FIELD TEST

Minelab Electronics Explorer Ii
By Andy Sabisch
From Page 26
November, 2003 issue of Lost Treasure

Minelab Electronics may be one of the newcomers in the metal detecting market; however, since its inception in the 1980s, it has earned the reputation of a company that develops truly innovative detector technology. Their equipment for the treasure hunting, military and security markets has been recognized as some of the most effective available as demonstrated by reports received from users worldwide on a regular basis. Despite this success, their engineering team is continually assessing their products and looking for ways to improve what they produce. The Explorer XS and S detectors became extremely popular as word spread about how they handled even the most adverse ground while detecting targets at depths many users were reluctant to mention for fear of being branded a tall tale. The Explorer II was born from two-plus years of continued R&D by Minelab and listening to comments received from their customers.

Features

The secret to the Explorer's success worldwide is the patented circuitry called Full Band Spectrum (FBS). Unlike other non-Minelab detectors that operate at one or perhaps two frequencies, the FBS circuitry transmits at 28 different frequencies simultaneously. In addition, by extending the upper frequency range 100 kHz and enabling the detector's circuitry to automatically select what specific frequencies are best for each specific site it is used, the Explorer is able to provide even greater detection depth and accuracy of target identification. In addition, through the use of microprocessor technology and an enhanced LCD screen, additional characteristics regarding the composition of a target can be obtained and displayed. Now, by combining the conductivity value of a target used on all other detectors to provide target ID with the object's inductance or ferrous value, the ability to differentiate similar targets such as a gold ring and a pull tab can be achieved. This two-dimensional target identification circuit, called SmartFind (discrimination) is found only on the Minelab Explorer series.

Rather than revisit all of the controls on the Explorer II which have been covered in past field tests (available on Lost Treasure's website) or are described in literature available from Minelab, I would like to focus on the major changes, more than 30, found on the latest addition to the Explorer series. The most obvious enhancements are in the actual construction of the detector. These include a new lower carbon fiber shaft, new camlock fittings on the shafts, a new armrest, a built-in metal stand, a headphone jack, and new housing and handle materials--all of which result in a more solid feel and a more robust unit with no increase in overall weight! The new shafts are more rigid than their predecessors increasing the maximum extendable length by two inches, a plus for taller hunters.

Internally, the advancement in computer technology since the Explorer XS was released has allowed the Minelab engineers to improve on an already proven circuit design. The new software running on an enhanced microprocessor offers several improvements including a more stable threshold and modified processing algorithm, resulting in increased detection depth, faster and more accurate response to small or deep targets as well as those in high-trash areas, and the addition of a Dual Digital Display allowing accurate target identification in the Digital mode which is preferred by some users. Some users preferred the digital display instead of the SmartFind graph screen, and now with the additional numeric display, they can quickly analyze targets by reading values corresponding to both the target's conductivity and ferrous composition. While somewhat difficult to explain in the space allowed for this report, both displays are extremely easy to understand and targets can be identified with a high degree of accuracy with just a little time in the field with the Explorer II.

Minelab has two versions of the Explorer II with the only difference being what accessories come with the detector; i.e., the electronics are the same on either model. The Pro version includes the NiMH battery (will not develop a memory), both the home and car chargers and a set of high-quality headphones designed specifically for the Explorer II by Koss (which are well-worth using in my opinion).

The Explorer II still comes with the 10.5-inch Double-D search coil that has been used on previous Explorers. Double-D coils do take a little practice to become proficient at pinpointing targets; however they do a more through job of covering the ground than a concentric coil. The stock coil has proven to be effective in most areas and applications; however, there are additional size coils available to provide more versatility in any form of treasure hunting. The depth indicator that appears on the display screen and registers depth in the motion search modes aids pinpointing. This circuit has also been upgraded and it now provides target depth indication down to depths of 12 inches.

Field Test

After a three-year stint up north, work brought me back south to my old stomping grounds in the Atlanta area. I had used the original Explorer XS at a number of well-hunted sites prior to moving and had been able to bring home many first-rate finds. I was hoping that the Explorer II would build on that success and allow me to rework sites others had long since given up.

The first site I went to was a hillside that was being cleared near Kennesaw Mountain. The area had been occupied by both Union and Confederate troops during July of 1864 and trenches were still visible along the face of the hill. The area was being cleared for a new apartment complex so time was not on my side. This site has been heavily hunted for more than 30 years; however, the mineralization is so severe on most of the hill that many detectors can barely pickup a bullet just under the ground.

Opting to hunt with minimal discrimination to avoid missing any relics that might still be present, I switched to IRON MASK and reduced its setting to -10. Since I knew the ground was quite hot, I set the sensitivity control to SEMI-AUTO and 20. Setting the coil on the ground, I pressed NOISE CANCEL and allowed the circuitry to select the optimum channel for the ground conditions in the area. Before I started hunting, I was curious to see how the Explorer II handled the known adverse conditions so at six inches I buried a Minnie Ball I had brought along. The Explorer II read it with a solid signal and a meter indication that did not waiver. My partner had brought two detectors and was a bit surprised when one would not even beep when he swept the coil across it--the Explorer's FBS circuitry appeared to be handling the mineralization without trouble.

