Last Updated On January 4th, 2019
The phrase “metal detector,” to many people, conjures images of downtrodden souls searching for coins on a beach with metal poles that look more like dowsing rods than high-tech tools.
Since you’re checking out these reviews of the best metal detectors, you’re undoubtedly aware that metal detecting doesn’t involve wandering around aimlessly with a magnet attached to a stick. In fact, the pursuit is much more than just a hobby for some – after all, what are modern-day archaeologists doing, other than treasure hunting?
There may be individuals who go looking for hidden jewelry, coins and other artifacts just by using purported psychic abilities; whether or not they ever find anything of value, of course, is doubtful. In the real world the pursuit of buried treasure requires special equipment. And modern metal detectors utilise a unique combination of technologies that can make the hobby rewarding, in terms of both enjoyment and profit.
A number of inexpensive metal detectors for beginners or children are on the market, with most featuring trigger-shaped handles, aluminum rods, a circular, battery-powered electromagnet and an audio alarm that sounds when coins, bottle tops or nails are found a centimeter deep. Anyone serious about metal detecting, however, needs at least a little more than that.
We’ve surveyed the best options for hobbyists, and have all the info and reviews you need to choose a model which will provide many weeks, months or years of fun – and hopefully, profit.
Our Favourite Metal Detectors Compared
What to Look for when making a purchase
Let’s get this out of the way up front. You’re not going to pick up a high-end metal detector that’s going to find real treasure by spending a few quid. That might buy you a toy to entertain your six-year old for a few hours, but nothing more. Even though it’s a lot of fun, metal detecting is a serious hobby and you’ll need modern equipment that uses advanced techniques for detecting valuable metal. That equipment isn’t cheap. However, there’s a huge range of features and a wide variety of price tags. We’ll provide a good selection in our reviews, after we take a deeper look at the features you might find on these amazing tools.
As with most purchases, the first step in the buying process is thinking about what you’ll be using the product for. Searching for coins and other treasure is usually done in areas that are likely to be filled with junk as well as valuables. The best models are able to distinguish between the two through a process called discrimination, which can separate trash from treasure. When they discover a target item, they’ll determine how much iron it contains, since items with high iron content are more likely to be nails than diamond rings. The best detectors are also able to determine how well the targets conduct electrical current, because that allows them to tell the difference between coins and foil.
Searching for gold, on the other hand, requires very different technology. A detector used to find gold or precious metals will normally be used on ground that’s highly magnetized, so it will have to be able to compensate for ground mineralization (the fancy name for saying that almost all areas of the ground will appear to house precious metals) through a technique called ground balancing. You can find metal detectors which will provide both extraordinary trash-vs-treasure features and ground balancing, but they’ll be quite dear. And since most metal detectors don’t have gold fever, we’ll focus on the models which are great at detecting coins and other valuables buried in ordinary ground.
When you look at a metal detector there will usually be large rings on the end of the rod. They’re called search coils, and they’re responsible for sending out the magnetic fields that detect valuable metals (or sometimes, trash). There are two primary types of search coils.
Lesser models of metal detectors use round, concentric coils that send and receive magnetic fields, but the search field will only be as wide and deep as the circumference of the outside coil (the one that generates the magnetic search field). The search field is shaped like a cone, wide at the top and ending at a point. That means that the detector can’t distinguish between all of the objects it might find near the wide top of the cone, and that you’ll have to make a “direct strike” with the point to find anything buried deeply in the ground. (The inside coil is used to receive the more sensitive magnetic signals sent back by any objects that are found.)
More desirable are “DD” coils, which look sort of like two capital “D’s” placed back-to-back. They create a much deeper search field that’s shaped like a blade rather than a cone. The narrower field prevents the metal detector from being confused by objects close to the surface, and allows the detecting of treasure much deeper than a concentric-coil model could find.
Most detectors use very low frequency (VLF, also called induction balance) technology to find valuables. The signals returned to the searcher can be simple audio tones that generally correspond to the type of metal found, but better hobbyist units utilise target identification (target ID) systems to show what’s been found on a meter or LCD display. The very best professional metal detectors (that cost exorbitant amounts of money) will display a numeric output, with each number corresponding to a different type of metal.
Other features to look for on a detector are “discrimination” settings which allow you to ignore target IDs that are lower on the scale and likely to be returned by nails, bottle tops or other useless items, and “notching” capability that allow you to choose specific target IDs that you’ve identified as being metals you’re not interested in.
In compiling these reviews, we’ve focused on the type and quality of search coil, the effectiveness of their target ID displays, their extra features like discrimination and notching, and how comfortable they are to use. After all, a metal detector may be great at finding stuff, but that doesn’t help if your hands are so sore you can only use it for ten minutes before deciding to go read a book instead. None of our reviewed products fall into that latter category.
Top 10 Best Metal Detector Reviews UK
We’ll begin with a brilliant high-performance metal detector that’s manufactured by a company that’s well-respected in the field. The EuroACE is based on the manufacturer’s latest 28 x 22cm DD coil, which provides effective search capability to a greater depth than previous models, about 25-30cm. There’s a new “enhanced” discrimination feature that works well to eliminate discovery of trash and a pinpoint feature to locate the exact spot to dig, and the EuroACE operates at a higher frequency than previous models so it’s better able to find smaller targets. There are preset search modes for jewelry, coins and relics and you can set and store your own discrimination choices. Discovered metal types show on the LCD screen as well as generating tones through the included headphones, and in a nice touch, the EuroACE has been designed specifically for European soil conditions which are usually more mineral-rich than in other regions. Easy to use but richly-featured for a reasonably-priced unit, we really like this metal detector.
