Many dream of having their own personal gold rush, but in order to become a gold prospector, you need the right tools. While all metal detectors are capable of finding gold coins and jewelry, a specialty device is needed when hunting for gold nuggets. Shopping for the best metal detectors for gold online, however, can quickly become overwhelming since there are so many options available at a wide range of prices. This article breaks down what to look for when shopping for the best metal detector for gold and discusses the key considerations to keep in mind as you shop.
Keep reading for tips on choosing the best option, and explore our curated picks for some of the best gold metal detectors.
- BEST OVERALL: Garrett AT Gold Metal Detector
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pancky Metal Detector for Adults
- RUNNER-UP: Minelab Gold Monster 1000 Gold Detector
- UPGRADE PICK: Minelab GPX 6000 Gold Detector
- BEST SENSITIVITY: Fisher Gold Bug Pro Metal Detector
- BEST PROFESSIONAL: Garrett ATX Metal Detector
- BEST UNDERWATER: Nokta Makro Gold Kruzer Metal Detector
While it’s easy to assume that all metal detectors offer similar performance, a number of factors affect their functionality. Features like operating frequency, ground balance, search modes, and item discrimination can make one better for a user’s needs than another option. Keep reading to learn about these important features to consider when choosing the best metal detector for gold.
VLF vs. PI
There are two primary types of metal detectors: very low frequency (VLF) and pulse indicator (PI). Each has advantages and disadvantages.
- VLF metal detectors are simple and affordable. They feature two coils. One creates a magnetic field, and the other detects vibrations within that field. Since their design is more streamlined, they are typically more compact and lightweight.
- PI metal detectors typically use a single coil that both transmits a magnetic field and detects vibrations and disturbances. This style of metal detector is better at avoiding natural minerals common in the soil of beaches and other sandy areas. They tend to be more expensive than their VLF counterparts and are generally used by experienced individuals.
In the simplest terms for metal detection purposes, mineralization is the very slow process of organic compounds converting to minerals. This happens in the soil over many millennia and results in the soil containing numerous particles that have characteristics of metal, including magnetism. These particles produce a magnetic response in metal detectors but aren’t the desirable bits of metal, such as gold, that hobbyists are searching for. Basically, they’re just “noise.”
Gold, in fact, is typically found in areas where the earth contains a high quantity of these trace, undesirable minerals.
Sensitive metal detectors are capable of detecting even the smallest quantities of metal present underground, but this can become an issue in areas of high mineralization. Fortunately, most high-quality metal detectors feature ground balancing, which essentially programs the device to ignore these undesirable metals.
Beginner-level metal detectors typically feature automatic ground balancing, so the user doesn’t need to fiddle with any complicated controls. More advanced models, however, may require the user to adjust the ground balance levels depending on the type of terrain they’re working in. While automatic ground balancing contributes to ease of use, manual ground balancing offers greater precision.
It’s a good idea to choose a model that offers object discrimination to further narrow down the search results.
The simplest metal detectors simply alert users to all types of metal, whereas more advanced models offer item discrimination, which allows users to identify a certain type of metal. This feature is essential when searching for gold since most users aren’t simultaneously seeking other metals. The most comprehensive metal detectors even have a specific target, like coins or jewelry.
Once the detector identifies an object, it typically alerts the user with an auditory signal. Many models use audio with various pitches that differentiate between types of objects. Some advanced metal detectors also have a screen that shows an image of the type of object that has been detected.
When choosing a gold detector, the device’s operating frequency is a key consideration. The operating frequency of a metal detector is measured in kilohertz (kHz) and represents the number of times per second that a signal is sent to the receiver. Metal detectors operating at lower frequencies are capable of detecting objects buried several feet underground, but a higher frequency is needed when searching for gold because gold pieces tend to be very small. While standard VLF metal detectors operate at frequencies of between 6 and 10 kHz, users require a higher frequency of at least 15 kHz when searching for gold. This helps users avoid more common metals and focus specifically on finding gold.
PI detectors operate differently, using bursts of electrical current, and operate at much lower frequencies.
Metal detectors depend on their coils to produce results. The size and type of these coils have a major impact on a metal detector’s performance. Larger coils are able to penetrate deeper into the earth, while smaller coils are more sensitive and can identify smaller targets.
