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EQUINOX and a visit to the UK

February 04, 2019 03:57pm

Steve Herschbach

I made my first visit to the U.K. in 2010 in search of Celtic gold. I attended a Minelab conference just prior to that visit and was asked what detector I was going to use. A Minelab was not on my list. Why? At that time, Minelab was synonymous for “low and slow” detecting, with slow being the main problem. The farm fields I was to hunt in England were huge, and in my mind, ground coverage was paramount. I wanted a detector that I could swing fast all day long, something light in weight and with a fast recovery time.

Fast forward to 2018 and a return trip to England for another go at those huge farm fields and Celtic gold. This time I was packing two Minelab Equinox detectors, one with the stock 11” DD coil, and the other with the new 15” x 12” DD coil. My first trip had not produced the Celtic gold I was seeking, and this time I was going all in with the Minelab Equinox in the hope that it would do the trick for me.

How does a person determine what settings to use on a detector when going to a totally new location, one where both the soil conditions and trash/treasure mix are unfamiliar? It appears that most people seek settings on the internet that serve as a starting point at least. This is certainly one approach and one that can work well lacking any other way to go.

I personally rely on my detector telling me what settings it wants to use. Rather than tell it what to do, I listen to what the detector is telling me and go from there. I do this by seeking to balance two different aspects of the detector that matter most to me.

First, there is the amount of noise or chatter I want the detector to generate in response to the ground. The number one choice I need to make up front is in determining what Field Mode I wish to use, i.e. Park Mode, Field Mode, Beach Mode, or Gold Mode. In general, I would rate the modes going from “hottest” to “most well behaved” as follows:

  1. Gold Mode
  2. Park & Field Mode 2
  3. Park & Field  Mode 1
  4. Beach Mode 1
  5. Beach Mode 2

The Gold Modes on the Equinox 800 (not available of Equinox 600) are the most powerful modes, but also the hardest modes to tame. Beach Mode 2 on the other hand is designed to deal with both saltwater and mineralized soil, which in turn means it is a very well behaved mode. It also is the least powerful mode in terms of its ability to find small low conductive targets.

Choosing the proper mode is a matter of balancing how sensitive you want the Equinox to be to the very smallest and very deepest targets against undesirable characteristics like ground noise, electrical interference, and sensitivity to small trash items.

I was going to be detecting large fields in England, and so my focus went immediately to the Park and Field modes. Gold Mode was likely to be too noisy and require too much target analysis for efficient hunting. Beach modes on the other hand are best reserved for the worst ground conditions.

Park Mode 1 and Field Mode 1 Multi-IQ processes a lower frequency weighting of the multi-frequency signal, as well as using algorithms that maximize ground balancing for soil, to achieve the best signal to noise ratio. Park Mode 2 and Field Mode 2 are using a higher frequency “weighting” that makes those two modes more sensitive overall and in particular on smaller low conductor targets. It also means that Park 2 and Field 2 tend to have more inherent ground response, which in turn makes those two modes a little more prone to background chatter.

I did some brief experimenting and determined that Park 1 had all the sensitivity to small items I could wish for while being smoother/less noisy than the Park 2 and Field 2 alternatives. As far as choosing between Park 1 or Field 1 there is in my opinion no discernible difference between Park 1 and Field 1 except for those inherent in the differing presets. The same goes for Park 2 and Field 2 – once differences in the presets are accounted for, to me they are as near to being the same as to not.

Once in Park 1 it was a matter of getting the sensitivity and recovery speed to where I wanted them. In general, I try not to stray too far from the presets unless there is a very good reason. I experimented with the ground balance, recovery speed, and iron bias settings. I could not convince myself that manually setting the ground balance was any better than using the factory default, and so I went with the factory default. In theory lower recovery speed and lower iron bias will both add sensitivity and better define targets audibly, but again the factory defaults worked well.

My goal was not to create a detector that was operating at its most powerful. In order for this to work, I have to slow way down to accommodate things like a slower recovery speed and analyze lots of weak signals. No, my desire was not to create a super powerful detector, but an efficient detector for covering large areas. This means setting the detector up to give the best signal possible on desired targets, while reducing unwanted signals and interference.

The one item that required the most experimentation and thought was where to set the discrimination control. I solved this by digging all non-ferrous targets (target id 1 and higher) for the first day and a half. For U.K. purposes, I decided the discrimination control is mostly a size and roundness filter. Target id 1 did turn up some coke, a hard, shiny coal like material. Target id 1 though 6 in general produced all manner of very small metal targets, mostly lead and small copper bits, but also occasional aluminum bits.

What was interesting was that items of equal size produced very different target id results depending on how round the item was. This is most apparent on hammered silver coins. These coins come in all sizes, and many were cut into halves or quarters to “make change”. A pie shaped quarter hammered will produce a lower target id number than an identically sized but round coin. This “roundness bonus” can easily add five to ten target id numbers to targets, moving items that would normally read in the single digits into double-digit target id numbers.

