modern metal detectors can already identify which type of metal is involved before an excavation.

Some devices are even equipped with a tuner with which you can "discriminate" against unwanted metal types, i.e. filter them out of the search results.

This way you are less likely to dig for worthless rubbish and have a better chance of finding interesting finds like coins and jewellery.

Can I use my metal detector in the rain, snow or under water?

Yes! Most probes are waterproof and largely insensitive to low temperatures. So there is nothing to stop you from using it in shallow water or in the rain, as long as you don't mind soaking wet clothes.

But a persistent prospector should hardly have a problem with that. There are even metal detectors that have been specially developed for use under water.

Did you know that metal detectors are susceptible to interference and that faulty readings can occur even in soils with a high mineral content?

In particular, cheaper metal detectors can be significantly affected by highly mineralised soils and will give false readings. Mobile phone signals, LTE transmitters and high-voltage masts can also interfere with metal detectors in their measurements.

In conclusion, a metal detector works even in the deepest winter. Here, however, the potential problems lie elsewhere: Since you have to keep the probe close to the ground, the snow must not be too high. Moreover, digging for treasures in the frozen ground can be difficult.

Where am I allowed to use a metal probe and what laws do I have to observe?

In Germany, the legal situation for sounding is comparatively favourable and clear. Any private person may buy and use a metal detector without a special permit.

If you find something, you should inform yourself about the legal framework so that you do not run the risk of being prosecuted as a "looter". (Image source: nikkytok / 123RF.com)

If you want to search on someone else's land, you should first obtain permission from the owner. This applies in particular to ground monuments, where archaeologically valuable finds may be hidden that have a cultural-historical value for society.

Finds of old war weapons fall under the weapons law in Germany and must be rendered unusable by an expert.

Larger finds should in any case be reported to the authorities and may not simply be retained and resold privately. Ownership issues are regulated by the Monument Protection Act, which is handled very differently in the federal states.

In many places, for example, a so-called "treasure law" applies, according to which scientifically significant finds become the property of the state. The authorities pay out rewards for such finds, which can vary in amount.

Incidentally, the legal situation is particularly favourable in Bavaria, where the finder retains all ownership rights to the find even after dutifully reporting it, and in Hesse, where the finder is granted full financial compensation for the find.

What safety precautions do I have to follow when using metal detectors?

Metal detectors are completely medically harmless according to extensive research.

The magnetic fields generated are similar to those in nature and have no negative effects on medical implants or pregnant women (for particularly sensitive medical devices, it is nevertheless advisable to take a look at the instructions for use).

However, there are a few other aspects to be aware of: When you explore responsibly, your own safety and well-being should always come first.

This includes wearing clothing suitable for the weather or protective clothing, as well as handling delicate finds with care, such as ammunition from the world wars, which could still be live.

Did you know that there are supposed to be hundreds of thousands of explorers in Europe?

Most of them specialise in a certain field: Antique search, contract search, fallen soldier recovery, gold search, underwater treasure hunt, militaria search, meteorite search, modern era search, classic treasure hunt, underground search or beach search.

In addition, common sense dictates staying away from restricted areas and dangerous places, not endangering fellow human beings and avoiding damage to nature, e.g. by refilling the holes you have dug.

Can I rent or borrow a metal probe?

Yes, you can quickly find numerous service providers on the internet who rent metal detectors for 30-70 euros a day. Be sure to look for private and professional rentals in your area.

What are the alternatives to a metal detector?

Depending on what you want to do with the metal detector, there are also a few alternatives to the search device. We have listed some of them below:

Alternative Description
Easy search Of course, you can also go metal detecting without a metal detector. However, armed with only a spade, the search will take a little longer than with a metal detector.
Washing gold If you are looking for gold, you can also wash gold in a very typical way. This involves using a sieve to sift fine pieces of gold out of the water and other substances.
Dowsing rod You may also be able to use a dowsing rod to find metal objects.
X-ray inspection device A very expensive option for finding metal is an X-ray inspection device.
GPS device With a GPS device you can search for and find artificially hidden treasures. Geo-cache is very close to treasure hunting with a metal detector.

As you can see, there are also other ways to find gold or metallic objects.

Decision: What types of metal detectors are there and which one is right for you?

