The Best Metal Detector for Gold (Your 2021 Buyers Guide)

Our #1 PICK 

Minelab X-Terra 505 Metal Detector

~ The Best Value for Money ~

  • Great for traveling
  • Good depth and excellent metal discrimination
  • Lightweight

Looking for the best metal detector for finding gold? You’ve come to the right place.

Treasure hunters have been around for millennia. When we think about treasure hunters, often we imagine seafaring pirates in search of buried treasure in a remote location. But nowadays you do not need to wear a patch on your eye and have a parrot atop your shoulder to look for buried treasure. With just a high-quality metal detector, you can partake on your own adventure that helps you locate one of the most sought-after metals known to mankind - and you can do so from anywhere in the world. 

Experts seem to think that in the United States, larger nuggets are most often found in Alaska, medium in Western States, and small in Eastern States. But the biggest and best nuggets in the world are typically found in Australia.

In this buyer's guide, you will have the best metal detectors for gold broken down and reviewed so you can equip yourself for all your treasure hunting needs. Let’s get down to it.


Qualities of the Best Gold Detectors

First, it is important to mention that the best gold detector for you will need to match your personalized hunting location and goals. Every area for prospecting gold is different. The mineralization of the soil, the trash found underground, and the estimated depth and the size of gold nugget you want to find should all affect the choice you make.

If you are unsure about these items regarding the location you have chosen for your prospecting, then we would recommend getting a firmer understanding of your hunting location before purchasing a machine. In the meantime, why not read along and let some of this information help inform your decision anyway?

Types of Gold Detectors

There are two types of gold detectors. There are higher frequency (VLF) detectors and lower frequency Pulse Induction (PI) Detectors.

The higher frequency from VLF detectors makes them much more sensitive to gold. Unfortunately, they are also sensitive to other minerals in the soil that can give false signals. However, as we will discuss below, most detectors will have a sensitivity control in order to filter out mineral interference. VLF detectors broadcast at frequencies measured in kilohertz ranging from 3 kHz to 70 kHz.

Pulse induction detectors can sometimes be more expensive, but on the other hand, they are excellent at filtering out the toughest mineral conditions. PI detectors broadcast pulses and are measured by pulses per second. This makes them great for detecting large gold nuggets at deeper depths. There are some drawbacks though. Pulse induction detectors cannot discriminate junk metals and can be less effective at finding smaller nuggets.

If the distinction between VLF and PI detectors is beginning to get confusing, why don't we let the experts from Hunting For Metal sum it up. They write, “Choose a high-frequency VLF detector if you can’t afford a PI model, want more versatility from your detector, are going to be hunting in “trashy” areas or are focusing on small nuggets at a relatively shallow depth. Choose a pulse induction detector if you’re going to be hunting in highly mineralized areas, won’t need to deal with much trash, have a larger budget, and only plan to use the detector for gold hunting.”

Price

So, if you already know you want to purchase your first gold metal detector, or are looking to upgrade your current machine, then chances are, you’ve already formulated a budget. If you have or haven’t, here are a few things to consider.

Is hunting for gold a hobbyist pastime? Or more of a passion in order to make a profit? Are you one who enjoys all the bells and whistles a product can possibly contain? Or are you more of a base model type of person?

Answering questions like these will help you determine just how much money you should spend on your gold metal detector. A quick search for gold metal detectors in Australia shows product prices ranging from around $100, all the way up to over $1,000.

Here is what Timothy Draper from Treasure In America had to say about the prices attached to gold detectors:

"When you spend more money on gold detectors you get better search coils, the detector climbs the ladder of more top gear status, and the functions/options increase with the higher quality detector. All of this equals more efficient gold found, and better use of your time.”

Advanced Features

One stands out feature worthy of consideration is a digital display. Not all gold metal detectors will sport an LCD digital display. The detectors that do utilise this feature will be able to provide you with more information than those without, such as— sensitivity level, numeric number and icon for the underground metal, depth and battery level. The digital displays also have the ability to be backlit in the scenario that you are hunting after dark.

If you are just looking for a certain type of metal, in this case, gold, then you will need to make sure your gold detector can pinpoint specific metals. Whether your gold detector comes with a digital display or not, the good news is that most modern detectors all have what’s called a “discrimination mode” or target mode. What this does is give you the ability to target a certain type of metal. You can toggle your detector based on the metal you are searching for, like gold and silver, and discriminate all the rest, like iron and nickel.