It was nice not having to contend with leaves, rocks and trees in the area that had been cleared; however, it was almost fifteen minutes until the first signal was received. Based on the meter indication/audio tone, I was quite certain that I had a bullet and sure enough, a cleaner bullet with the base turned up at just over seven inches. The next few signals turned out to be the usual bane of relic hunters--shotgun shell bases at depths ranging from three inches to almost eight inches but, since buttons could produce the same type of signal, you simply chalk them up as the price you pay for the good stuff.

I switched to MANUAL sensitivity and increased the setting to 30 and as expected, the Explorer become erratic as the coil was swept even when the NOISE CANCEL circuit was re-activated. In order to stabilize it in MANUAL, I had to run the sensitivity down 15, which illustrates a valuable tip with the Explorer. In certain areas, i.e., low trash/mineralization, additional depth can be obtained by running in MANUAL sensitivity and increasing the setting as high as possible. However, in areas where mineralization is more pronounced, the SEMI-AUTO setting is preferred even if you do experience a slight decrease in detection depth since the increased stability will more than make up for it.

Three hours on the hill in the July sun was about as much as I was able to stand so I headed back to the truck and looked through my finds. Six bullets, several lead fragments, three percussion caps (extremely small brass), part of a harmonica read, an Eagle button and a 1984 Quarter confirmed that the Explorer II could still find targets in an area that had been hunted for years and had ground conditions that rendered many other detectors unusable.

The next site was a small park that dated back to the early 1900s. It was mostly grass and the wet summer we had been experienced allowed me to hunt it without fear of leaving brown spots if I needed to cut a deeper plug. This time I wanted to focus on finding some older coins so I switched to ADVANCED SMART and loaded a program that I had saved under S1, which opened an area on the screen that encompassed silver and copper coins. I opted to run the Explorer II in manual sensitivity set at 25 to see if I could squeeze some additional detection depth out of it.

After using the NOISE CANCEL touch pad, I started hunting along the edges of the park, figuring that area had probably seen fewer detectorists over the years. Even at that sensitivity level, the detector ran with just a faint thresholdfalsing or erratic signals that indicate sensitivity is too high for the ground conditions. Signals were few and far between; however, they were there and the Explorer II easily located targets in the eight-inch-plus range. The first one turned out to be a nice 1944 Mercury dime followed by 4 Wheat cents. I soon discovered that dusk was not the ideal time to hunt this park not far from the Chattahoochee River as the mosquitoes were out in force. Deciding to call it a night, I started back to the truck and another Mercury dime, this time a 1936, turned up. Hunting the chest high bank as I got near the car, I received a good signal that would not repeat with any consistency. Switching to the Digital Display, the indication showed that the target was registering consistently; however, the audio signal was what was inconsistent. Realizing that the signal was just at the edge of the acceptable region on the program I had loaded, I decided to dig it to see what it was. At just over six inches, I pulled out a corroded Indian Head penny. I had not used one of these when I built the discrimination program and hence the signal it produced, while close to some of the coins I had used, was intermittent. This showed that the Explorer II could accurately identify even deeply buried targets; however, when creating patterns to be used for specific applications, one needs to ensure a potentially good target is not inadvertently eliminated and then missed in the field. I visited several other sites in the following weeks and consistently recovered good targets in areas I, and others, had previously searched. The Explorer II handled even the most adverse ground conditions (and north Georgia has some really bad areas) without any complicated adjustments which made searching these sites an enjoyable experience.

Summary

Minelab's engineering team did an excellent job assimilating feedback received from detectorists worldwide by incorporating numerous enhancements into the new Explorer II. The more solid construction is readily apparent; however, the internal changes show up where they count--in the field! The Explorer XS and S models have become legendary in terms of their detection depth and other capabilities and the new Explorer II provides even more performance with no added complication or weight.

Unfortunately, as with other detectors I have tested in the past that have innovative features, space limitations in this print-version field test preclude me from delving into the Explorer II's features in as much depth as I would have liked. The on-line report on the Lost Treasure website contains more details, as well as a visit to your local Minelab dealer for a hands-on demonstration, will be time well spent if you are even considering a new detector.

The Explorer II Pro package retails for $1굫 and the Standard version for $1겣. Both come with a two-year parts and labor warranty with service handled by the US repair center.

For the name of your nearest dealer or more information on the Explorer series or any of the other detectors in the Minelab line, contact Minelab USA, 2700 E. Patrick Lane #11, Las Vegas, NV, 89120, (702) 891-8809, or visit their web site at www.minelab.com and be sure to mention you read about the Explorer II in Lost Treasure.
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