This is a step down from the EuroACE, without the DD coils, but it’s a very good model for those picking up a detector for their first go at metal detecting. The unit’s concentric coils are in the shape of ellipses rather than circles, though, so it provides a better search field than you’d get from most lower-end detectors. The Ace 250 features graphical target ID, 12 levels of discrimination and a coin-depth indicator, pinpointing capability, the same built-in search modes as the EuroACE and the same graphic displays and controls. It’s the perfect metal detector for beginners.
If you’re not sure whether metal detecting is for you the Ace 150 lets you dip your toes into the water, by giving you most of the great Garrett features at a lower price point. It has circular coils, only a few levels of discrimination, no pinpoint feature and fewer pre-sets. However, it still uses target ID technology with the results shown on-screen and by audio signal, it’s made with the care and attention to detail that Garrett is known for – and it will let you experience the thrill of metal detecting without having to spend a fortune or resort to a toy-type detector.
Some detectors are created more for fun than serious hunting. This Seben coil model will provide lots of fun as you search for valuables, but requires a much smaller expenditure than any of the Garrett units. The big selling point for this lower-priced unit is that it’s “fully automatic,” which means there’s really no learning curve. You just turn it on and off you go, with only two controls to worry about, discrimination and sensitivity. The Deep Target (somewhat of a misnomer, as it will find metal at the same depth as any other decent coil detector) does have a pinpoint function, but it will only signal the discovery of metal with an audio signal (which Seben amusingly promotes as a positive, saying there are no LED lights to reveal your location in the dark). Not bad for a lower-level metal detector.
We’re moving down one more rung on the ladder to find a very solid detector for beginners and kids. There’s a basic-level discriminating function that can tell iron and steel from silver and gold, an analogue meter that shows which type of metal has been detected (along with audio alerts), and that’s about it when it comes to features. But for a price many levels below the Garrett Ace models, this is a great budget metal detector to get your kids into a hobby they may have for many years – or to keep them occupied for an afternoon.
Semantics, semantics – they can be so difficult to deal with. Visua calls this model the “Professional,” but we wouldn’t suggest that any professional treasure hunter count on this detector for his or her livelihood. That being said, it’s a step up from the Visua “Beginner’s” detector we’ve just mentioned; this one is more sensitive, it has a larger outer coil (20cm vs. 16.5cm) for a wider search range, it uses different frequencies to filter out ambient ground noise, and it runs on longer-lasting 9V box batteries rather than AA batteries. It also displays the type of metal (ferrous and non-ferrous) detected on two LEDs rather than an analogue meter. Either Visua will be fun to use, but we wouldn’t call either of them “professional.”
OK, this one we would call a toy. It’s the type of hand-held wand you see used at many airport security checkpoints, so you’re not going to want to scan your front lawn or a large stretch of beach with it; you’ll end up with a sore back and some bottle tops, as long as the bottle tops are buried right below the surface. There are no features like discrimination or pinpointing, of course, and it alerts you to the presence of any sort of metal with an audio alarm and vibration. We can see uses for this detector, such as searching for a lost earring in the grass or looking for lost car keys. But even its very low price won’t make it a good choice for serious metal detecting.
Bounty Hunter is another well-known and respected name in the industry, and the TK4G is the best-selling affordable metal detector in America. This is a good starter unit for those just getting their feet wet but serious about the hobby, or intermediate-level users who don’t need “too much” in the way of features. It has round coils, an analogue meter (plus audio alarms) and two control knobs for discrimination/notch searching and sensitivity. If you’re only searching for valuables and not searching for a complicated detector, though, the TK4G is a user-friendly model that has a far greater ability to find metal than many of its feature-free competitors.
If you’re looking for a metal detector that’s perfect for beginners, this is probably the best one out there! The Intey metal detector can discriminate iron, copper, pull ring, and zinc. It is equipped with an adjustable stem and waterproof search coil so you can use it to hunt in shallow waters. You can adjust the sensitivity and modes for a more accurate discrimination of targets.
What makes the Intey stand out among the other detectors in the market is what comes with it in the box. With this, you won’t just be getting a metal detector. You’ll also get a carry bag and a shovel! It’s a pretty sturdy shovel too so you won’t be needing to purchase a separate one for a while. Yes for savings!
We finish up with another “Professional” metal detector that’s not for professionals. The coil is large at 20cm but the features are more in keeping with the unit’s lower price: sensitivity and discrimination controls, simple LED ferrous/nonferrous screen, but no notch capability or pinpointing. For non-demanding searches, this Altai will do the job fairly well.
Making Your Search Easier
You can spend thousands of pounds on a truly-professional metal detector with advanced electronics and joystick control, and it will scan large target areas and discover valuables as deep as four or five metres. Most hobbyists and casual users, however, don’t need a Mercedes for a simple trip to the market. The models we’ve reviewed are the best for searching beaches, water or lawns to find the types of treasure which will be exciting and rewarding to discover.
Before you begin shopping for the best metal detector on the market, simply decide whether you’re serious enough to need DD coils and advanced discrimination (and the extra price they command), or if a simpler round coil and analogue meter are enough to satisfy your appetite for discovering buried metal. That will point you in the right direction, and the details we’ve laid out for you should make narrowing down your choices a simple process.
Just send us a percentage of whatever you find as a commission for our advice, and we’ll call it even. Good luck!