Minelab Electronics is one of the newer kids on the block when it comes to building metal detectors; however, thanks to the engineering talent they have assembled, virtually every detector they've produced has been revolutionary in terms of performance in the field.
I've used Sovereign's since 1990 when the first model was under development. I tested it under some extremely harsh conditions and made exceptional finds from sites that had long since been written off as being hunted out. Over the years, the Sovereign line went through an evolutionary process with various features and options being added, removed or modified. Minelab's has collected feedback from users worldwide and following careful review, a new Sovereign moved from the drawing boards to full production that incorporated much of this information the Sovereign GT (which stands for Gold & Treasure).
One feature introduced on the first Sovereign that has remained unchanged has been the unique circuit on which it operates Broad Band Spectrum or BBS for short. Rather than operating on a set frequency, which may provide excellent performance in one location and mediocre performance at a location, even a short distance away, Minelab developed a method of transmitting 17 different frequencies simultaneously ranging from 1.5 kHz to 25.5 kHz. This allows the Sovereign to consistently detect deeper and identify targets more accurately than other detectors, especially in severe ground such as salt-water beaches, highly mineralized ground or alkali desert areas. As a matter of fact, the worse the ground conditions become, the more noticeable the Sovereign's increased performance becomes! BBS-technology provides this increased performance is achieved without any complicated adjustments simply turn the Sovereign on and start hunting . . . . . the circuitry takes care of any adjustments needed automatically!
The first thing one notices with the Sovereign GT is the new shaft design. The old upper S-handle has been replaced with a straight-shaft that virtually eliminates any of the balance / ergonomics issues of past Sovereign models. With the control housing snapped into the bracket located under the arm-cuff, the GT balances perfectly and allows for hours of effortless hunting something previous Sovereign owners had not been able to do without hip mounting the housing (which can still be done).
There were a number of changes made to the GT's circuitry some visible on the face of the control housing and others integrated into the internal electronics. The GT is controlled through 5 knobs and 4 toggle switches. Don't let the numbers scare you off, you will see that most are set-and-forget making the Sovereign GT a virtual turn on and go detector in the truest sense of the word.
The knobs are labeled [VOLUME], [SENSITIVITY], [THRESHOLD, [DISC] and [NOTCH]. The Volume controls also serves as the On/Off switch. The Disc and Notch controls are used to select what targets are accepted or rejected by the GT. The Threshold control is used to adjust the background hum heard through either the internal speaker or headphones that plug into the standard jack. The Sensitivity control has two settings Auto and a Manual range. When Auto is selected, the GT will adjust the sensitivity level automatically, selecting the highest level that results in stable operation and eliminates falsing. Increased detection depth can be obtained by turning the knob clockwise and manually selecting a sensitivity level; however, the GT will not be quite as stable, especially in highly mineralized ground or areas where conditions change significantly in a short distance. Personal experience will dictate which mode you select for specific applications.
The toggle switches are labeled [THRESHOLD/SILENT SEARCH], [IRON MASK ON/OFF / ALL METAL], [NOISE CANCEL BAND 1/2] and [GROUND BALANCE TRACK/FIX/PINPOINT]. The Noise Cancel switch changes the operating frequency band slightly to eliminate outside interference caused by electrical or radio transmissions or even a nearby metal detector such as during competition hunts. The Iron Mask switch is a throwback to the original Sovereign. Iron Mask was introduced back in 1991. This circuit not found on any other brand of detector allows for coins, relics and other valuables to be detected even if there is a ferrous target lying next to it. The slight downside of operating in this mode is that some falsing is experienced when sweeping over larger ferrous targets and the threshold stability is affected in high-trash areas. The ability to turn this feature on/off was removed on all Sovereigns following the initial model; however, based on feedback from seasoned users worldwide, this capability has been returned to the GT. Again, it's a matter of personal preference; however, there are situations where Iron Mask OFF may produce better results such as when hunting in very mineralized or alkali ground or when learning the GT's response to targets and eliminating the falsing you might experience in the Iron Mask ON setting.
The Sovereign provides users with target ID information in two ways. First, the audio pitch increases as the conductivity of the target increases. After a short time in the field, users can readily identify targets based on the sound they produce. The second is through the use of an optional digital meter. A unique trait of the Sovereign line is that when the coil passes over a target, the threshold pitch will change to reflect the conductivity of the target. This occurs even if the target is rejected; i.e., the threshold will actually null or disappear and when it returns, it will be at the pitch of the rejected target. Some hunters like this piece of information as it lets them know what type of targets are present even if they do not produce a signal. On the other hand, some hunters would prefer not hearing these threshold changes preferring instead to hear no threshold sound until a good target is detected. At first glance it might seem that all one had to do would be to lower the Threshold knob to the point the threshold disappeared; however, this would reduce the depth capabilities of the Sovereign since very deep signals would not produce a signal strong enough to break through the threshold. Minelab added the Threshold/Silent Search toggle switch to let users choose which mode they prefer with no loss of detection depth.