The way metal detectors - also known as metal seekers, metal detectors, metal detectors or metal probes - work has remained largely the same since they were invented.

However, it has been refined over time, which is why today we distinguish three main technologies with individual advantages and disadvantages:

  • Beat frequency oscillator (BFO for short)
  • Very low frequency detector (VLF)
  • Pulse induction detector (PI for short)

In the following, we present all types of metal detectors in detail.

How does a metal detector with a beat frequency oscillator work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The simplest form of metal detector is inexpensive and ideal for beginners. The so-called BFO detector consists of two copper coils, each wound around a ring of iron or steel and connected to an oscillator.

They transmit two different frequencies that can be disturbed by metallic objects in the vicinity. This interference is usually reproduced as an audio signal (an audible buzzing) via a connected headphone.

Advantages
  • Simple design
  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Widely available
Disadvantages
  • Rather low signal strength
  • Low search depth
  • Prone to errors

This affordable metal finder can be found in most electronics shops and its simple design makes it easy for children to understand.

How does a low frequency metal detector work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

This metal detector is preferred by more experienced detectorists because of its advanced technology and versatility.

In the VLF detector, two coils with alternating current flowing through them perform separate tasks: The first emits a continuous magnetic field at a very low frequency of 5-30 kHz.

Advantages
  • Low susceptibility to errors
  • Very accurate results
Disadvantages
  • Limited depth performance

The second coil simultaneously receives and measures the magnetic reflections from metallic objects. This type of metal detector is considered to be particularly accurate and sensitive.

How does a pulse induction metal detector work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

These powerful metal probes are even used in security technology in a modified form. They are the first choice for professional probes.

The PI detector works with only one coil, which has two constantly changing modes. In transmit mode, it sends very short and strong magnetic pulses into the ground at fixed intervals.

Metal detectors are used on the beach, in fields or in many other landscapes. (Image source: 123rf.com / петр ткаченко)

These generate so-called eddy currents in metallic objects, which remain present for a few microseconds. The search coil then automatically switches to receive mode and measures these eddy currents.

Advantages
  • High transmission power
  • Large search depth
  • Coil can be customised in shape and size
Disadvantages
  • Expensive

The temporal decoupling of the probe's transmitting and receiving phases allows a significantly higher transmitting power, which makes the PI detector capable of very large search depths. Moreover, since the search coil is not part of an oscillating circuit (as is the case with the VLF detector, for example), it can be shaped and enlarged almost at will.

This makes it possible to vary the search depth, to filter out very small objects such as coins or scraps of aluminium foil from the search results and to search extensive areas more quickly.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate metal detectors

In the following we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate metal detectors. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular device is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Weight and product dimensions
  • Search method
  • Search depth
  • Search modes
  • Display
  • Other functions and features

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Weight and product dimensions

The weight and dimensions of a metal detector increase noticeably with the amount of convenient features such as LCD displays and larger coils. This increase mainly affects the handling of the device.

Remember: You need to be able to hold your detector on one arm in front of you for an extended period of time and swing it back and forth. If you are having a good probe run, you may not want to take a break because your arm is getting too tired.

Devices for beginners and advanced users range from 1 to 2 kg total weight and are considered light by most users. For children, on the other hand, a detector weighing 1.1 kg is the ultimate in lightness. Devices for professionals are significantly heavier than that.

You have to worry about product dimensions for two reasons: Firstly, of course, not every explorer has the same height.

Fortunately, almost all detectors can be extended or collapsed within a frame of 600 to 1500 mm to fit the individual user.

Secondly, particularly bulky models can make probing difficult, as you could easily get the coil caught on obstacles and damage the coil. It can also be difficult to stow a particularly large metal detector unobtrusively in your travel or hiking backpack.

Although most detectors can be broken down into two or three more compact pieces underneath the electronics and above the coil, you should make sure that your backpack is big enough to fit them.

Search method

There are two main search methods: The standard "move" or "pan" search requires the probe to be moved back and forth over an object in order to locate it; "electronic pinpointing", on the other hand, registers a find even if the probe is only held still over it.

You should also consider using a pinpointer. This is a helpful tool that makes pinpointing and depth determination of finds in the ground immensely easier.

