Finding gold: few words conjures up more excitement, and it may be possible with one of the best metal detectors. OK, in the real world it’s unlikely that gold prospecting will make you rich, but valuable gold nuggets and flakes are often found not far below the surface. Metal detecting for gold can be a lucrative hobby, and might also take you to some fascinating places.

Choosing the right metal detector for gold requires care. Buying a low-cost general-purpose model will likely result in disappointment. They don’t have the required focus to find the small deposits that are most common. In this article we look at the key features that improve your chances of success. We also recommend a variety of the best metal detectors for gold, whatever kind of prospecting appeals to you.

Best Overall: Minelab Gold Monster 1000 Gold Detector
— Best Budget: Fisher Gold Bug Pro Metal Detector
— Best for Beginners: XP ORX Wireless Metal Detector
— Best Waterproof: Garrett AT Gold Waterproof Metal Detector
— Best Deep Gold: Garrett ATX Metal Detector with Deepseeker Package
— Best for Professionals: Minelab GPZ 7000 Gold Nugget Metal Detector

How We Picked the Best Metal Detectors for Gold 

The choice of gold metal detectors is extensive, and even entry-level models require a substantial investment. While a number of our researchers have experience with general-purpose metal detectors, there are important differences with models that focus on gold prospecting. Several elements informed our selection:

Quick Start: Anyone searching for the best metal detectors for gold prospecting will find a barrage of technical details. Some of these features are very important in fine tuning the machine, and we look at a number of key factors in our “Things to Consider’ section below.

However, we know that buyers of gold metal detectors will be itching to start prospecting as soon as possible, so with that in mind we tried to choose devices that allow people to learn while looking. Yes, there are certainly learning curves, but we didn’t want that to be a major barrier to getting out there. These parameters did change somewhat when looking for the best professional metal detector for gold as those users have different needs. Get to your site quickly on one of the best electric scooters.

Wide Choice: Some metal detectors for gold are good all-rounders, but high-end models tend to be focused on particular environments. One might perform well underwater, for example, another will be more suited to deep gold deposits.

Where buyers live, or where they intend to prospect, could have an impact on the best type of gold metal detector for their needs. People’s budgets will also play an important part in the buying decision.

So we provided a broad range of models with distinct differences. In doing so we hope to offer something of interest to the majority of buyers, whatever they are looking for. Improve your location scouting with the best binoculars.

Brand and Value: In our opinion, trying to find a cheap metal detector for gold is a pointless exercise. Low-cost machines can be great for coins, ancient artifacts, etc., but they don’t have the frequency or precision required for gold.

In return for your investment you should expect high performance, reliability and durability. For that reason each of our top picks comes from a brand with an established reputation as one of the leaders in the field.

Best Metal Detectors for Gold: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Minelab Gold Monster 1000 Gold Detector

Automatic Help with Prospecting. MINELAB

Why It Made The Cut: Minelab’s Gold Monster 1000 is easy to use, yet packed with features that make it a great tool for gold prospecting, whatever the user’s experience level.

Specs:
Type: VLF
Frequency: 45 kHz
Weight: 2.94 pounds

Pros:
Fully automatic ease-of-use
Two waterproof coils
Lightweight

Cons:
Control box not waterproof
Headphones could be better
No coil covers

Minelab is one of the world’s leading makers of gold metal detectors, with a range of high-quality models. The Minelab Gold Monster 1000 is their entry-level device, designed to be extremely user-friendly. It incorporates automatic sensitivity, ground balancing, and noise-canceling. The latter helps minimize ‘chatter’ from non-gold items within the soil. Beginners can be up and running quickly, improving their skill while actually prospecting.

The 45-megahertz (mHz) frequency combined with a 24-bit signal processor offers high sensitivity for small nuggets and flakes. Two modes are available. The first rejects iron, and has a ‘Gold Chance’ indicator that estimates the likelihood that a find is actually gold. More experienced users can make their own manual sensitivity adjustments. The second is an all-metal mode giving the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 greater depth capability, and the ability to detect both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

At under 3 pounds, the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 handheld metal detector for gold is light and maneuverable. The telescopic shaft can be adjusted from 37 to 54 inches. It comes with two interchangeable coils, one a 9-inch oval, and the other a 5-inch round for confined spaces. Both are waterproof to 3 feet, but the control panel is not, so you should be careful not to fully submerge the machine.