The final toggle is the Ground Balance switch, which greatly expands the Sovereign GT's versatility. Previous models were primarily designed for the treasure-side of the market; i.e., coins, relics, jewelry, etc. Unfortunately the older Sovereign's were not really effective in the gold prospecting arena; however, Minelab's engineers worked on this challenge for more than a year and solved it on the GT.. hence the Gold & Treasure moniker! The 3 settings on the Ground Balance switch are Pinpoint, Track and Fix. The Pinpoint setting is designed to be used in conjunction with the Discriminate search mode and allows you to accurately center the coil over the target to aid in its recovery. As the coil is swept across the target in the Pinpoint mode, the width of the audio signal shrinks with each pass making it easy to zero in on the target and reduce the recovery time. The Track setting allows the GT to precisely adjust itself to the ground conditions present in the search area without any manual adjustments needed. Simply raise-&-lower the coil several times until there is no change in the threshold! Once you have ground balanced the GT, you can either start hunting in the Track mode or switch to Fix, which locks the ground balance setting at the level selected when you initially set it. Some hunters have found that using Fix is ideally suited to locate pockets of black sand (the threshold will null out when passing over a pocket of mineralized black sand) that may indicate gold is present. Again, it's a matter of personal preference as far as which mode you opt for but the GT is flexible enough that virtually any type of target can be detected at impressive depths and with a minimum of adjustments required.
The GT is powered by a 1000 mAH NiMH battery pack that provides upwards of 15 hours of use on a charge. A wall-charger is included with the GT and you can purchase a 12V car charger to keep the batteries charged on the way to your hunting site. An optional alkaline pack is available that holds 8 AA batteries.
I compared the GT to an earlier version an XS2a Pro and found that the GT was able to detect targets noticeably deeper, produced clearer signals on deep targets and was able to detect some very small targets such as an earring and Civil War percussion cap which the XS2a Pro could not. Another point to note was that this was with an 8 Coin Search coil on the XS2a and the 10 Tornado coil on the GT!
My wife's cousin's husband Dr. Brian Snyder was staying with me while their new home was being built and I talked him into helping test the GT. He had never used a metal detector so I thought a novice's opinion would be worth adding to the report. We packed up the gear and headed to a small local park. It had been heavily hunted, so while I knew there should be some targets for Brian to find, we weren't expecting a gold mine. I put on the new DigiSearch Target ID meter and showed him what a good target would sound like. To allow him to focus on the detector, I gave him a handful of poker chips and instructed him to mark any good signal while I would go behind him with another detector and do the actual recovery (I know sounds like a good deal for Brian!). He started near a line of bushes and it was not long until he hit his first target a clad dime at 3. A short distance away he received a signal that bounced around a bit depending on what direction he swept the coil across it so he asked me about it. It had a high-pitched audio signal, so after pinpointing it, we dug a deep plug and looked into the hole. There, on the bottom edge was a silver coin on edge. Carefully removing a chunk of dirt containing the coin, Brian broke it open to reveal a 1945 Walking Liberty Half, which had been 6 deep on edge!
Brian headed towards the side of the park that I'd ignored in the past and found that this must be the section that was heavily used today. Signals were everywhere and I was getting my exercise digging up the targets he detected. It didn't take long for him to be able to identify good signals from trash such as foil or screw caps, and over the course of 4 hours, we recovered less than 15 trash targets. Even with a brisk sweep speed, targets were easily detectable and Brian was finding targets faster than I could recover them. By the time I cried Uncle and we headed for home, he had located 102 coins, 3 musician buttons and several other interesting items from depths ranging from just under the surface to 9+ deep. Brian said the GT had been extremely easy to understand and more importantly, fun to use. To see how the new GT would work for electronic prospecting, I tried it out on some small gold nuggets I'd picked up over the years and found that it did a decent job responding to even some fairly tiny specimens with a response that would be easily discernible. The 8 Tornado coil produced sharper responses on the small pieces but that would be expected. The GT was not designed to replace the respected GP, SD or even the Eureka models but it does provide users that want to do some prospecting a few times a year with a detector that is equally at home in the gold fields as it is in a school, park or battleground.
While in Chattanooga, TN on business in late-March, I brought the GT along for some Civil War relic hunting in the north Georgia mountains. The soil in most of this area is mineralized red clay, which adversely affects many of the detectors currently available. The BBS-based Sovereign's have historically performed well under these conditions and the GT showed that this tradition continues. I was only able to spend a few hours searching a hillside with some picket posts and trenches; however, I recovered 9 Minnie Balls, a Union Eagle button and a few shell fragments from depths of up to 14. I used the Iron Mask ON setting and found the GT produced very little falsing even when I approached some recent ferrous trash visible on the surface.
In the past few years, Minelab has really listened to the end-users when it comes to developing new detectors or enhancing what's already in their line and the Sovereign GT is no exception! Despite having been first introduced in 1991, the Sovereign has evolved over the years to remain a top-performer in the field. With the re-introduction of some proven features, improved sensitivity and detection depth on a wide range of targets and the new ergonomics provided by the straight-shaft design, the Sovereign GT will provide users novice or seasoned professional - with the performance they have come to expect from Minelab. The only comment one would have to raise regarding the GT is the lack of a pinpoint switch on the handgrip. When hunting with the control housing shaft-mounted under the arm cup, switching between Discriminate & Pinpoint with the toggle switch takes a bit to get used to due to its location. The Sovereign GT retails for $799 and comes with the 10 Tornado Double-D coil. Optional accessories available from Minelab include an 8 coil, hip mount pouch, alkaline AA battery holder, headphones and the new rescaled DigiSearch digital target ID meter. For the name of your nearest dealer or for more information on the Sovereign GT or other detectors in the Minelab line, contact Minelab USA at 871 Grier Drive, Suite B-1, Las Vegas, NV 89119, call them at 702-891-8809, or visit their web site at www.minelab.com and be sure to mention you read about the new Sovereign GT in Lost Treasure Magazine.