Another important feature is something called ground balance. Having the ability to manually adjust the ground balance of your machine is vital for searching in tough locations. This will help decrease the interference your detector encounters from other minerals that are already present underground.

Additional Components

Not all gold metal detectors are created equal. And so, some will come with bonus items, and others will not. If you are considering traveling with your detector, then considering one that comes with a carrying case would be a good idea. A case will help you easily transport your machine and keep it safer during travel.

Considering that most gold you find is buried underground, once your detector has picked up on a stash, the next step is to dig. A shovel will be an important machine and so choosing a detector that comes with this bonus item should be a consideration. If you already have a trusted shovel or sand-sifting machine, then perhaps not.

When your gold detector identifies something underground, it communicates to you using sound emitted through a pair of headphones. The headphones also help to block out extra noise and help you focus on the hunt. Normally, headphones are a required add-on with metal detectors, however there are some models that do not include them. 

If you already have a pair of headphones you trust, then considering a detector that comes without them might save you some cash. Otherwise, you can always trade out the headphones that come with the machine for your trusty ones.


Best Gold Detector Reviews

After doing some research, there are a variety of gold detector brands that are worth talking about. This list is not exhaustive, but it should be a good starting point and lead you in the right direction:

#1: The Best Gold Detector Australia: Minelab X-Terra 505 Metal Detector

  • Great for traveling
  • Good depth and excellent metal discrimination
  • Lightweight

One of the top-notch outfitters for all things metal detection is Minelab. They've got more products under the sun to help you find even the deepest buried treasure. Their spectrum of metal detectors is beyond impressive, but the X-Terra 505 is perhaps one of the best you'll find.

It features proprietary technology that is compatible both with low-frequency, high-frequency, and medium-frequency coils. It has a noise cancel function so that you don’t have to listen to the din of a metal detector at all times, plus a choice of up to four tone IDs.

What we liked: 

  • Great for traveling
  • Good depth and excellent metal discrimination
  • Lightweight

What we didn't like: 

  • Pricier model

#2: Best for Rugged Environments: Garrett Ace 150

  • Comes with a headphone jack
  • Has highly intuitive controls
  • Great for travel

The weather waits for nobody - and if you want a metal detector that will perform well in all conditions, the Garret Ace 150 is the one to choose.

Garret is a standout brand in the metal detecting industry. Their more approachable gold detector is the Ace 150. It has the discrimination mode, pinpointing, as well as customizable sensitivity and depth settings. Their top-of-the-line model is the AT Pro. If your budget can afford this machine, and if you are hunting in rugged and wet environments, you will not be disappointed.

What we liked: 

  • Comes with a headphone jack
  • Has highly intuitive controls
  • Great for travel

What we didn't like: 

  • Good for novices, but not the best for more experienced treasure hunters

#3: Best Gold Detector for Australian Conditions: Fisher Gold Bug

  • Multiple options at various price ranges
  • Comes with two search modes
  • Great for more experienced prospectors

If your only hunting requirement is to find gold, then the Fisher Gold Bug is the machine for you. It is recommended for gold nugget prospecting just like its older sibling, the CC Bug Pro. What separates the CC Pro from the original Gold Bug is that it is sold with an additional search coil.

Both of these machines are designed for making pinpointing easier, for penetrating heavily mineralized soils where gold is often found, and for having the highest possible sensitivity for even the smallest golden nuggets.

What we liked: 

  • Multiple options at various price ranges
  • Comes with two search modes
  • Great for more experienced prospectors

What we didn't like: 

  • Can be too heavy

#4: The Best Kit Deal: Treasure Cove TC-9800

  • Comes with multiple accessories
  • Waterproof search coil
  • Has a digital numeric display

Your best option for a kit deal is Treasure Cove TC-9800. It includes a carrying case, shovel, sand sifting scoop and headphones, is the Treasure Cove TC-9800. It comes with a lifetime warranty and all the bells and whistles— LCD display, target mode, sensitivity controls and waterproof search coil. Treasure Cove is a trusted brand and has been in the business for 15 years. They stand by their products!

