Our metal detector review focuses on a range of machines that will suit many different owners, from beginners to those who take their metal detecting very seriously.
All are affordable, and all are high quality.
We do not accept products directly from manufacturers for our reviews; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do.
And when we've finished our testing and consumer reviews, we donate all these products to charities and other non-profit organizations.
Our finalists are:
A child searching for treasure on the beach has different needs than a treasure hunter in the field. Each seeks a different kind of bounty! In this part of our metal detector review, we look at how deep each model will reach and the accuracy it offers.
Each of our finalists offers audible alerts and a screen of some kind, but when it comes to informational displays and other functions, there are big differences among our top five candidates. We discuss each product's special features here.
If you're going treasure hunting, you need a machine that's comfortable over the long haul. In this part of our ratings, we incorporate owner feedback in order to give you a broader view of each metal detector's real-world performance.
There are cheap metal detectors and there are not-so-cheap models. In this section, we look at the numbers and evaluate each detector's overall value.
Richard is a seasoned small business owner in the hardware industry. He also owns a pool maintenance business and serves as an advisor on groundskeeping committees for a number of prominent organizations. He’s a regionally renowned safe cracker/locksmith expert, and in his spare time, he renovates and repairs vaults, safes, appliances, and a number of other products.
It might be built primarily for kids, but the Ground EFX MC1 Youth Metal Detector employs technology very similar to that of adult machines. Maximum detection depth is claimed to be as much as two feet, but the machine is only likely to find large objects at that depth. "Coin depth" — how far down it will detect the kind of smaller object most hunters are looking for — is five inches, which is still quite competitive. The 6.5-inch detector coil will work when submerged in water up to two feet deep. However, the remainder of the machine is not waterproof.
Bounty Hunter is a popular brand, and the Gold Digger model is a crowd pleaser. The size of the coil, at six inches, is actually smaller than the Ground EFX, but the Gold Digger's maximum range for large objects is the same at 24 inches. For smaller objects, the claimed depth for coins is six inches. The manufacturer makes no note of the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger being waterproof, so we assume it's not.
If you're looking for something with a bit more accuracy than the Gold Digger, the Bounty Hunter TIMERANGER Metal Detector could be just what you need. Two coils are provided: an eight-inch model for general purposes and a four-inch "Gold Nugget" coil that provides a more focused search for smaller objects. (It's not designed for gold specifically.) The manufacturer has not provided depth measures for this model, but owners have suggested that it can detect a quarter as far as eight inches down. Both coils are waterproof up to two feet, but the remainder of the machine is not.
The Teknetics Delta 4000 metal detector has an eight-inch coil. According to the manufacturer, this coil has the ability to detect small objects as far as eight inches down. While these figures are no better or worse than any of our other finalists, Teknetics is keen to highlight the sophistication of its device. As with the Gold Digger, there's no information about whether it can be immersed in water, but we do know of one owner who has used it in 12 inches of water without problems.
Although the Fisher F4 Metal Detector is another with an eight-inch coil, this coil is of the more accurate "DD" type (rather than the concentric coils found on our other finalists). Arguably the most important thing about coil size is the amount of ground you can cover. The challenge with small coils is that if you sweep too quickly, you could miss things. Larger coils help to eliminate this, and on the Fisher F4, the superior detection of the DD reduces the problem even further. Tests have shown that the Fisher F4 is capable of finding a quarter through nine or ten inches of dirt (though actual soil composition can affect results).
The Ground EFX MC1 is a basic metal detector: you pass the coil over the ground, it beeps, and you dig. There's an adjustable volume/sensitivity knob and another called the "Eliminator" that is intended to filter out false readings from soda cans, bottle tops, etc. There's also a gauge that shows the signal strengths received (the volume of the alert noise rises or falls accordingly). A few owners thought it would be nice to have headphones so other people wouldn't be disturbed by their noise, but overall, the Ground EFX earns consumers' respect as a perfectly adequate children's metal detector.
Looking at the screen and buttons available on the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger Metal Detector, you get the impression that it's more or less an adult version of the Ground EFX (though both are from different manufacturers). There are "Power Level" and "Trash Eliminator" knobs that, in conjunction with the "All Metal" mode, offer a range of sensitivities to help filter out junk and focus on what you're looking for. There are three different alert tones that compliment the signal strength dial. A pair of headphones is also included.
One of the first things you notice about the Bounty Hunter TIMERANGER Metal Detector is the large amount of information featured on the LCD screen. This detector doesn't just provide a single sweeping hand for signal strength; it also provides multiple function-specific indicators. For example, the ground balancing feature gives you the ability to "tune out" interference from natural metals in the soil (like iron). There's also a "Blanker System" that ignores things on the surface and a trash elimination feature that discriminates via adjustable sensitivity. In "Sniff" mode, the TIMERANGER can be set to ignore a particular type of metal object that frequently gives false positives (such as loose bottle tops). Like Bounty Hunter's Gold Digger model, the TIMERANGER includes three audible alerts and a set of headphones.