Higher class detectors have very good integrated pin pointers. If the model of your choice does not have one, you can buy one separately. PinPointers with high customer ratings range in price from 60 to 150 euros on Amazon.

Search depth

A high search depth is particularly important if you want to achieve a maximum number of finds. The rule of thumb is that you can find large objects at much greater depths than small objects.

For beginners, a search depth of 1 to 2 metres is sufficient.

The specifications for the "theoretical maximum depth" of metal detectors can vary greatly, even within the same price range. A search depth of 1 to 2 metres for large objects is considered good for beginner and advanced devices.

Some manufacturers prefer to state the "coin detection depth" (i.e. the search depth for particularly small objects) in the product description, which is between approx. 25 and 35 cm for such devices.

However, always be aware that manufacturers tend to be rather optimistic about the search depth of their products. So you can safely subtract a few centimetres from most detectors. Before buying, check the relevant forums, experience reports and customer reviews!

Search modes

Many detectors have preset search modes. These consist of fixed frequencies and discrimination parameters and allow you to search specifically for certain types of metal.

Beginners in particular should make use of these automatic settings for their first few probes in order to avoid frustration.

For example, it is possible to search exclusively for scrap metals, precious metals or coins and to filter out unwanted items such as beer coasters and worthless nails for your own search targets.

These modes are not 100% reliable, as the signal frequencies of some precious metals are similar to those of unusable metals, but they reduce the number of false digs immensely.

You can set different modes and the sensitivity of the search via the display.(Image source: 123rf.com / Alexander Ishchenko)

Professionals, on the other hand, like to have full control over all depth and sensitivity settings as well as the discrimination functions of their detector and prefer to interpret the acoustic and optical signals themselves.

If you dare to approach this level, you have to pay attention to certain rules: Any increase in the discrimination level will cost you search depth; likewise, any increase in coil sensitivity will increase the risk of interfering signals (from small metallic parts or power lines nearby) and unwelcome finds (such as tinfoil and rubbish).

Display

Simple metal probes have needle indicators where the direction and strength of the deflection allow conclusions to be drawn about the type and depth of the metal found.

A detailed LCD display in the electronics of your detector makes probing much easier, as it can offer important information, e.g. about the depth and type of the find.

For this reason, you should always prefer a visual finding display to an acoustic one for the sake of comfort and accuracy.

Other functions and features

In the following, we would like to introduce you to some more functions and features that you can compare when buying a metal detector.

Waterproof

Most metal detector coils are waterproof to a depth of 30 to 50 cm (which is equivalent to searching shallow waters, rivers, beaches or snow). However, there are exceptions, such as the Bounty Hunter Junior, which is primarily intended for children and is not suitable for underwater searching.

At greater depths, where the electronics of your detector also come into contact with water, you should go for models specially designed for diving.

Armrest

Not all metal detectors have this simple but important feature, which makes one-armed use of the detector much more comfortable. Such armrests can be either pure plastic or padded.

Headphone connection

Metal detectors work primarily with acoustic signals, which is why a headphone connection should be standard equipment.

Headphones are often supplied by the manufacturer, but can also be purchased separately (which is recommended anyway if the headphone cable is too long and thus distracting).

Using headphones can improve your search.

There are clear advantages to using them: You block out the ambient noise and can therefore concentrate better on your search.

In addition, you avoid disturbing the people around you or drawing the attention of other curious explorers to your promising search areas (it is not for nothing that the manufacturer Seben, for example, advertises an "incognito function" that switches off all sound effects and dims the LED display during night searches).

Since the almost constant beeping of your metal detector can be quite annoying, you should look for a model with volume control. If this feature is missing, you can also use a piece of duct tape on the speaker.

However, we recommend separate headphones with their own volume control. Finally, especially if a detailed LCD display is missing, it is worth choosing a device with different sounds to discriminate against metals in advance.

Cable inside

This refers to the cable leading from the electronics to the probe. In most metal probes, this is routed along the outside of the metal rod. This can cause the cable to flap around and get caught in obstacles when searching.

It is therefore advisable to use a detector whose cable is hidden inside the holding rod.