Depending on your needs and wants as a treasure hunter, there are multiple other models made by Treasure Cove to consider— the 3020, the 3050 and more. As you might assume, the price increases from the 3020 series to the 9800 series. This mainly has to do with the quality of the search coil and the different features afforded to each detector. The good news is all will come with a carrying case, shovel and headphones.

What we liked: 

  • Comes with multiple accessories
  • Waterproof search coil
  • Has a digital numeric display

What we didn't like: 

  • Needs instructions for assembly

#5: The Best Metal Detector for Ease of Us: RicoMax 1037

  • User-friendly design and easy to maintain
  • 20% larger LCD display screen
  • Comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty

There are multiple gold detectors from RicoMax to also include in your deliberations— the base model, and the GC 1037. Both detectors come as a kit, including a carrying case, shovel, and for the GC 1037, headphones.

However, only the GC 1037 utilizes a LCD digital display, which is why we’ve included it in this roundup. It’s offered at an affordable price, making it a good option for beginners, and has three distinct modes to make it easier when it comes to discriminating between metals. It has a pinpoint, disc, and all metal mode. It’s also incredibly easy to maintain!

What we liked: 

  • User-friendly design and easy to maintain
  • 20% larger LCD display screen
  • Comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty

What we didn't like: 

  • Takes some time, effort, and patience to get it dialed in

  • Great option for kids
  • Has padded arm strap, comfort grip, and lightweight feel
  • Collapsible and portable

The best detector for kids is the Junior Metal Detector from National Geographic. It is lightweight, collapsible and adjustable in order to be fit to any child perfectly, and to accommodate their growth. Plus, it’ll come with replica gold doubloons and a learning guide to teach about treasure hunting.

What we liked: 

  • Great option for kids
  • Has padded arm strap, comfort grip, and lightweight feel
  • Collapsible and portable

What we didn't like: 

  • Not the best longevity

  • 360-degree detection
  • High sensitivity
  • Fully waterproof to 10 meters

The most handheld option on the market is the pin pointer detector from Dr. Otek. It is by far the most portable and can be used in conjunction with your larger gold detector. It is popular amongst divers and is fully waterproof up to 10 meters. Instead of speakers, it uses LED lights and vibration to communicate when you’ve found your treasure.

What we liked: 

  • 360-degree detection
  • High sensitivity 
  • Fully waterproof to 10 meters

What we didn't like: 

  • Not recommended for use in saltwater

#8: Best on a Budget: Intey Metal Detector

  • Sensitivity control to avoid false signals
  • Automatic balance function and clockwise rotation
  • Multiple modes

The best gold detector on a budget is probably the Intey metal detector. It sports an LCD display and the ever-important target mode so you can search specifically for gold. The search coil is waterproof, and it has a sensitivity control to avoid false signals. It should be noted, however, that this gold detector is not sold as a kit.

What we liked: 

  • Sensitivity control to avoid false signals
  • Automatic balance function and clockwise rotation
  • Multiple modes

What we didn't like: 

  • Not sold as a kit

The Verdict: Best Gold Detector Australia

The jury is out, and it is time for our verdict over the best gold detectors money can buy in Australia. Below are the rewards for the best gold detector Australia we researched. Whether you are buying for yourself, or planning a gift for someone else, you will surely find what you need on this list.

If money could buy happiness, then purchasing the metal detector from Minelab would absolutely make you a happy individual. Its larger price tag is matched by its superior quality for serious gold hunters who like to turn a profit. This machine comes in the complete package— plus you can buy all kinds of extra gear, like a control box, armrest, two different sized coils, headphones, collapsible shafts, charging cables, rechargeable battery, replaceable AA battery carrier, a universal shaft adapter, digging tool and guides, and more.

Summary

Hunting for gold may not be so difficult. However, it does require the right tool for the job in order to be successful. Choosing the right machine is fully dependent on your search requirements.

The absolute key to understand about your hunting grounds is whether it will contain small and shallow nuggets, or large and deep nuggets.  Once you know that, then you can choose the best gold detector for the job.

Remember, we recommend you choose a high frequency VLF detector if you want to save more money, want more versatility in order to search for other metals, are hunting in a particularly trashy area and if you know your location has smaller nuggets at shallower depths.

On the other hand, you should choose a PI detector if you're willing to spend more money, will be hunting in locations with high mineralization and low amounts of trash, and are specifically looking in deeper ground and for larger nuggets.

