Whether you take the idea of gold prospecting seriously or not, you have to agree on one thing; it is a very fun way to spend a lazy weekend. And there is always the slim chance of actually finding gold nuggets to make the activity even more enjoyable.
However, if you want to have any hope of getting lucky, you need the best metal detector for gold. But considering the practically endless number of devices floating around the market, finding a decent unit can get quite difficult.
If the thought of browsing through the seemingly endless option overwhelms you, then this ultimate guide is the perfect place to start your search.
In this article, we will give you a complete rundown of everything there is to know about a metal detector for gold prospecting so that you can make the most out of your budget.
Best Metal Detector for Gold Comparison:
Garrett at Gold
Fisher Gold Bug Pro
White's Goldmaster GMT
Tesoro Lobo Super
Fisher Gold Bug-2
Minelab GPZ 7000
Treasure Cove TC-3020
NALANDA 18 kHz
Top 10 Best Metal Detector for Gold Reviews
Unless you are a veteran prospector, you could always use some help picking out the right detector. To lend a helping hand in your search, here are our picks for ten of the top metal detectors for finding gold.
1. Garrett at Gold Waterproof Metal Detector
Starting up our list, we will be looking at a brand known as Garrett. The Garrett AT Gold is an entry-level unit that comes at an excellent price point. One of the best features of the unit is the ability to use it both in water and land. Some of its advanced features include iron audio and manual ground balance.
Despite being an entry-level unit, it is not as user friendly as some of the other units on this list. You might think that it is aimed at beginners; however, the large list of features and functions you get with the unit says otherwise. So if you do end up buying it, make sure to spend some time learning all the tricks.
For instance, the unit comes with a feature called high-resolution iron discrimination. With this option, you get greater flexibility in discriminating between steel or iron junk and gold nuggets. It comes with over 40 resolution points giving you a lot of freedom and adjustability options.
In addition, the unit features a “Pro” audio mode that allows you to monitor detection without constantly staring at the screen. However, it does take some time to learn what each sound means and the best way to utilize it effectively.
Do not let the hefty feature set discourage you. Although it has a lot of options, once you learn to use it all, you will have a ton of fun with this unit. Another excellent addition to its design is the Clear Target ID and depth indicator.
Since it is a VLF detector, the best use of this unit is when you are searching for smaller chunks near the surface. It does not offer deep penetration and coverage that you might expect from a P.I. detector. Furthermore, if you are planning to use it on the beach or near saltwater, you might get a lot of false readings. (Check our garrett metal detector recommendation here)
2. Fisher Gold Bug Pro Metal Detector
Next up on our list is the Gold Bug Pro detector by the brand Fisher. It is one of the prime choices for most users because of its nice balance of price and performance. For such an affordable unit, it is extremely proficient at picking up smaller gold nuggets.
It is a beefed-up version of the Gold Bug by the brand with manual ground balancing options. But that comes a bit later. At first glance, this unit is a VLF detector with a high frequency of 19 kHz. You get a round search coil with a radius of 5 inches along with an LCD screen and audio identification features.
The unit is a joy to use because of its measly 2.5 pounds of total weight. However, under the hood, it packs quite a punch giving you a lot of options when you are prospecting gold. For one thing, it features both automatic ground balance and manual modes. In auto mode, you get continuous readouts.
In addition, the All Metal and discrimination mode, Fe304 graphic that shows mineralization levels, target I.D. are all useful features that can make hunting easier for prospectors of any level. Even though it might sound intimidating to new users, the unit is quite comfortable and easy to handle for a beginner.
Since it operates at a lower frequency than we usually see for gold metal detectors, it can penetrate deeper and provide better coverage. However, since it is a VLF detector, its discrimination capabilities are also respectable. Although it might be as adept at penetrating as a P.I. unit, what you get with this unit is quite impressive.