Workmanship

Finally, keep a critical eye on the build quality of your chosen metal detector. Cheap devices are often very simple and constructed with inferior materials and can lead to frustration due to rapid damage to the search coil, too loosely assembled components and unruly battery compartments.

In addition, inferior workmanship affects the assembly and disassembly of your metal detector.

Facts worth knowing about metal detectors

Finally, we would like to answer a few important questions about metal detectors and their use.

You will find out how long metal detectors have been used, how the search with the device works, which interesting finds have already been made and much more.

How long have metal detectors been in use?

Metal detectors have been around for over 100 years! Promising prospects for use in mining led to their invention.

The German physicist and meteorologist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove (1803-1879) invented the induction-balance system in the first half of the 19th century, which was later to become the basis for the first metal detectors. However, his so-called polarising apparatus was very large, heavy, prone to interference and only achieved a shallow search depth.

Many people go to the beach in search of washed-up treasures. (Image source: 123rf.com / zakob)

The development of metal detectors only took off in the 1930s, when the German entrepreneur and inventor Gerhard Richard Fischer (1899-1988) discovered that radio waves are disturbed by ore-bearing rock.

Conversely, Fischer realised that radio waves could be used to specifically locate metals. In 1937, he acquired the first patent for a metal probe.

Charles Garrett further developed the still rather unwieldy form of the metal detector and brought the significantly smaller and lighter BFO detector onto the market in 1964.

Motivated by this, numerous companies were founded that continued to improve the concept and produced cheaper devices for private use.

What is the process of probing with a metal detector?

Although each prospector develops his or her own techniques and habits over time, the basic procedure is always the same. Here is a checklist for your first treasure hunt:

Getting started: As a beginner, it makes perfect sense to familiarise yourself with your metal probe first. Set up your own parkour, e.g. in your own garden, and practise the correct handling of the device at different depths and with different metals!

Set yourself a target! Probes usually specialise in a particular field, e.g. searching for gold, meteorites, antique objects or the former possessions of soldiers from the world wars.

The right place is especially important for the search for treasures.

The right place: A visit to the archives of your local library or an internet search can help you to select a suitable area (approx. 1 ha in size) on the basis of historical records and maps.

Check the legal situation!

Now search! Keep the coil close to the ground for maximum search depth and make sweeping movements to ensure a seamless search!

Time to dig! Once this decision has been made, tools such as spades and digging hoes come into play. The detector's display will give you an indication of the approximate depth of your find. A pin pointer can help you locate the exact spot.

Expert tip: Use a stick for the last few centimetres of earth to avoid damaging your find!

You've done it! Next comes the cleaning and preservation of your find, the identification of the find and finally the documentation.

What are the most interesting finds ever made with metal detectors?

Unfortunately, some archaeologists consider the eager treasure hunters with their metal probes to be troublemakers. They completely overlook the fact that numerous important new discoveries of our time were made primarily by private individuals.

The list of downright impressive finds made with metal detectors is long and the number of unreported cases of successful probes is even larger. Here are a few examples:

In 1999, the famous case of the Nebra Sky Disk helped probe hunters Henry Westphal and Mario Renner to dubious fame: they sold the find illegally for a mere 31,000 DM and were soon sentenced to suspended sentences. Today, the valuable relic is insured with a value of 100 million euros.

In 2010, Dave Crisp, a prospector, found the second largest English coin hoard ever: a jar containing 52,000 bronze and silver coins with a total weight of 160 kg and an estimated value of 1 million dollars.

Benjamin Czerny found an ancient treasure worth half a million euros in a forest in Rhineland-Palatinate in 2015. Like Westphal and Renner before him, he was given a suspended sentence after he concealed his find from the authorities but proudly displayed it on Youtube two years later.

Such enviable finds are far from the end of the line. All over the world, countless treasures are still waiting to be unearthed, and the search for them will go on for a long time.

Private explorers are therefore seen as an important support for various research institutes, which even offer training programmes for explorers.

What can I find in Germany with a metal detector and where are the best places to probe?

Compared to other countries, the chances of finding metal in Germany are very good. This is mainly due to the long periods of metal use in German history and the relatively dense settlement of the country.

Historically overwhelming finds are rather rare.