The LCD screen on the Teknetics Delta 4000 Metal Detector doesn't have quite the same array of touch-activated buttons as the TIMERANGER, but that's because many of the functions are initially hidden. In fact, sensitivity and discrimination are particular attributes of this device. Cheap metal detectors use graphic IDs to categorize finds, but the Teknetics Delta 4000 uses a two-digit numeric ID (more accurate) so you can theoretically discern between up to 99 different item types. With this model, "sniffing" is called "custom notching." The only unpleasant surprise is this product's lack of ground balancing. You can adjust sensitivity to compensate, but that reduces the Teknetics' effective depth. Alerts are delivered via the usual three-tone system. No headphones are provided, but a socket is available for owners who want to buy them separately.
The Fisher F4 Metal Detector offers spectacular sensitivity and accuracy. In addition to visual ID, it also includes a two-digit numeric ID system with 99 potential identifiers. Owners enjoy plenty of tuning flexibility thanks to "notch control" that's assignable to different categories. You also get manually adjustable ground balancing so you can filter out soil mineralizations. All of these things are displayed on an LCD screen that's every bit as complex as that of the TIMERANGER. With a bit of familiarization, however, the screen gives you all the detail you need at a glance, including a depth meter. To top it all off, four tone alerts – rather than the usual three – are included, but potential buyers should note that headphones are not included with this purchase.
Although the Ground EFX MC1 is a fairly small metal detector, its length is adjustable between 26 and 36 inches. Owners remark that it's quite a robust unit, which is good if it has to put up with the treatment most kids are likely to give it! At a little over three pounds, it's not heavy, but some owners have suggested that an arm brace (like those you see on larger models) might be a good idea. In terms of finding buried objects, the Ground EFX is probably best viewed as a leisure device. While sensitivity is adjustable, it doesn't reliably differentiate between objects. It will find stuff, but in most cases, you'll have to dig it up to discover what it is. Two 9V batteries are required, and they're not included.
Many will look at the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger Metal Detector as a beginner's model for adults, although several owners bought theirs for older children. Weight is just 3.6 pounds, and there's an arm brace for comfort if you plan on using it for an extended period. There were one or two people who doubted its durability, though we haven't heard of any actual breakages. In use, the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger gets mixed reviews. Some say it has to be moved slowly; others say it only does its job when waved rapidly across an area. This could be attributed to differences in soil structure, but we have no way of knowing for sure. The majority of owners think it's a decent machine for the price. Two 9V batteries are required but not included.
At 4.9 pounds the Bounty Hunter TIMERANGER Metal Detector is a notably heavy model. While it doesn't get the same complaints about quality as the Gold Digger, there were those who thought the arm brace – a necessity, given the device's weight – could be improved upon. One area that came in for a surprising amount of criticism was the LCD display, which several owners found confusing and difficult to understand. It's certainly a complex device, but those who want to take their metal detecting to a higher level need the type of information the TIMERANGER provides. Many owners agree that, while the TIMERANGER manual requires some study, the rewards are definitely worth it. This machine requires two 9V batteries (not included).
Owners like the Teknetics Delta 4000 Metal Detector for its lower weight (3.5 pounds), build quality, and overall comfort during use. The latter is important because this model can run for up to 20 hours on a single 9V battery (not supplied). Although the screen offers the same high level of information as the TIMERANGER, this machine does not attract the same complaints about being too complicated. (We suspect this is a reflection of the average Teknetics buyer, who is probably an intermediate user.) Although a few owners had trouble with the Teknetics' sensitivity adjustments, most were very complimentary about the numeric ID and the accuracy it provides.
At just 2.6 pounds, the Fisher F4 is the lightest machine in our ratings. It's adjustable enough to satisfy even very tall people, though not everyone finds the arm padding to be comfortable. This high-quality unit is known for its reliability, and while the LCD offers as much information (and as many settings) as the TIMERANGER, owners frequently comment on how easy it is to navigate. (As with the Teknetics, this could be due to the type of person who decides to invest in a Fisher.) Complaints are few. One person who specifically hunted for gold said the frequency range was too broad for his purposes, but people at an expert level usually choose more specific equipment – and pay a lot more for it. Otherwise, just about everyone gives this product an excellent rating. Unusually, the two required 9V batteries are included with this product.
If you're looking for a cheap metal detector for a child, the $55 Ground EFX MC1 is definitely worth considering. Some assembly is required, but it takes only about five minutes. Once that's done, you have a robust, adjustable machine that's ideal for those who are trying out treasure hunting for the first time. It's waterproof, too, so if you plan to take it on vacation, there are no worries if a child takes it off the beach and into the sea! Critics who point out the Ground EFX's lack of sensitivity are perhaps missing the point: most young owners want to detect and discover, but they don't necessarily need to pinpoint specific objects. For them, the Ground EFX is an excellent choice.