We really hope this article, albeit long, was helpful for you and your quest for golden treasure. It is a new year, and more treasure hunting is afoot. Make sure to equip yourself with the best machine for the job and find the buried treasure you’ve always wanted. Happy Hunting!

FAQ

1. Are some detectors better for gold than others?

Spoiler alert, any high-quality detector will be able to detect every type of metal. What’s important is ensuring that the detector has a discrimination or target mode, so that when you detect something underground, you can toggle to find out if it is indeed gold, or some other junk metal.

Also consider if your detector is a VLF or PI detector, and what size search coil is best for the gold in your hunting.

2. What is ground mineralization?

Simply put, ground mineralization refers to how magnetic the ground is. It should be noted that this does not mean that the ground will have its own magnetic force. Instead, it just means that the combined particles in the soil can have a magnetic response and/or be attracted to a magnet.

Ground all across the globe has different levels of mineralization. Without the geology lecture, ground mineralization can be understood by newer ground having weaker mineralization, and older ground having higher levels of mineralization. And the redder the soil, the higher mineralization it will contain.

3. Are all gold detectors waterproof?

Unless stated otherwise, most of the search coils are waterproof, the LCD displays are not. This means that your gold detector should only be used in shallow water.

There are pinpointer style metal detectors however that are designed to be used underwater.

They are smaller and have more robust waterproofing in order to protect the electronics on the inside from water.

4. What’s the deal with search coils?

Search coils come in two types: concentric and wide scan. Concentric search coils are preferred for discriminating out unwanted metals. Perfect for focusing on gold. Wide-scan coils are less affected by ground mineralization, aka how magnetic the ground is.

In general, larger coils will search at greater depths and provide better ground coverage. However, smaller search coils will provide better sensitivity to smaller objects and enhanced target separation.

If you are having a hard time deciding which size coil is best for your hunting requirements, or enjoy searching for a wide array of treasure, then choosing a gold detector where the search coil can be switched out is a great option for accommodating different types of hunting goals.

5. How deep will my gold detector go?

Let’s turn to expert Michael Bernzweig from Metal Detector to answer this one. He says:

“A better question might be, how deep do you really need to go? Modern prospecting detectors can discover gold as small as half a grain. As the size of the target becomes larger, gold nuggets can be located at significantly greater depths. A single grain nugget can be unearthed at a depth of 1-2 inches. A match-head size nugget can be located at a depth of 3-5 inches. A nugget the size of a US half dollar can be located as depths of 9-11 inches. Larger nuggets can be located at depths over a foot.”

6. What other accessories do I need?

The fact of the matter is that gold prospecting requires a few more accessories than normal metal detecting, some of which we talked about above. Other standard items to consider adding to your kit are: gloves, a pinpointer, coil covers and a magnet to identify iron trash. It also might be a good idea to bring along a pick if you are hunting in particularly rocky environments.

7. Where are gold detectors sold?

The best gold detectors from this article can all be found on Amazon AU. However, they can also be found from some other online retailers, too.

It should also be mentioned that you can also buy gold metal detectors second-hand. This might be a great way to save money, however, you will want to make sure you ensure the quality of the item before purchasing it.

Lastly, depending on your location, you may also be able to find a business that rents gold metal detectors. This is an excellent way to do some market research and figure out which detector matches your hunting requirements.

References
  1. Hunting for Metal. “Best Metal Detector for Gold Nuggets and Flakes (2020) – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide.” Retrieved from: https://huntingformetal.com/gold-detectors/
  2. Timothy Draper. “10 Best Gold Metal Detectors in 2020.” Retrieved From: https://treasuresinamerica.com/gold-doubloons/best-gold-metal-detectors/
  3. Michael Bernzweig. “What’s the Best Gold Prospecting Metal Detector?” Retrieved from: https://www.metaldetector.com/learn/buying-guide-articles/gold-prospecting/whats-the-best-gold-prospecting-metal-detector
  4. Serious Metal Detecting. “Ground Mineralization”: Retrieved from: https://www.seriousdetecting.com/ground-mineralization/
  5. David Desrochers.  “Design and Verification of Search Coil Inductance for Pulse Induction Metal Detection.” Retrieved from: https://scholarworks.uark.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=eleguht

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