The Minelab Explorer series has been around for 8 years now and over that time; it has earned the reputation of a detector that can effectively handle virtually any ground condition thereby allowing treasure hunters to easily detect targets that have been overlooked by others for decades.
Having used Explorers extensively since they were first introduced, I was interested to see how the latest addition to the Explorer family performed in the field â€“ especially with the newly designed search coil which Minelabâ€™s engineers had said should be a â€œwinnerâ€. In order to add a wider perspective on the performance provided by the Explorer SE Pro and the new coil to this report, I enlisted the help of friend, fellow detectorist and seasoned Minelab user Bill Paxton from just outside of Los Angles to put it through its paces at some of the sites he frequented which is the basis for the â€œEast Coast / West Coastâ€ subtitle. Both Bill & I had been involved in a test project over the last few months involving new coil designs and were interested in seeing how the final product worked with the Explorer platform combined under the SE Pro moniker.
In the 8 years since the 1st Explorer was introduced with the unique Full Band Spectrum (FBS) circuitry, users have found countless valuable targets at depths that make it hard to tell others without being branded someone that must be used to telling stories about the â€œfish that got awayâ€. While many readers now what the FBS circuit is, itâ€™s worth a short overview at this point. Unlike other detectors that operate on one or two frequencies, the Explorerâ€™s FBS circuitry transmits at 28 different frequencies simultaneously over a range of 1.5kHz to 100kHz. Additionally, the specific individual frequencies within that range are selected automatically by the Explorer, based on the ground conditions seen beneath the coil, providing even greater detection depth and accuracy of target identification in even the most severe ground conditions. The fact that this is performed automatically at the touch of a single button on the face of the control housing enables even a first-time user to obtain impressive results in the field.
The easy-to-read LCD screen and audio response provide users with a wealth of information. The Explorers remain the only detector that can determine the composition of targets based on both its conductive (non-ferrous) and inductive (ferrous) components and, by providing this information visually on the LCD screen and audibly, allows for accurate identification of even deeply buried targets as well as providing the ability to distinguish good targets from bad in areas littered with signals and being able to differentiate between targets that on other detectors appear identical.
The face of the SE Proâ€™s control housing looks virtually identical to its predecessor the SE. With the exception of a decal change, all of the same touchpads are present, making it simple to transition to the SE Pro from an SE, II or even an XS.
Since the main difference between the SE Pro and the standard SE which it replaces is the newly designed 11â€ DD coil, the remainder of this report will only touch on the more notable features of the SE Pro and if you want more details on the individual controls, check out some of the past Explorer field tests available on Lost Treasure's website or literature from Minelab.
Any metal detectorâ€™s performance is tied to two distinct parts â€“ the electronics in the control housing and the search coil. The engineers at Minelab focused their attention on the search coil and worked to accomplish two tasks â€“ improve the Explorerâ€™s overall performance through some changes to the coil design and address the balance / weight issue users have raised since the 1st Explorer was introduced through relocating the mounting point on the coil and reducing the coils actual weight As the field test portion of this report will attest, both of these goals were exceeded in the final product they produced.
As with any detector I receive for a field test, I conducted an air test to check individual target responses and then ran the Explorer SE through the test garden to see how it responded to targets at depths down to 10â€ or so before heading out. Since the Explorer SE & SE Pro share a common platform, the audio and visual responses were what I had come to expect based on my previous experience with Explorers; however, the enhanced performance afforded by the new 11â€ DD coil quickly became apparent.
Three points that were evident after a just few minutes with the new coil that were subsequently validated in the field by both Bill & myself included 1) the ease at which targets could be pinpointed without even needing to switch to the Pinpoint mode, 2) the ability to separate individual targets buried in close proximity to one another, and 3) the markedly improved overall balance of the detector due to the new mounting point and lighter coil weight â€“ all of which are worth noting considering the larger size of the coil.
EAST COAST RESULTS
To get a feel for how a new â€œtop-endâ€ detector performs, I usually try to go to a site that has some age to it but is also one that has been hunted before â€“ after all, even a basic detector can make impressive finds if they are either shallow or not masked by unwanted targets and a virgin site is never a true test of a detectors performance.
The first place I visited was a site a short distance from my house which dated back to the mid-1700â€™s. I had hunted it extensively with my daughter over the past 2 years and I was by far not the only one that had ever swung a detector over the grounds. Several areas were quite trashy since outbuildings had been torn down over the past 200+ years but since a number of good targets had come out of the surrounding areas, I wanted to see how the new coil fared under these conditions. Running with Iron Mask set at â€œ29â€ (almost at the All-Metal point to see how many targets were present), sensitivity at â€œ26â€ in Semi-Auto and Ferrous audio (to allow me to distinguish deep rusted iron from keepers), I started hunting near where one of the smaller buildings had been. As expected, I was getting a number of signals; however, using both the LCD display and the audio response, I was able to identify them as being iron and ignore them. In the midst of several low tones from the iron, I picked up a nice high pitch signal which indicated a target worth recovering. As stated earlier, the new 11â€ DD coil makes pinpointing a snap. I simply â€œwiggledâ€ the coil side-to-side slightly and pulled it back towards me. When the signal dropped off, I put my probe in the â€œnotchâ€ at the front of the coil and after removing an 8â€ deep plug, saw the target at the bottom of the hole. Reaching in, I pulled out my first large cent of 2008 and the date 1849 was clearly visible. The depth indication had been very close to the coinâ€™s depth and the coil had pinpointed the target in amongst some nearby iron trash. I spent a few hours here over the next week and while I did not find any more large cents, I did pull out 3 Civil War-era Minnie balls, several pre-1900 buttons including one Colonial-era flat button, a few post-1900 coins and some items yet to be identified. The key aspects worth noting were that the larger coil had done a great job separating targets which allowed keepers to be pulled from trashy areas, the coil was detecting deeply buried targets with ease and pinpointing was about as accurate as I had ever seen even with a smaller coil.
