Fisher Research Laboratory has the longest pedigree of the metal detector manufacturers having first opened its doors in 1931 when Dr. Gerhard Fisher discovered a way to detect metal objects while building aircraft radio direction finders. Those first detectors were built out of wood and contained just five vacuum tubes.
However, word spread and a business was born. Over the ensuing 70+years, Fisher's engineers have introduced innovative circuits and detector designs building a loyal following of successful treasure hunters around the world. The most recent addition to the Fisher line is called the ID Excel and was introduced as being a general-purpose detector offering features and performance not usually associated with its price-point in the market. Being ready to hit-the-road for some business travel, I appreciated the timing as the ID Excel arrived for testing the day before I left. The ID Excel was designed from the ground up by Fisher's engineering team yet several features were borrowed from the top-of-the-line Coin$trike detector which has proven itself under a wide range of conditions. The ID Excel is a single-frequency VLF detector (operating at 6.5 kHz) with two separate search modes, a non-motion pinpoint mode, audio and visual target ID and a drop-in battery system.
The first thing that strikes you when picking up the ID Excel for the first time is its weight or should I say lack of weight! The entire unit including the shaft, housing, coil and batteries weighs only 2 pounds. The colorful decals on the housing are not your typical Fisher-look but add a distinctive touch to this new detector. The ID Excel is controlled though 5 touchpads and an LCD meter on face of the control panel. The ON/OFF touchpad is self-explanatory (and also activates the battery strength meter indication which comes on as the unit powers up). Pressing the MENU touchpad activates the Menu mode and allows you to adjust the Discrimination or Sensitivity levels through the use of the UP/DOWN arrow touchpads as well as select the Factory Preset mode of operation. The discrimination circuit can be adjusted to from -36 (no targets rejected) to +22 (all targets except for copper and silver rejected). The Target ID LCD display reads out from -36 (ferrous items) to +36 (silver items), so even with the discrimination set at MAX, copper and silver will not be elimnated. The Sensitivity circuit can be adjusted from 1 to 10 (Note the comments in the Field Test section regarding this adjustment!). If you want to start hunting without any adjustments, the Factory Preset mode is an option simply hold the P/P (pinpoint) touchpad for a few seconds when the FP option is flashing in the Menu mode.
Proper ground balancing of ANY metal detector is the key to stable operation and maximum detection depth; however, it is the one adjustment that seems to cause the most confusion among users. Ground balancing the ID Excel couldn't be easier.
Simply lower the coil to the ground, press & hold the AUTO touchpad for 2 seconds, raise the coil 6 off the ground and release the touchpad. If you get a single tone, the unit is ground balanced. If you hear multiple tones, the coil was either over a piece of metal in the ground or the detector did not get a good reading of ground conditions move a few feet away and redo the ground balancing procedure.
The MODE touchpad switches between the ID Excel's two search modes Non-motion ALL METAL & motion DISCRIMINATION (the
selected search mode is indicated on right-hand side of the LCD display). It should be noted that the visual target ID feature works in both search modes so if you want to hunt in the non-motion All Metal mode, you will still be able to determine what you've detected based on the numerical indication on the LCD meter.
This is a feature that relic and beach hunters will find useful, as the All-Metal mode is preferred by many in this type of hunting. The Pinpoint circuitry is activated by pressing and holding the P/P touchpad. The meter indication takes a little time to get used to in that the display ranges from 99 (meaning the target is very close to the coil) to 0; i.e., the deeper the target, the lower the number.
Benchtesting targets you expect to find with a wooden ruler on your kitchen table before doing any actual hunting will pay off in terms of correlating the meter indication with target depth. Two 9-volt batteries, which provide 20+ hours of use, power the ID Excel and rechargeables can be used with no loss of performance.
The batteries drop into the front of the control housing and do not require wires, which eliminate a potential weak point that could result in unexpected downtime.
Currently the only coil available is an 8 spider concentric coil other Fisher coils are NOT interchangeable with the ID Excel.
On the way to spend two weeks in Chattanooga on business, I decided to stop off in Atlanta and visit one of my old hunting partners, Larry Shirah. After drooling over some of the finds he had made in recent months, we packed up our gear and headed over to a site near the center of Marietta where an house dating back to the 1840's had been torn down to make way for a new bank building.