The sensitivity of the unit is further enhanced by the included search coil. However, if you want a deeper coverage, investing in a larger coil might be better for you. All in all, this unit provides excellent value for an entry-level detector if you are limited on your budget.
3. White's Goldmaster GMT Metal Detector
Up next, we have another excellent little unit that offers great value to its user. The White’s Goldmaster GMT is a high-frequency VLF detector that operates at a frequency of 48 kHz. So it is no wonder how efficient it is when you are searching for gold at the surface level.
It also comes with a six by 9 inches search coil, further enhancing its detection capabilities. The unit excels at finding smaller gold nuggets while maintaining a respectable performance when you are hunting at a highly mineralized ground.
This machine comes with both automatic and manual ground balancing options giving you complete control over your search. In addition, the iron target analyzer integrated into the unit allows high discriminating capability. It also features a “Follow the Paystreak” display that helps you detect mineral levels.
Speaking of the display, you get a straightforward digital monitor with the unit. Keep in mind that it is an entry-level unit. So the display capabilities of the machine are quite simple and basic. However, you do get an iron I.D. with this unit.
Where the unit shines is its user-friendly design. It is a bare-bones gold detector that only gives you mineralization and ground balance information. On top of that, you get adjustment options for balance mode, audio threshold, S.A.T speed, and gain.
When it comes to battery life, the unit provides excellent uptime. It uses eight A.A. batteries, and on new cells, it can last up to 40 hours, giving you plenty of time to prospect without replacing the batteries. For best results, it is recommended to use alkaline batteries, not rechargeable ones.
The unit is a great choice for beginning hunters who want a unit that excels at finding small gold pieces. Its user-friendly design and respectable battery life give the users a good experience while hunting for gold.
However, you should not expect too many advanced features from these units. For a professional, other units might offer better value.
4. Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ Metal Detector
If you are shopping with a moderate budget, the Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ is worth checking. When it comes to brands specializing in gold metal detectors, Tesoro has been in business for quite a while. This unit by them comes with many interesting features despite not being a digital model like others on this list.
The operating frequency of this VLF detector is 17.8 kHz. When you compare it to other HF VLF units, the frequency of this machine is quite low. However, because of this very feature, it provides great depth when you want it. Although not as much as a P.I. unit, the depth it covers is quite good.
However, the issue that comes with it is the inefficiency of detecting small gold nuggets. It is not as sensitive as some of the newer units out there. But for the price, you still get decent performance.
Other features in this unit include an advanced ground tracking system along with high levels of target discrimination capabilities. In addition, you have some option to control the sensitivity of the unit, adjust the threshold. You also have three ground tacking modes along with clear audio signals through the headphones.
The unit features an analog control panel where you can control all the features of the unit. Since it does not have a digital display, it might dissuade some users, at least. However, if you give it a chance, you might actually prefer the analog design. It is extremely easy to learn and use if you give it some time.
Compared to some of the other units on this list, it does fall behind in some aspects. But it still deserves mention for its relatively affordable price and legacy value.
When the conditions are right, this unit is extremely capable of detecting gold nuggets. Besides, it has an excellent battery life of 20-30 hours on eight A.A. batteries.
5. Fisher Gold Bug-2 Metal Detector
Next, we will be looking at another unit by the brand fisher. The Gold Bug 2 is one of the most popular choices in the market for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it is not absurdly expensive. It falls more on the mid-range category and offers excellent value to the user for its price.
This unit operates at a high frequency of 71 kHz, which is extremely high even for a high-frequency VLF detector. As a result, it is super sensitive to all the gold nuggets when you are searching at a shallow level. Even small tiny gold flakes will not be able to hide from you when you are using it.
The standout feature of the unit is the IRON DISC mode. It is essentially a trash discrimination function on steroids that can eliminate false readings on iron junk or even hot rocks. You also get a 6.5-inch coil included with your purchase and a dual knob ground control option in the machine.