With the limited time remaining before the field test was due, I hit a few other challenging sites in the surrounding area including a Revolutionary War era iron mine (deep ground cover and extremely bad ground), the site of an one-room schoolhouse that had been removed decades ago (deep targets since the site was in a farm field that was plowed annually) and finally a few local parks that had numerous targets available to test the pinpointing capabilities of the new coil. I was able to add several coins and artifacts to my collection and a major contributor to my success was the performance of the new coil combined with the proven performance of the Explorer circuitry.
WEST COAST RESULTS
This field test report is a bit different from those I have penned in the past in that I had a good friend of mine contribute a section for the Field Test section. Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to know Bill Paxton for close to a decade, and felt that his experience and insight would add a different perspective to the report and help those either looking at an Explorer SE Pro or simply the new DD coil for their current Explorer make an informed decision. The rest of this section is Billâ€™s assessment of the SE Pro based on his using it at sites around Los Angles.
â€œAs most west coast treasure hunters know, the beaches of southern California are a real challenge based on the heavy concentration of black sand they contain and the depth at which targets can sink to after even a short period of time. One of my favorite beaches (and unfortunately for many other beach hunters as well) is Santa Monica. Arriving at 5:30 AM to get some hunting in before work (as they say, treasure hunters are a strange breed), I unpacked the detector and looking around, thought I was in a minefield â€“ there were holes everywhere. Well, Iâ€™ve found good stuff around holes before, so setting the sensitivity between 25 and 28 (out of 32) I headed off with virtually no falsing. The first few signals produced some clad coins at average depths (6â€ or less). Hunting in the damp black sand I received a nice solid 12-01 signal in the dual digital mode. Removing two scoops of the wet sand, I saw the glint of gold from the edge of the hole at nearly 10â€ down and pulled out a nice 14K gold nugget pinkie ring. Ten inches on a small piece of gold jewelry . . . Iâ€™ve never hit a small gold target like this before at that depth â€“ clearly the new coil was producing both the sensitivity and detection depth needed to hit targets other detectors would miss.
Over the next 30 minutes I hit a few more clad coins including two quarters at 12â€ and 14â€. Both had produced solid repeatable signals and provided target IDâ€™s that let me know with confidence what the signal was before recovering it (a 00-29 indication). As I finished up for the morning, I ran into 3 other hunters that had hunted the area - one with a pulse unit and the other two with older Explorers. No one had found any gold except me and while that could be luck, they were all impressed with the depth that I was getting with the new coil.
To be successful at the beach, coverage area & depth are the key. Larger diameter coils that I have used in the past are arm breakers due to their weight; however, the new coilâ€™s light weight, excellent balance & rugged durability make it the perfect choice for beach/wet sand hunting.
I used the new coil in several parks throughout Los Angles, some of which were extremely trashy, during the development process that took place over a 2-month period. Without going into minute-by-minute details of my time with the new coil, suffice it to say that I found this coil to reach as deep or deeper than any coil that I have ever used on any of my Explorers and despite its 11â€ size, it was able to consistently separate good targets from bad in even the trashiest sections of the parks I hunted.
The combination of the new 11â€ DD coil with the proven platform of the SE makes the SE Pro a deadly machine in the field. I would rate its performance as better than any machine that I have used and much of the credit should go to Minelab & their coil design team. This thing flat out performs! For people trading up, the SE Pro is a great choice. For those who like their current Explorers, they should give serious thought to obtaining one of the new coils. When they do they may find that their other coils head to the back of the closet. This is the closest thing that I have found to a â€œdo-it-allâ€ coil and mine will be on my Explorer permanently.â€
The new Explorer SE Pro has followed in the steps of previous Explorer models which have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary in nature. Each successive model introduced since the original Explorer S & XS models have incorporated at times subtle improvements such as improved electronics, new coils or additional features which have continued to provide detectorists with a detector that has set a standard for a virtually any application worldwide. This latest addition to the Explorer line features a coil that produces more coverage with each sweep while providing better balance and what will feel like less weight allowing for more time in the field in addition to the time-proven FBS circuit. If you are looking at upgrading your current detector, the SE Pro deserves a serious look as it will serve you well under even the most severe conditions. If you are already an Explorer user, you need to look at adding the new 11â€ DD coil to your arsenal as its design and balance provides the perfect combination of coverage, balance and detection depth â€“ very easily becoming the coil that stays on for all your treasure hunting adventures.
The Explorer SE retails for $1,595 and comes with a two-year parts and labor warranty with service handled by the U.S. repair center located in Las Vegas. It comes standard with a NiMH battery, charger, alkaline battery holder and a set of collapsible Koss headphones designed specifically for the Explorer. The new 11â€ DD coil is retails for $249.95 and will work on any of the Explorer models.
For the name of your nearest dealer, more information on the Explorer SE Pro, or any of the other detectors in the Minelab line, contact Minelab USA at 871 Grier Drive, Suite B1, Las Vegas, NV, 89119, (702) 891-8809, or visit their web site at www.minelab.com. Be sure to mention you read about the new Explorer SE Pro & the 11â€ DD coil in Lost Treasure Magazine.