There are two types of coils used for metal detectors: concentric and wide scan. Concentric coils provide better discrimination, making them ideal for areas containing lots of trash. Wide scan coils aren’t as adept at avoiding trash, but they do have better ground balancing for areas with high levels of mineralization.
Look for a model with waterproof coils if you plan to search in damp areas or in shallow water.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve learned more about metal detectors, it’s time to start shopping. The following are our top picks for some of the best metal detectors for gold. These recommendations were selected because of their quality construction, excellent performance, and top-notch ease of use.
This gold metal detector from Garrett comes at a midrange price but is packed with desirable features. It offers an advanced target identification system that uses a numeric scale from 0 to 99 and identifies a target metal’s conductivity. It includes both an automatic and manual ground balancing feature, making this model usable for both beginners and more-experienced hunters. It has a special feature to weed out iron—like bottle caps and washers—and makes a grunting sound when an undesirable metal is detected.
This metal detector is completely waterproof and can be submerged in up to 10 feet of water without incurring any damage. It’s also weatherproof and can withstand dirt and dust. Each purchase includes a pair of Garrett MS-2 headphones, which have volume control in order to enhance weak signals and a headband featuring ear cushions that make them comfortable to wear for hours-long prospecting adventures.
- Weight: 3.03 pounds
- Coil diameter: 8 inches
- Frequency: 18 kHz
- An advanced target identification system
- Can be submerged in water
- Includes unique audio alerts
- Comes with headphones
Get the Garrett AT Gold metal detector for gold on Amazon or at your local Garrett dealer.
Though its design is relatively simple, this metal detector offers target identification and discrimination features that allow users to weed out unwanted types of metal. The 10-inch coil holds an IP68 waterproofing rating, meaning the coil itself can be safely submerged in water. Since the coil is large, it’s capable of detecting objects buried up to 10 inches underground.
At less than 3 pounds, this model is lightweight and features an adjustable handle length that makes it suitable for both shorter and taller users. While this budget model is advertised as being suitable for detecting gold, the manufacturer doesn’t actually list the frequency at which it operates. The kit comes with headphones, a shovel, an extra battery, and a carrying case.
- Weight: 2.75 pounds
- Coil diameter: 10 inches
- Frequency: N/A
- Affordable price
- Lightweight design
- Features adjustable handle length
- Waterproof search coil
Get the Pancky metal detector for gold on Amazon or Pancky.
This gold detector from Minelab is a high-frequency VLF device, which, while sounding contradictory, means that it operates at a frequency of 45kHz, making it ideal for uncovering gold. There are two basic detection modes: Gold (which rejects all iron) and Deep All-Metal, which provides a more comprehensive assessment of the metals in the area. For even more advanced discrimination, the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 also includes a Gold Chance Indicator, letting users know whether the odds of finding gold in the area are high or low. Ground balancing is automatic, which is a great feature for beginners, though pros may prefer a model with manual ground balancing.
The coil is waterproof in up to 3 feet of water, letting users explore in rivers and streams.
- Weight: 2.94 pounds
- Coil diameter: 10 inches
- Frequency: 45 kHz
- Features Gold Chance Indicator
- Waterproof coil
- Operates at a very high frequency
- Not all users want automatic ground balancing
Get the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 metal detector for gold on Amazon or at your local Minelab dealer.
This pulse induction model from Minelab is unusual in that it comes with two coils: an 11-inch mono loop coil that’s perfect for precise pinpointing and a larger 14-inch coil that is ideal for environments with high soil minerality. It offers both automatic and manual ground balancing, which is ideal for all users. It’s specifically designed for finding gold and includes all of the necessary discrimination features.
One downside is that this model is quite heavy at 4.6 pounds and may be tiring to use for long periods of time. It’s built to withstand all weather conditions, including extreme heat, and the coils are waterproof in up to 3 feet of water. It’s also important to note that this technology comes at a very high price and is definitely most suitable for experienced or even professional gold hunters.