Additionally, the unit is quite slim and its lightweight nature of only 2.9 pounds, you can use it for an extended period without any strain. When it comes to user accessibility, the unit is quite easy to use. Even if you have minimal experience with a detector, you should be able to learn the functions quite easily.
The drawback of the device is obviously a common issue with all VLF units. When it comes to mineralized soils, the machine falls short of giving you the expected results. One other issue that some might have with it is the absence of any digital display.
If you can look past these issues, it is definitely one of the finest detectors for gold you could find on the market. Although it lacks a digital screen, if you can learn to use the audio identification well, you should have no trouble finding gold flakes and nuggets near the surface level.
6. Minelab GPZ 7000 Gold Nugget Metal Detector
Until now, we have been focusing on the budget-friendly models that offer an entry point for beginners while providing enough features for a veteran. However, if budget is not an issue, then one of the best top-end units you can buy is the GPZ 7000 by Minelab.
Instead of giving you a high-frequency VLF or pulse induction circuitry, it brings completely new and unique technology to the table. The Minelab’s Zero Voltage Transmission technology, or Z.V.T. for short, is an innovative design that you will not find anywhere else.
What this does is it minimizes the compromise that you have to make with either VLF or P.I. circuitry. With Z.V.T., you get a perfect balance of detection sensitivity and depth coverage, truly giving you the best of both worlds. As a result, you are no longer limited by environmental conditions.
Even if you are hunting in heavily mineralized soil, you should have no issues with this machine. In addition, you have options for both automatic and manual ground balance, along with a lot of different adjustability options with this unit.
When it comes to its handling, the unit goes all out. It features a detachable arm along with a heavy-duty search coil. As a result, you have nothing to complain about when it comes to controlling and detection performance. The display screen also gives you access to a plethora of settings.
With all these options and features, for a beginner, the unit might feel a bit overwhelming. You need to spend some time learning the different settings and combinations until you can use it to its fullest potential.
But once you get the hang of it, the usability you get out of this unit is unmatched. It is quite expensive; however, the ground-breaking design more than justifies the hefty price tag.
7. SUNCOO Pro Metal Detector Waterproof
The SUNCOO Pro metal detector is not as serious as the previous product on our list, and its price reflects that. It is an entry-level unit that can handle some serious level of gold detection under the perfect condition. If you are looking for pro-level features at an affordable price, this is worth a consideration.
It is a VLF metal detector with an operating frequency of 19 kHz. Thanks to its design, you can use it to detect smaller chunks of gold or other metal at a shallow depth. It even has decent discrimination ability if you want to solely use it as a gold detector.
The unit does not bombard you with features but rather tries to keep things simple. It gives you a few features but ensures you get the highest benefit out of it. For instance, it has two operation modes, the All metal and Disc mode. Although some similarly priced unit has many other options, this is all you need for gold detection.
In All Metal mode, as the name implies, you will pick up anything compatible. However, with the DISC mode, you can discriminate against other junks and focus on a single type of metal like gold. It has a max depth of 8.2 feet, which is quite sufficient if you are planning on shallow depth gold hunting.
To further enhance the detection capabilities, it comes with a heavy-duty 11-inch search coil. The coil is also waterproof, which lets you search shallow riverside or beaches without ruining your machine.
In terms of display capabilities, the large monitor in the unit shows all of your data, such as sensitivity, battery, operating modes, etc.
The build quality of the unit is decent at best. It features aluminum construction, and the handle is adjustable, giving you a custom fit. All in all, if you want a decent gold detector at an affordable price, this is one of the better choices you can make.
8. Treasure Cove TC-3020 Fortune Finder
The TC-3020 is an entry-level, budget-friendly metal detector by the brand for people on a limited budget. For the price it comes at, the unit packs quite a punch. It comes with many high-level features in an easier to use format, makes it an excellent choice for beginners.
Moreover, the most significant setback of the unit is the absence of manual ground control. But, when you think about the people who might be using it, it makes sense. The automatic ground balance feature of the device is quite efficient, however, at eliminating false signals when you are using it in mineral heavy locations.