A rechargeable lithium-ion battery gives around 8 hours continuous use. Eightv AA batteries can be used as an alternative or backup for extended operation. Audio volume has six levels, and headphones are included. However, their quality isn’t the same level as the rest of the equipment.

Best Budget: Fisher Gold Bug Pro Metal Detector

Affordable Gold Finder. Fisher

Why It Made The Cut: Although most top metal detectors for gold tend to be high-ticket items, the Fisher Gold Bug’s digital technology delivers good performance for a more modest investment.

Specs:
Type: VHF
Frequency: 19 kHz
Weight: 2.5 pounds

Pros:
— Digitally-enhanced performance
— Very competitive price
— Light and maneuverable

Cons:
— Modest sensitivity
— Headphones extra
— Auto ground-balancing only

Fisher’s Gold Bug set new standards for affordable gold detection when introduced. The latest Gold Bug Pro upgrades the old analog technology to digital, improving overall performance. It’s important to understand that this is a high-quality all-round metal detector, with better gold-finding ability than most in its price range. It does not offer the same level of focus as specific metal detectors for gold, but neither does it cost as much.

In all-metal mode, the Fisher Gold Bug Pro can be used for coins, silver, jewelry, artifacts, etc. Discrimination using target IDs is very good, and helps improve gold detection, as does the computerized Ground Grab (there is no manual adjustment). This differentiates signals in high mineralization areas. While it doesn’t have the immediate sensitivity of more expensive devices, and there is more of a learning curve with the Fisher Gold Bug Pro, you can still achieve excellent results. Unfortunately headphones are not included, and are something of a necessity.

The Fisher Gold Bug Pro will run for up to 40 hours on a single 9-volt battery. It is light and very maneuverable, with a 5-inch waterproof coil that is useful for working in shallow streams, among rocks, and on uneven terrain. It’s a great choice for those who want a general purpose metal detector with better-than-average gold nugget hunting ability, at a reasonable price.

Best for Beginners: XP ORX Wireless Metal Detector

Quality Prospecting for Beginners. XP Metal Detectors

Why It Made The Cut: All high-quality metal detectors for gold have something of a learning curve, but the XP ORX allows beginners to acquire skills more quickly and easily than many rivals.

Specs:
Type: VLF
Frequency: 13 to 81 mHz
Weight: 1.7 pounds

Pros:
— Selectable frequency ranges
— Easy-to-use controls
— Wireless headphones included

Cons:
— Not true multi-frequency
— Modest depth
— Not for expert users

Choosing the best gold metal detector for beginners is a challenge. Machines that are quick and easy to set up can soon prove inadequate as users increase their knowledge. High-end models can be intimidating, and expensive. The XP ORX strikes a good balance between the two. It offers good precision, and enough features to satisfy those with more experience.

The stand-out feature of the XP ORX is the wide frequency range provided. This allows users to detect small nuggets in various ground conditions. It’s important to note that there are actually three independently selectable ranges, rather than the full-spectrum some high-end machines offer. Nevertheless, these are very effective at refining searches. Four modes are offered, two of them dedicated specifically to gold. Ground balancing can be automatic or manual, and audio can be adjusted to provide a clearer reaction to deep objects. The control panel looks a little complicated at first, but allows precise control of the numerous features, and users soon become acclimated to it.

The XP ORX uses an all-plastic construction that makes it one of the lightest metal detectors for gold on the market. The 9.5-inch elliptical coil is waterproof, though the control panel is not. It is fully wireless, allowing great freedom of movement. Headphones are included. Lithium ion rechargeable batteries are built in, although the coil needs to be charged separately. Run time should be 20 hours or more. There is very little to criticize with the XP ORX, but it doesn’t offer the level of adjustability that advanced users or professionals demand.

Best Waterproof: Garrett AT Gold Waterproof Metal Detector

On Land or Underwater. Garrett

Why It Made The Cut: The Garrett AT Gold is designed to overcome the problems faced when prospecting in water that is deep enough to damage control panels, wiring or batteries.

Specs:
Type: VLF
Frequency: 18 kHz
Weight: 2.8 pounds

Pros:
— Comprehensive kit
— Fully submersible (not headphones)
— Advanced audio features

Cons:
— Limited frequency
— Control panel could be clearer
— Not for salt water

Gold is often found in creeks and streams where it eventually settles out, sometimes in high-value pockets. Many metal detectors for gold have waterproof coils, but the control panels and headphone sockets are not protected. This clearly restricts their use in deeper water. The Garrett AT Gold has no such problems, as it is fully submersible to a depth of 10 feet. That said, it doesn’t perform well in salt water, which causes excessive interference.