The site had been HEAVILY hunted since the owner had moved out but with more than 2 acres to hunt, there had to be a few keepers still left to be found. I set the Sensitivity at 8 and the Discrimination at +5 as I knew the area would be littered with ferrous trash such as nails and the like but I did not want to miss any non-ferrous artifacts that might be present. Ground balancing was a snap and I was off hunting in no time.
I was right in the amount of trash that was present as signals were plentiful to the point that it was difficult to pick out targets worth recovering! Opting for an easier first time with the ID Excel, I walked to the back of the lot near what had once been a garden with huge old trees lining a dirt driveway. Hunting slowly, I received a number of targets that registered in the +12 to +20 range, and when switching to Pinpoint, I could tell that they were shallow 3 or less. Recovering them confirmed what the ID Excel had indicated as they were all pull tabs, screw caps or twisted pieces of aluminum.
This is where operator skill combined with the detector's capabilities pays off. Knowing that Civil War bullets registered between 18 and 22 from time spent testing targets before heading out for the first time, I focused on targets in that range that were deeper than 4 inches based on the pinpoint mode reading; i.e., 60 or less as well as higher readings which could be coins or similar items.
The next few targets were passed up based on their readings; however, near a large tree I received a signal that registered 26. It seemed to be deeper than most of the trash so I cut a plug and checked the hole. It was just under a root and after a few minutes, I pulled a filigreed brass ladies compact from its resting place.
After recovering several recently lost coins, I received a signal that registered +35 at about 6 (45). At about 7 I found a nice sterling silver buckle. Two wheat cents, an old brass razor from the 1920's and a blob of lead that could have been from the Civil War rounded out my finds before the heat took its toll and we opted to head back to Larry's house. Over the next two weeks I took the ID Excel to several schools, parks and vacant lots around the Chattanooga-area, primarily in search of coins.
One interesting aspect of the ID's operation I discovered was in selecting the proper Sensitivity setting for the areas being searched. Knowing that the older targets would be deep, I initially opted to try and use maximum sensitivity to reach them. The ID Excel was quite noisy and produced an excessive amount of false signals. I reduced the sensitivity to 9, 8, 7 and finally 6 with little improvement.
Well, I wanted to see if there was anyway to stabilize the detector so I finally reduced the sensitivity to 4 and it quieted down considerably but I was concerned about how much detection depth I had given up. The first repeatable signal surprised me when I recovered a 1937 Mercury dime from 6. Apparently reducing the sensitivity did not reduce detection depth to any significant degree; however, it did result in much smoother operation. This fact was confirmed when I returned home and did some experimenting in my test garden.
By running the sensitivity as high as possible while maintaining stable operation the ID Excel will still produce superior detection depth even at low settings. As a matter of fact, I hunted with the sensitivity at 2 in a few sites around the Rock Hill, SC area and was able to recover coins and similar-sized artifacts at depths of 5+ with no trouble! I was not able to hunt at a Sensitivity setting of greater than 8 in any of the sites I visited in TN, GA, NC or SC; however, that did not seem to adversely affect the ID Excel's ability to detect deeper targets.
It was obvious that most of the schools and parks near Chattanooga had been heavily hunted in the past. The vacant lots surrounding the downtown area were a different story and the ID Excel did a great job locating close to 100 coins and some artifacts going back to the Civil War at depths down to 8. Upon returning home, I hunted an old abandoned campground located just east of Charlotte and despite the height of the grass and weeds, picked up more than 2 dozen keepers including 5 silver dimes, 2 silver quarters and several wheat cents.
While Fisher did not develop the ID Excel to replace their top-of-the-line units, the newest addition to their product line offers surprising performance for the price. It is extremely lightweight and quite simple to operate once you get familiar with the unique target ID and pinpointing meter indications. The one-button ground balance circuit eliminates the errors often encountered in properly adjusting a detector, especially in adverse ground conditions. The ID Excel retails for $599.95 with the 8 spider coil and comes with the Fisher Lifetime Limited Warranty. Optional accessories available from the factory include soft & hard carrying cases, a coil cover and headphones.
For the name of your nearest dealer or more information on the new ID Excel or any of the other detectors in the Fisher line, contact the factory at 200 West Willmott Road, Los Banos, CA 93635, call them at 209-826-3292, or visit their web site at http://www.FisherLab.com and be sure to mention you read about the ID Excel in Lost Treasure.