Furthermore, the All Metal mode on the unit detects any metal while the Target Mode helps you pinpoint a specific location of the object that you are looking for. It gives true discrimination of metals and allows you to target gold or silver specifically. At this budget, it is one of the best metal detectors for gold and silver.
The unit also comes with an intuitive LCD that lets you detect a lot of different data at just a single glance. It shows your depth, detected metal type, as well as battery condition and other important elements. The audio feedback of the unit also comes in handy when you do not want to constantly check the monitor.
With your purchase, you get a complete kit, including a 7.5-inch search coil, to get you started instantly on gold hunting. You can detect smaller objects up to a depth of 10 inches with this machine. For the price, the detection depth is quite excellent and usable at an amateur level.
Furthermore, the weight of the unit is quite light, which is thanks to the aluminum construction. To put it simply, if you are looking for an expert level kit, this might not be for you. However, for people looking to spend some fun time hunting for gold, this unit will come in handy at an affordable price.
9. Minelab 3720-0002 Equinox 800 Metal Detector
For those who think the GPZ 7000 was a bit too pricy, Minelab brings the Equinox 800 metal detector. Featuring a more accessible price point, this unit comes with many of the exclusive designs that you expect from a unit of this brand. It is also an excellent choice for a prospector of any skill level.
One of the best features of this unit is its multi-frequency adjustment options. So you do not need to necessarily stick with a preset frequency and can switch it around depending on where you are hunting. The frequency options with the unit are multi, 5 kHz, 10 kHz, 15 kHz, 20 kHz, and 40 kHz.
Thanks to this option, you can hunt at both shallow and deep surfaces for nuggets of all sizes. This option is not that common when you are looking at different metal detectors. With the multi-frequency option, you will be able to search for materials even in a mineralized soil with relatively no issue.
The wireless audio transmission feature of the unit is another unique addition to this bundle. It includes a wireless Bluetooth headphone to help get you set up without any additional investments.
Furthermore, the large LCD in the unit gives you access to a lot of different features, including fast recovery speed with accurate target I.D.
Despite the no-compromise feature list of the unit, it is quite a user-friendly machine. Regardless of your experience or skill level with this sort of detector, you can fully utilize the machine without facing any complications.
If you want to use it on water, you would be happy to know that it is fully submersible. With a waterproof capacity of up to 10 feet, you do not need to worry about the durability of the unit.
10. NALANDA 18 kHz Metal Detector with 5 Detection Modes
Wrapping up the list, we are looking at a unit for those on a very tight budget. The NALANDA metal detector offers an entry-point for people who have a very limited amount to spend. It also makes a great gift to kids who want to do some outdoor gold hunting.
However, do not let the dirt-cheap price fool you. Under the right conditions, the unit is quite capable of digging up small gold nuggets. It has an operating frequency of 18 kHz so that you can expect decent penetration. Since it is a VLF unit, it has quite decent discrimination properties.
The detection depth of the unit is around 10 inch which for the price is quite impressive. It comes with a waterproof 10-inch search coil that ensures you get proper detection for nine kinds of metals such as gold, silver, jewelry, copper, coins, etc.
For such a budget unit, the large LCD comes as quite a surprise. It gives you real-time info on detected metal, depth, sensitivity, battery life, etc. An interesting feature in the unit is its low power warning, where it shows a red light when the battery is running low.
This unit comes with six sensitivity levels and five detection modes: metal, disc mode, memory, custom, and pinpoint. For gold prospecting, you can simply switch to disc mode and set the detection to only pick up gold, and it will discriminate other metals while you use it.
The build quality in the unit is quite decent, although it has some plastic parts such as the battery compartment. Its lightweight handle makes it extremely comfortable to operate. In fact, the total weight of the unit is only around 5 pounds. The handle is also detachable and extendable, giving you more comfort when you are using it.