The Garrett AT Gold has full metal detecting modes, with the ability to filter out various levels of iron to reduce ‘trash’ finds. It has adjustable sensitivity, and ground balancing, plus target IDs, and a depth indicator. The 18-kHz frequency does limit its ability to identify very small flakes, but it is particularly good at detecting nuggets near the surface. Enhanced ‘Pro’ audio provides a lot of valuable detail once the user has learned to differentiate the various sounds.  

The Garrett AT Gold is tough enough to take the bumps and knocks of enthusiastic prospecting. Headphones are included, as is a pin pointer which improves target location. It will run for upwards of 20 hours with just 4 AA batteries. The LCD control panel display offers a lot of information, though it can be visually confusing. It isn’t lit, so the detector can’t be used at night unless relying solely on audio. For better night viewing, check out the best telescopes.

Best Deep Gold: Garrett ATX Metal Detector with Deepseeker Package

Deep Diver. Garrett

Why It Made The Cut: The Garrett ATX is a rugged metal detector designed for deep gold prospecting in highly mineralized soil, and in fresh or salt water up to 10 feet deep.

Specs:
Type: PI
Frequency: 19 kHz (730 pulses per second)
Weight: 5.5 pounds

Pros:
— Excellent depth finding
— All- terrain capability
— Good portability

Cons:
— Heavier than most
— Considerable investment
— Headphones not waterproof

Having a second Garrett in our top picks underlines the performance and quality of the brand. However, although it carries a very similar name to our favorite waterproof metal detector for gold, the Garrett ATX is a very different machine. This one is designed for all-terrain use, and can find small gold nuggets at depths of up to 18 inches, and larger items at 2 feet or more.

The device is designed with pulse-induction technology, giving not just excellent penetration but also minimizing the interference problems caused by mineralization, salt water, or the iron deposits often found in gold fields. Ground balancing is a feature often missing from PI machines, but the Garrett ATX has it to further focus searching. In addition to the standard coil, a 15-inch by 20-inch Deepseeker coil is included. The whole device is submersible to 10 feet. An all-metal mode allows searching for coins, and other metals besides gold, though only with the standard 12-inch coil.

The telescopic shaft makes the Garrett ATX remarkably compact when folded, and a solid carry case is provided for transportation. It will run from eight AA batteries, either standard or rechargeable, and a charger is included. Although comparatively heavy, an adjustable harness is provided.

Best for Professionals: Minelab GPZ 7000 Gold Nugget Metal Detector

Highly Focused Gold Prospecting. MINELAB

Why It Made The Cut: Minelab’s patented ZVT technology promises higher sensitivity with less interference at greater depth, and finds can be marked with GPS. It sounds like the perfect combination.

Specs:
Type: ZVT (Zero Voltage Transmission)
Frequency: Not applicable
Weight: 7.32 pounds

Pros:
— High gold sensitivity
— GPS tracking
— Advanced digital audio

Cons:
— Heavy
— Expensive
— Complex learning process

Minelab’s GPZ 7000 gold detector uses the company’s patented ZVT technology, detecting gold with opposed polarity magnetic fields. While the machine sends and receives signals a lot like VLF, the signal is constant. This gives the device depth capabilities like PI (pulse induction), which sends out current in short bursts, thus giving the prospector the best of both worlds.

In independent tests, the Minelab GPZ 7000 consistently finds gold nuggets that other metal detectors miss. Initially the device looks easy to use. One of three gold modes is selected, and one of three soil conditions. However, these are really just starting points. Advanced features include precision ground balancing, advanced noise canceling, and 256 channel wireless audio threshold settings.

The waterproof Super-D coil is 14 inches by  13 inches, and the only option is larger at 18 inches by 19 inches. So this is not a machine for confined spaces. The Minelab GPZ 7000 is heavy, but a supportive harness is provided. It runs off a 7.2-volt built-in rechargeable battery that gives around 8 hours constant use. There’s no option to use removable batteries as backup. Headphones are included.

The Minelab GPZ 7000 is not a gold detector for the beginner or even intermediate user. The machine is complex, and even experienced users will likely have new things to learn. However, if results are what the best metal detectors for gold are based on, then this is a very difficult machine to beat.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Metal Detector for Gold 

Manufacturers of good metal detectors for gold usually provide a great deal of technical detail, which can be very confusing. The following are key areas.