I rapidly determined that digging target id number 6 and lower produced vastly larger amounts of small lead and copper targets with the most common possible good target being a quarter or an eighth of a thin silver coin. There are other small possible good targets that could be recovered in this range, including small gold targets. My time was not unlimited however, and so I decided that I would notch out target id numbers 1 though 6 and only accept 7 and above.

This was to be my normal setting for most of my field detecting. However, I also like to hear everything a lot of the time. That includes even the ferrous response, because very often I am looking for places with increased target density, and ferrous indications can reveal an old habitation site worth paying attention to. Switching to all metal response is as easy as hitting the “horseshoe” button, so that when desired I could bring target id 1 – 6 back into the equation, along with all ferrous responses.

I prefer most of the time to hunt in 50 tones. However, I did go into the advanced tone settings, and lowered the T1 ferrous tone from 12 to 4 to make the ferrous responses as quiet as possible but still audible to my ear. It is impossible to adjust the non-ferrous tone volumes independently while in 50-tone mode, but the T1 ferrous tone volume can be set as desired.

To sum up, my settings were the Park 1 defaults with a couple modifications:

  • Park 1
  • Frequency Multi
  • Noise Cancel 0 (adjust as needed)
  • Ground Balance Manual, 0
  • Volume Adjust 20 (adjust as needed)
  • Tone Volume 12, 25, 25, 25, 25 (Steve 4, 25)
  • Threshold Level 0
  • Threshold Pitch 4
  • Target Tone 5 (Steve 50)
  • Tone Pitch 1, 6, 12, 18, 25
  • Reject –9 to 1 and Accept 2 to 40 (Steve Reject -9 to 6 and Accept 7 to 40)
  • Tone Break 0, 10, 20, 30
  • Recovery Speed 5
  • Iron Bias 6
  • Sensitivity 20 (Steve 22 to 25)
  • Backlight Off

I generally hunted with target ID 1 through 6 eliminated, but often opened it back up in areas with sparse targets, or for areas where I just “had a feeling” and wanted to sample the lower target id range. My main goal was Celtic gold, and tests I performed on a few Celtic gold quarter staters (a small gold coin) gave readings as low as target id 9 but most in the “nickel range” of 12 – 13. A full stater tested out at a solid 20 – 21 reading. I was not worried about missing gold coins or any coins for that matter that were fully round in shape by accepting target id 7 and higher but I was passing on piles of very small and hard to find targets.

This is purely a gamble and a judgment call on the part of the operator. In any circumstances where time is unlimited I advocate digging either all targets, or at a minimum all non-ferrous targets. The problem always revolves around limited time and how many targets a person can afford to dig in a limited period.

In other words, I am not presenting these as my “magic settings” for the U.K. and in fact, this is just the opposite. I hope that by explaining my rationale for the settings, I chose and why I chose them, that you will see that settings are very much an individual preference. What are technically the “best” settings from a pure performance standpoint may not be the best settings for a person with a bad back, for instance. We all have differing physical limitations and differing ability to dig large amounts of trash without becoming discouraged. The controls on our detectors allow us to adjust not just for maximum performance but also for maximum fun, and we all have to determine for ourselves where the lines are drawn, especially as regards discrimination settings.

Halfway into my trip I got a nice little 7-8 reading, at the lower end of my discrimination range. There was nothing special to indicate that this was not yet another small piece of lead, and so you might imagine my shock when an oddball piece of gold popped out of the ground. It was gold all right, but not the Celtic gold coin I was half expecting. Instead, it appears I found a much rarer item, a possible “votive offering” to the gods for a good harvest. This open-ended 6.8 grams of gold gave a weaker signal than one might expect, because it is not round and responds more like a gold ring with a broken solder point. My settings were still good enough to make the find, but if the weight had been less or the shape a little different I may have missed it. In the end, I made the right call, and my faith in the Minelab Equinox was rewarded with Celtic gold!

To sum up, these settings are a good set of well-behaved settings for an Equinox beginner in the U.K. The settings minimize noise and reduce the digging of hard to locate smaller items in favor of more substantial targets. Yet these setting will find plenty of very small items also. I offer them merely as a starting point, to be adjusted as the operator sees fit to find their own preferred settings. When in doubt hit that horseshoe button to hear all targets. This works well to better define targets reading ten or lower or any “iffy” targets that seem to have a ferrous component.

Such are the risks and rewards of metal detecting. At the end of the day, it is up to each of us to decide where to draw the line between trying to dig all metal in the ground versus our available time and physical limitations. I hope this article helped clarify how at least one detectorist makes those choices in order to help you make yours. Happy Hunting!


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