The Bounty Hunter Time Ranger costs $180. That's a big step up from the Gold Digger from the same manufacturer, so the question is, what do you get for the extra money? The answer: predictability of results and saved time. It takes a couple of hours to learn the TIMERANGER's multitude of functions, but chances are high that you'll do a lot less junk digging and a lot more finding things of actual value! Owners think it's made well, and they rave about the LCD's wealth of information. Comfort could be improved, and some find this model overly complex, but beginners and intermediate users rate this metal detector very highly.
At only $49,the Bounty Hunter Gold Digger Metal Detector is seen by some as a Ground EFX for grown-ups — and that's not a bad comparison. It's perhaps best suited to those who want to try the hobby rather than anything more serious. While it has reasonable adjustability and does a decent job of ignoring junk, it does lack ground balancing. Therefore, it doesn't have the filtering that more committed treasure hunters would demand. Owners have raised one or two questions about its durability, but overall, this entry-level metal detector is extremely popular and, according to many, a lot of fun!
Most people who are new to metal detecting would probably think twice before paying $404 for a machine, but the Fisher F4 is definitely a "get what you pay for" product! Its DD coil is more accurate than the concentric kind used by budget metal detectors, and when combined with visual and numeric identification, it allows this machine to find things that the others miss. There's lots of adjustability, so you can get quite specific about the things you're looking for. It's light enough to carry around for hours without fatigue, though owners do suggest changing the padding on the arm brace. We're pleasantly surprised that batteries come part and parcel with the Fisher F4, but we're a little disappointed that headphones are not included in the package.
At a price of $279, the Teknetics Delta 4000 Metal Detector costs a little more than most beginners are likely to pay. It seems to be targeted at consumers who may have bought a cheap metal detector in the past and are now looking to upgrade to something more precise. The manufacturer claims that it will pick up small objects (like coins) down to a depth of eight inches, but while its wide range of sensitivity and discrimination settings make this possible, the lack of ground balancing is something of a surprise on a machine that otherwise has top-class abilities. If you're in an area of high soil mineralization, it's possible to make corrective adjustments, but only at the loss of depth. On the positive side, it is difficult to find a better machine in this price range, and many owners say they would recommend it to a friend.
Each of our finalists might perfectly satisfy the needs of a particular individual, but the best metal detector overall is the Fisher F4. It's the stand-out device among the metal detectors in our ratings, and it's just as good as metal detectors that cost several times the price.
While the Fisher's maximum depth detection (9-10 inches) varies according to soil type and other environmental factors, this is true of any metal detector. The Fisher's DD coil is far more accurate than the concentric versions found on most metal detectors in its price range. Thanks to ground balancing, owners can eliminate a lot of the background interference that gets in the way of cheaper detectors. Thanks to notch control, the Fisher can be set to ignore common junk objects like bottle caps. In addition, owners enjoy sensitivity and discrimination settings that allow them to hone in on specific types of treasure, coins, and other objects.
Owners also like the Fisher's fast reaction time and the fact that object depth can be pinpointed. Because the Fisher features both visual and numeric IDs, it's possible, with time, to learn to differentiate between 99 different targets! This tool weighs just 2.6 pounds, and while some owners say the padding could be improved, tall people in particular like how adjustable it is.
One gold hunter pointed out that the Fisher F4 is not as refined as some of its competitors. You'd have to pay a lot more money to get a tool that surpasses this one! Conversely, this tool may cost a little more than some beginners want to pay. Having said that, if you're looking for a general-purpose metal detector of high quality, you simply won't find a better device.
Every metal detector in these ratings is an excellent product, but all things considered, the Best Bang for Your Buck metal detector is the Bounty Hunter TIMERANGER.
If you're looking for a children's metal detector, the Ground EFX is tough to beat, and there's not much wrong with the Gold Digger if you want a cheap and cheerful model. However, the TIMERANGER – though it costs a little more – offers plenty of perks that justify the extra expense.
First, you get two coils: one for normal use and one four-inch "gold nugget" coil for more specific searching. Maximum depth is quoted at eight inches, which is impressive for a machine at this price. We're also impressed by the TIMERANGER's inclusion of ground balancing. This cuts out the effects of soil mineralization and is a must for all serious treasure hunters. With the TIMERANGER's wide choice of sensitivity and discrimination settings, its "sniff" mode that allows you to identify/ignore certain items, and the included set of headphones (so you don't disturb others while hunting), this comprehensive package is a fantastic deal at just $180.
Oddly enough, some people complained that the LCD was too difficult to understand. It's true that the LCD gives a lot of information and takes some time to learn, but if you want to spend less time digging up junk and more time finding treasure, you'll definitely appreciate the detail it provides. The majority of owners understand this and underline our assertion that, for such a low price, this is by far the best metal detector deal on the market.