Type

The vast majority of metal detectors for gold can be divided into two basic types: VLF (very low frequency) or PI (pulse induction). VLF is sometimes called high frequency VLF, which sounds contradictory. In fact all metal detectors use fairly low frequencies, but whereas standard models are in the 5 to 15 mHz (megahertz) range, metal detectors for gold start at 14 mHz and many go higher.

Technically speaking, VLF checks the difference in electromagnetism between the outgoing signal and the reflected signal when identifying objects. PI sends out bursts of energy, then assesses the speed of reflection. VLF is used by most metal detectors, can often identify smaller objects, and is more commonly used for gold prospecting. However, PI reaches deeper into the ground, and is less susceptible to mineralization (interference from minerals in the soil) or salt water. Mineralization is particularly common in gold fields. However PI models are usually more expensive than VLF models, and can be noticeably heavier.

In 2015, Minelab introduced their patented Zero Voltage Transmission (ZVT) technology, which uses opposing magnetic fields. These are sent out and received in a similar manner to VLF, but offer the improved penetration of PI devices. While performance is excellent, these machines are complex and very expensive.

Coil

VLF metal detectors actually have two coils, one to send and the other to receive. However, for our purposes it’s safe to consider them as one. Larger coils allow more ground to be covered, though searching for gold doesn’t usually involve rapid movement, so gains are minimal. Waterproof coils are fairly common, but this doesn’t mean the whole machine can be submerged. Open coils are easier to move through water than solid disks.

Discrimination

Discrimination is the ability of the metal detector to separate gold from silver, or ring pulls, or an old rusty wrench. What the metal detector actually does is measure the conductivity (the amount of signal absorbed), and then make a judgment based on known parameters.

These are usually known as target IDs, and depending on the model, up to 99 might be recognized. The user can program the machine to ignore most of these (called notch discrimination), and thus focus on looking for gold. Several metal detectors for gold have what’s called an iron mask or iron filter. This single function will ignore anything that contains iron (which includes steels), simplifying initial setup.

Ground Balance

Gold is usually found mixed with a wide variety of other minerals, and these can provide substantial interference. Ground balancing is the act of adjusting the metal detector to cut out false positives. Almost all models have some form of automatic ground balancing, and some work particularly well. However, the best metal detectors for gold have manual adjustment that allows more experienced users to filter out more clutter.

Weight

Handheld metal detectors for gold can weigh anything from around 2.5 pounds to over 6 pounds. While the latter might not seem particularly heavy, it can be tiring to carry around all day. Elbow supports help spread the load, though lack of padding or flexibility can make some less comfortable than others. Harnesses may be available, though they might cost extra.

Power

Power for gold metal detectors comes from onboard battery packs. These are either common disposable AA or 9-volt type, or lithium-ion rechargeable. While not expensive, they are frequently not included. It’s worth checking as it can be very frustrating to have your metal detector arrive, and not be able to turn it on.

FAQs

Q: Do all metal detectors detect gold?

All metal detectors can detect gold, but low frequency general-purpose models don’t do so with much precision. Most will struggle to identify flakes and small nuggets.

Q: How much do metal detectors for gold cost?

The cost of a metal detector for gold will largely depend on its capabilities. Entry-level devices cost between $500 and $700. The best professional gold metal detectors can exceed $10,000.

Q: Do you need a license to use a metal detector?

You do not need a license to use a metal detector, but you will need either the landowner’s permission on private property, or a permit for the majority of state property or national parks. Taking a chance can result in a fine, and the confiscation of your machine.

Q: What is the best frequency for detecting gold?

The best frequency for detecting gold is 14 kHz and above. Higher frequencies might detect smaller nuggets and gold flakes, but depth penetration is usually reduced.

Q: Where is the best place to detect gold?

Arizona is widely recognized as the best place to detect gold because of the density of gold, and favorable ground conditions. Anywhere with known gold fields is a prime candidate so Alaska, Oregon, California, and Nevada also rate highly.

Final Thoughts

The Minelab Gold Monster 1000 is easy to use, and versatile. Beginners will soon come to grips with it, and intermediate users will enjoy its capabilities. It’s a great value for the money, though experienced prospectors may want more control.

The Fisher Gold Bug Pro is the more affordable option, and is ideal for those who want to mix gold prospecting with other treasure hunting adventures.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.


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