Especially relics from the world wars are worth an extensive search. However, we don't want to promise you too much - historically overwhelming finds are by no means the norm. As a determined prospector, you must above all have patience and perseverance.

But we guarantee you one thing: The first find is associated with an enormous feeling of happiness!

Metal detectors and children - 7 tips on how to make treasure hunting fun

In times of video games, smartphones and computers, "outdoors" is a foreign word for many children.

Metal detectors can be the perfect way to reacquaint youngsters with nature and fresh air. To make the treasure hunt a success for the little ones, we give you 7 useful tips:

Tip #1: Get the right metal detector

Buy a suitable metal detector! Use our interactive buying guide or take a look at "What does a metal detector cost?

Detectors from the first or second price range are a good choice, as their operation is easy to learn.

Tip #2: Light weight of the treasures

The financial loss is not too great if your child suddenly loses interest in treasure hunting. Make sure that the metal detector you choose is as light as possible - preferably no more than 1.1 kg!

Tip #3: Take breaks

Take breaks! Since metal detectors are only held with one arm, even 1.1 kg can quickly become quite heavy.

Therefore, you should give your youngster a break every 30 minutes at the latest. Take enough food and water with you to have a spontaneous picnic!

Breaks are especially important for children, as a metal detector can become very heavy over time. (Image source: 123.com / Tomasz Guzowski)

If swinging the probe is basically too strenuous for your child, give them another task: pinpointing a find with the help of a PinPointer is easier and a lot of fun.

Tip #4: Appropriate clothing and accessories

Choose the right clothes and accessories! Especially on bad weather days, warm and waterproof clothing is a must!

In addition, equip your child with gloves in case there are dangerous objects such as broken glass in the ground!

Tip #5: Preparation

Research suitable locations in advance! Such a treasure hunt can also be ideally combined with other activities. For example, are there monuments, lakes or interesting hiking trails near the search area?

Help out a little! Stick to safe places like children's playgrounds or public beaches! To prevent frustration, you can hide small treasures in the sand beforehand so that the little ones will definitely find something.

Tip #6: Education

Remember: parents are responsible for their children! Educate your children about safety and the law when exploring so that they don't go treasure hunting in forbidden places without thinking!

Tip #7: Supervision

Oversight is better than hindsight! To be on the safe side, you should always go out together with your child. This will make exploring an exciting family activity.

By the way, Eifelsucher.de recommends that children should only be allowed to handle metal detectors on their own from the age of 16.

Where else are metal detectors used?

Of course, metal detectorists do not have metal detecting on lease. The useful technology of detectors is used in many places in everyday life. Here are a few examples:

  • Even today, military forces such as the US Army use metal detectors for explosive ordnance disposal.
  • The "door frames" you have to pass through at airports or in buildings with sensitive security levels are nothing more than metal detectors designed to search you for weapons and other dangerous objects.
  • Professional archaeologists use much larger and more powerful metal detectors to probe potential excavation sites up to 12 metres deep.
  • Metal detectors enable safe work for people and machines: in the food and pharmaceutical industries they detect metal splinters in products, in wood processing they find nails in tree trunks and craftsmen can use them to determine the location of power and water lines in walls and floors.
  • By the way, there are also mobile phone apps that advertise a "metal detector function". But don't get taken for a ride: These technical gadgets only react to correspondingly large magnetic fields and are therefore unsuitable for treasure hunting.

Can I repair my metal detector myself?

Yes. In cases of damage, fellow detectorists stand by each other in appropriate forums with advice and tips for do-it-yourself repairs of material wear and cable breakage.

In any case, you should take good care of the coil of your metal detector, as this is the most sensitive part of the device. You can easily bump into an obstacle while searching, which can lead to hairline cracks. Moisture can get into the coil and cause signal errors.

To prevent this, you should get a coil protector. This protects the coil from damage and does not affect the signal strength of your detector in the slightest. If in doubt, manufacturers and retailers offer professional repair services.

Where can I exchange information about sounding and metal detectors with other sounders?

The detectorists are a constantly growing, international community of ambitious treasure hunters who support each other and compete with each other in a friendly way.

On the internet you will find several forums where you can talk to others about finding sites, finding identification, repairs and much more.

Image source: unsplash.com / Paul Waschtschenko

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