- Weight: 4.6 pounds
- Coil diameter: 11 inches, 14 inches
- Frequency: 1.225 kHz
- Includes 2 coils
- Offers both automatic and manual ground balancing
- Coils are waterproof
Get the Minelab GPX 6000 metal detector for gold on Amazon or at your local Minelab dealer.
Those looking for the highest level of sensitivity will appreciate the Fisher Gold Bug Pro. This model comes with a 5-inch search coil, which is significantly smaller than most coils offered on metal detectors for gold. Due to its small size, however, it’s extremely sensitive, ensuring that it can detect even the smallest pieces of gold in the soil. The downside to using a coil of this size is that it isn’t capable of detecting objects buried deeper underground.
It operates at a frequency of 19kHz, which is ideal for finding gold. It features a sophisticated target identification system and a multitone audio ID system, which alerts the user to the type of metal that has been detected. As an added bonus, it’s lightweight at just 2.5 pounds.
- Weight: 2.5 pounds
- Coil diameter: 5 inches
- Frequency: 19kHz
- Affordable price
- Ultrasensitive coil
- Lightweight design
- Not ideal for objects buried deep underground
Get the Fisher metal detector for gold on Amazon.
Those looking for a top-of-the-line option for professional use will marvel at the performance of the Garrett ATX, the brand’s highest-level metal detector. It uses pulse indicator technology and features a large search coil measuring 20 inches in diameter, which can penetrate deep into the soil to detect objects buried more than a foot underground. Despite its large size, it’s extremely sensitive, detecting items as small as 0.1-gram gold nuggets.
A unique feature of this model is that it balances automatically in salt water and can be submerged in up to 10 feet of water. Standard headphones are included with a purchase of the metal detector, though the brand also makes waterproof headphones that are sold separately.
- Weight: 6.9 pounds
- Coil diameter: 20 inches
- Frequency: N/A
- Adjustable length
- Ultrasensitive search coil
- Automatically balances in salt water
Get the Garrett ATX metal detector for gold on Amazon or at your local Garrett dealer.
This affordable metal detector from Nokta is excellent for underwater gold prospecting. The entire device is completely waterproof with a rating of IP68, meaning it can be submerged in up to 16.4 feet of water. It comes with two coils: a 10-inch concentric coil, which is ideal for object discrimination in areas with lots of trash, and a smaller 7-inch coil, which is more sensitive and excellent for finding small objects that are closer to the surface. Both automatic and manual ground balancing are available for optimum versatility. A set of wireless headphones is included with purchase, but it’s important to note that they are not waterproof.
- Weight: 3 pounds
- Coil diameter: 7.4 inches, 10.23 inches
- Frequency: 61kHz
- Completely waterproof
- Comes with 2 coils
- Lightweight design
- Waterproof headphones not included
Get the Nokta metal detector for gold on Amazon.
After reviewing this guide, you now know more about shopping for a metal detector for gold. We recommend the Garrett AT Gold Metal Detector for its top-notch performance and advanced controls. Those on a budget may appreciate the Pancky Metal Detector for Adults, which offers terrific performance at a lower price point.
Years of experience covering electronics as well as extensive product research went into creating this guide. We explored more than 30 metal detector options and weighed a number of practical considerations before making our recommendations.
- Weight: Some gold metal detectors tend to be heavy, but we excluded any models that weighed over 7 pounds in order to facilitate user comfort.
- Discrimination features: Metal detectors for gold have to be able to ignore less desirable metals—like iron—so we only included models with top-notch discrimination features.
- Adjustability: Metal detectors should be usable for users of different heights, so we only included models with adjustable handle lengths.
While you now know more about choosing the best metal detectors for gold, you might still be looking for more information about how to use them. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about using a metal detector.
Q. Do I need a special metal detector for gold?
While some multipurpose metal detectors can detect gold, it’s essential that they operate at a high frequency to do so.
Q. What frequency is best for gold detecting?
When searching for gold, a frequency of at least 15 kHz is necessary.
Q. How can I tell if gold is in the ground?
Gold is typically found in areas with eroding rocks and can be indicated by iron stains found on these rocks.
Q. What kind of rock is gold found in?
Gold is most typically found in quartz.
Q. What is the easiest metal detector to use?
In terms of ease of use, the Minelab GPX 6000 Gold Detector is an excellent pick.