Have you ever thought that for 1500 bucks you can get 5 Minelab X-Terra 305's, 3 Garrett AT PRO's or 1 XP Deus and ZERO Minelab CTX3030 ? Why there is sometimes such a huge price difference up to 10 times while all metal detectors look more or less the same - a stem where the upper end has an armrest and a search coil at the lower end, accompanied by controller unit next to the handle...
Let's face it, every metal detector will bring you finds, no matter if it's 200 or 2000 bucks. You will be able to find coins, jewelry and other metal objects with them. So what is the catch ?
More expensive metal detector won't significantly increase your amount of coins you will find, at least not 2 or 3 times. Neither will price have a dramatical impact on quality of your finds. So what effect has price over metal detector qualities? We know that in almost every industry, you get what you pay for. It is mainly all about comfort and ability to configure settings of the machine.
Here is the list of honesty sorted from most important to least based on our long long experience
Broader ability to adjust ground balance settings - if you will be searching mainly on the farm fields/pastures then you are fine, almost every detector is capable of working in those conditions. But if you would like to visit beaches, search in salty water or have highly mineralized soil in your area, you must have the ability to adjust ground balance. Some of the machines do it manually, some automatically but the most expensive ones can do both. In our comparison of metal detectors, we have chosen only those machines that have ability to adjust ground balance. This is the main reason why Garrett Ace series detectors are not present in Tier1.
Faster processing speed - Some sites as old houses and old building are usually iron congested. Those are really good places to hunt and will definitely give you coins but problem is that when a coin is lying next to the iron object, most detectors will have a trouble of seeing the coin and rather will see iron only. This is because cheaper detectors have slow default recovery speed and don't have the ability to increase recovery speed in their settings menu. You will be able to pick up more finds with the machine that has recovery speed (reactivity) settings. The unbeatable detector in this field is XP Deus.
Weight - on average you will be doing up to 120 swings per minute, that is 1200 swings per hour. You want your detector to be lightweight and maneuverable. A weight difference of 1 pound sounds minor but believe me that is 33% difference between the weight of XP Deus and Minelab E-Trac. Your arm and shoulder will feel the difference.
Backlit display - in the dim or dark environment you won't be able to read display nor adjust search settings without backlight of display, in conditions like that, you will be able to rely on your ears only. So this is a matter of comfort. This feature has been a professional level only for the decades, luckily there has been a revolution in 2019 - Makro Simplex
Multiple-frequency coils - this a playground of Minelab. Our test has shown that searching with multifrequency won't give you significant additional depth but it will increase the accuracy of target identification. (Target ID, VDI) Again a matter of comfort.
Coils size - More expensive machine will usually come with bigger search coil, this can increase depth up to 20-25% on large objects. On the other hand, smaller coils are better in junk/iron congested areas as they are better in target separation. When several targets are close to each other, bigger coils will catch many signals simultaneously. Universal coils are size 9''-11''. Type or shape of coils have a very insignificant influence on experience, so don't bother choosing between oval, square, Double D or Mono coils, in real life difference will be practically unnoticeable.
Underwater capability - almost all detectors come with waterproof search coils, so you can search in shallow water, but make sure controller won't get wet. In our opinion, this is the least important feature when buying your first detector, as almost all machines have either factory or aftermarket underwater kits. But if you are sure you need a machine you could dive with, check Garrett AT MAX. The best underwater metal detector is considered to be Minelab Excalibur 2 but be ready to prepare your wallet, as price falls to Tier3. If you are no the budget and won't dive deeper than 10ft. - there is a good alternative below 300$ - Makro Simplex
So which detector should one choose when starting the journey in this addictive hobby? As everywhere it is a matter or your ability to invest in a metal detector. If you are a kind of person that has started and quit several hobbies in your life and not sure if this one is for you - get Tier1 detector. We have chosen only the best ones that have proven themselves on the market and in case you are about to quit or would like to upgrade, Tier1 machines we've listed have good liquidity. Usually, you won't lose more than 1/3rd of the initial cost.
Tier2 is the golden path, detectors here have almost all comfort features of Tier3 machines -yet machines are reasonably priced. You won't grow out of this Tier very fast, this Tier is a solid choice.
What about Tier 3, is it only for professionals? NO! The best metal detector is the one that you have learned. Each new machine will have a new learning curve, no matter how experienced detectorist you are. So why have multiple learning curves in your path when you can start and stick with the best from the ''day one''. Once you will stick to this hobby, you will want to upgrade, at least from Tier1 level.