Things to Look for When Buying the Best Metal Detector for Gold
With the list of products out of the way, we can head into the buying guide. When it comes to metal detectors, you typically need to consider a few key aspects. These features will allow you to make the most of your budget and ensure you end up with the perfect unit for your requirements.
With that said, here are the things that you should consider when buying the best metal detector for gold.
One of the main things that you need to look for is the ground balance in gold detectors. These days automatic ground balance is more common than a manual one. Some models even overlook on manual ground balance entirely.
However, if you are hunting for gold, a lack of manual ground balance is a problem. This feature allows you to adjust the balance of mineralization to filter out iron content and help you find gold easier and faster. However, when you are looking for coin or relics, a detector with an automatic ground balance is sufficient.
For the best result, you should look for a unit that gives you both automatic and manual modes. That way, you will have both options right at your fingertips.
It might sound intimidating for a beginner who has never used manual balance at first. However, once you start using it and fiddling around with it, it quickly becomes natural. Within no time, you will be able to utilize it to its fullest potential.
There is little to no difference between a metal detector and a gold metal detector. The only noteworthy difference is that the best gold detector will make it easier for you to detect gold. However, they will still pick up trash or other metal pieces while they are at it.
That is why it is important to find a unit with decent discrimination features. Usually, VLF detectors are better at discrimination and can ignore made of steel or iron. If you are searching for gold in trashy environments, they can be a good option.
On the other hand, pulse induction metal detectors lag behind in discrimination features. They can ignore trace metals in mineral-rich soils but cannot differentiate between iron and steel junk. So you need to study your environment and pick a unit that suits the conditions.
Metal detectors operate at different frequencies, and the material it can pick up depends on it. High-frequency detectors are suitable for finding small gold nuggets. But the trade-off is depth. Higher frequencies cannot penetrate deeper and hence, is better for surface level detection.
Lower frequencies offer the benefit of penetrating deeper under the surface. It can also help you find larger nuggets. But when it comes to small units, a lower frequency unit might miss it.
As you can see, it all comes down to your prospecting location. When hunting at shallow depths, it is typically a better idea to go with high-frequency detectors. And for deep detection, a lower frequency detector will give you better performance.
While prospecting a certain location, you should ask around the locals or check local detector clubs for information about past detections and findings. You can check the past nugget sizes and depths to get an idea of which detector you should use for that particular location.
We already mentioned how the frequency dictates the size of nuggets a detector can pick up. The search coil is another element that can affect the size. For small targets, a smaller search coil is better. Inversely, larger coils will have a higher sensitivity to bigger nuggets.
A small search coil is also better at trash discrimination, while larger ones have deeper coverage. However, when searching through a highly mineralized surface, a large coil will not give you great detection. Besides its size, there are two types of search coils that you can find for a metal detector, concentric and wide-scan.
Concentric search coils have greater trash discriminating ability while wide-scan coils can ignore mineralized ground effects. So it again comes down to your prospecting location. If the environment has a lot of trash, go with a concentric search coil. In the case of a highly mineralized ground, a wide-scan coil will provide better detection.
Price and Budget
Getting the best metal detector for finding gold does not come cheap. There are some models available that can exceed ten thousand dollars. However, those units come with bleeding-edge detection technology and many quality of life features to make up for the hefty price.
But do you need the best of the best machine for proper detection? Not necessarily. There are plenty of models available in the budget category that can give you similar levels of detection performance. That is why it is important to set a budget for yourself before going out shopping for a metal detector.
Not everyone can afford to spend upwards of five thousand dollars on a detector. For people with a modest budget, high-frequency VLF detectors can be a good choice. They are affordable and can give you decent performance as long as you pick a good spot to use it.
However, if you can afford to spend more, you can go with pulse induction detectors. It would allow you to prospect mineralized grounds where a VLF detector cannot work at all. For a good shopping experience, you need to find a balance between your cost and your expectations.
Types of Detectors
When it comes to gold prospecting, two types of detectors trumps over the rest. They are the high-frequency VLF and pulse induction. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to which one is better. Both of them come with their own sets of advantages and setbacks,
In the following section, we will give you a short overview of each of them to help you understand which one will be the better choice for your requirements.
High-Frequency VLF Detectors
VLF stands for very low frequency. Typically, these detectors have a frequency range of 5 to 15 kHz. However, those models are only suitable for old relics or finding coins. For gold prospecting, you need a specialized variant of VLF detectors.
Gold VLF detectors operate at a higher frequency range of 15 to 75 kHz range. This difference at frequency range allows the detector to detect small gold nuggets at the cost of depth. Because of the higher frequency, this type of detector cannot penetrate deep under the surface.
But the advantage you get from a VLF detector is discrimination. Since it operates at a high frequency, it can differentiate between iron or steel junks. In addition, a high-frequency VLF detector is much more affordable than a pulse induction model.
The primary issue you will face with this type of unit is when you are trying to prospect in mineralized grounds. It can pick up false signals quite frequently. As a result, it is not very practical using a VLF detector in places with a high mineral density.
Pulse Induction Detectors
Pulse Induction detectors, or P.I. for short, are the ones you want when you are searching through mineralized soil. They are a bit more expensive; but, they come with the benefit of deeper penetration and detecting larger nuggets. If you are searching through mineral fields, this is your best choice.
However, the disadvantage of this unit lies in its discrimination capabilities. If there are a lot of trashes in your prospecting location, you will have a frustrating time.
Since it cannot differentiate between junk items, you will continuously pick up iron or steel materials along the way. Additionally, it cannot find smaller gold nuggets like a VLF detector.
We already said that there is no such thing as a better detector type when it comes to gold prospecting. Each has its place, and depending on your environment; you need to pick one over the other.
In an ideal condition, you would want to have one unit from each type so that you are covered in any situation you might face. However, if you are planning to invest at only one variant, it is better to pick one according to the type of environment you frequently prospect.
If you are hunting at relatively low mineral locations, you will benefit from a VLF frequency. Your detection rate would be consistent, and you do not need to worry about picking up false readings. You could even go with low-frequency VLF units if you want deeper penetration.
For mineral-rich areas, pulse induction units would obviously be the better choice. It would give you deeper penetration and can ignore minerals while searching for the gold nuggets. Although VLF detectors can also work with mineralized areas, it would give you a lot of false readings.
To put it simply, if you do not need to worry about picking up trash, go with pulse induction models. If you have a limited budget and do not want to hunt in mineralized areas, a high-frequency VLF detector is the better choice. You need to first understand your situation and then pick your choice of machine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will a metal detector find gold jewelry?
It should. Depending on the quality of the metal detector, you should be able to find any lost gold jewelry as long as the conditions are right.
Can my metal detector detect any metal?
Not always. Some metals are not as easy to detect as others. For instance, detecting copper, iron, gold is typically easier for a metal detector than detecting stainless steel.
How deep can a metal detector scan?
It depends on the design of the detector as well as the search coil. Usually, P.I. or pulse induction detectors have the best depth penetration. Although they can be quite expensive, if you want the best depth penetration, you should go with a P.I. metal detector.
Is there a difference between a metal detector and a gold metal detector?
Not always. As long as you are investing in a metal detector that comes with discrimination features, you should be able to detect gold as well as other types of metals.
What is the best frequency for detecting gold using a metal detector?
Typically, a frequency of 20 kHz is a good starting point if you want to detect gold using a metal detector — the higher the frequency, the better the detection capabilities.
Do not let the endless flurry of products in the market get the best of you. When you are looking for the best metal detector for gold, our list of reviews will always lend you a helping hand.
We hope you found our ultimate buying guide informative and helpful. By now, you should have no trouble figuring out where you should invest your hard-earned money.