FIELD TEST

Minelab Electronics' Excalibur II
By Andy Sabisch
From Page 32
June, 2008 issue of Lost Treasure

Over the past 20 years, Minelab Electronics has built the reputation of a company that continually breaks new ground in terms of designing metal detector circuits that effectively address challenges that have plagued detectorists for decades. Over the years, Minelab users worldwide have made countless finds from areas that have been heavily hunted in many cases for decades. Despite their industry-leading performance, with offices in Australia, Ireland and the United States, improvements are always on the minds of Minelabs engineers and, with input from seasoned detectorists, many of these become part of the next generation of a particular model in the Minelab line.

One of the most successful all-weather detectors ever produced has been the Minelab Excalibur, first introduced more than 15 years ago, which incorporated the proven Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) technology used in the land-based Sovereign. The original Excalibur was replaced with the Excalibur 800/1000 models several years ago and, most recently, the Excalibur II has been released which incorporates some enhancements to an already proven piece of equipment. As an avid water hunter for more than 35 years, I was anxious to see how the latest Excalibur performed in the field.

Features
Minelabs multi-frequency detectors are well known throughout the metal detecting community for being able to handle even the most severe ground conditions with minimal adjustment, allowing even novice users to find targets at depths many might find hard to believe. The BBS circuit found on the Sovereign and Excalibur models differs from the circuits found on other VLF detectors that operate on one or two specific frequencies. The Excalibur sends out 17 distinct frequencies ranging from 1.5 to 25.5 kHz which enables the Excalibur to be unaffected by even the most adverse ground conditions which typically cause conventional detectors to lose a significant amount of detection depth, or result in excessive falsing or chattering.

In addition, the way the Excalibur processes and eliminates the signal component caused by ground conditions allows for more accurate target identification at greater depths, which helps reduce the amount of trash one recovers and increases the number keepers in your pouch at the end of the day. After turning the Excalibur on, the BBS circuitry simply ignores the portion of the signal due to ground effects, automatically allowing it to sense targets beyond the detection depth of most other detectors.

The Excalibur II offers tone target ID that allows the user to hunt at low discrimination settings and use the different audio tones produced by various targets to determine which are worth recovering. As I have discussed in past field tests and at presentations Ive given over the years, one of the best ways to use this feature when beach hunting is to set the discrimination low; i.e., 3, and then ignore the higher tones which indicate a coin. By doing this you can focus on targets that fall between Foil and Coins, which is where gold rings, pendants or chains tend to show up and, while you may pass up a few dollars in coins, a few pieces of gold in your pouch at the end of the day is most certainly a trade-off most of us can live with.

 The waterproof housing has been time-tested and has an enviable record as far as being leak proof, even when used for commercial diving applications. The housing never needs to be opened, since all of the controls and connections are on the outside of the case and, as a result, should provide years of dependable operation. There are two versions of the Excalibur II, with the only difference being the size of the search coil (8 or 10 Double-D coils). A lighter, more streamlined coil has been used which reduces drag and makes extended searching in water less tiring. Other changes made to the Excalibur II that at first seem to be strictly cosmetic are fluorescent lime green decals and a bright yellow coil cover, but, in fact, they make it easier to see the controls and coil when wading or diving in murky water.

The Excalibur II comes with a NiMH rechargeable battery system which provides 10-15 hours of use per charge. On optional car charger and a pack that allows you to use standard AA batteries is available to ensure you do not run out of power in the middle of a productive hunt. NOTE: One needs to recognize that the new Excalibur II is an evolutionary change to its predecessors rather than a revolutionary change. This means that it shares many of the features and capabilities found on the other Excaliburs, but with some enhancements made based on user feedback and improved technology that has become available in the past few years; however, it is not a totally redesigned detector.

For more information on other features of the Excalibur II shared with its siblings, visit Lost Treasures wesite and read over the reports I did on both the original model and the 800 model.

Field Test
The Excalibur II arrived at an ideal time for a field test. While it was January, the southeast was in the midst of a record drought and most of the lakes were at levels never seen before, which exposed many areas that would otherwise have only been accessible by diving.

After testing a number of targets such as coins, jewelry and trash to see how they responded and where to best set the various controls, I headed off to several sites on the lakes near my house. Two were swimming areas now totally dry and the third was a private club that had a large diving platform permanently moored in about 30 of water. The soil in this part of the Carolins contains a good deal of red clay which can limit the detection depth on many detectors, but from past experience with other BBS detectors, I was confident the Excalibur II would ignore these conditions and detect targets others might have missed.

Partially-filled holes on both beaches let me know I was not the first one to search them, but confident that there were still some keepers remaining, I set the DISC at 2, Sensitivity to AUTO, brought the threshold to barely audible and started scanning. As expected, signals were few and far between, but there were enough to hold my interest. I spent a total of about 15 hours over a two-week period at these sites and came up with more than $15 in coins (including, surprisingly, a 1926 Buffalo nickel and 4 wheat cents), several pieces of silver jewelry and two thin 14KT wedding bands from depths ranging from the surface to 10+ deep. My diving partner, Cory, and I spent a few hours at the last site on a small lake in North Carolina.

Swapping out the lower shaft for the shorter dive rod included in the Excalibur II package, we moored our boat near the platform, suited up and rolled over the side. Dropping to the bottom in the murky water, we found signals to be plentiful indicating it had not been hunted in some time. Due to the lack of visibility, we were not able to see what we had found until we got back on the boat, and after the first tank dive I sorted out my finds which included 53 coins, three watches and several pieces of junk jewelry.

Cory used the Excalibur II on the next dive and had similar results. He commented on how simple it was to operate and the ability to hear even the weaker signals over the bubbles from the regulator which, if you are a diver, is a factor to consider when buying an underwater detector. Since the Excaliburs claim to fame has been its ability to handle even the most challenging conditions with outstanding results, my family and I headed to Charleston, South Carolina, to put it through its paces on the surrounding beaches.

This section of the Atlantic coastline is probably the most difficult stretch of the eastern seaboard to hunt due to the heavy and varying concentrations of black sand combined with the effects of the salt water, and is a great place to put detectors to an acid test to assess their capabilities. The first beach I visited was Folly Beach, which is quite popular year round, and one where the wife and kids can keep themselves occupied while I do my thing with a detector. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to check the tide tables and it was high tide when we arrived so I opted to pull on my wetsuit, grab a long-handled scoop and wade out into the surf to search the trough area. Trying to recover targets while wading in the ocean surf is never an easy task and this day was no exception. The swell varied from knee to chest deep as each wave passed, so timing was critical. Over the next few hours, I did retrieve a handful of coins from the trough, but, unfortunately, no jewelry.

The most unusual find was a crematory tag which is the second one Ive found on this beach over the years. The Excalibur II operated smooth-as-silk going from the surf up onto the wet sand and finally into the dry sand, requiring not one adjustment the entire time. The other beach I try to hunt whenever I am in Charleston is Kiawah Island which is another challenge due to high concentration of black sand and the depth at which targets tend to sink in the fine sand. It had been a few months since the warmer weather had brought more people to the beach, so I knew that whatever I did find had either been missed by previous hunters or had been recently exposed by tidal action.

To get maximum detection depth, I opted to run in Manual sensitivity with the level set just below the point where the Excalibur II started to chatter with more than an occasional pop or two. I arrived as the tide was going out which allowed me to hunt parallel to the surf and follow the water out as it receded. While not as plentiful as I have found in the summer months, targets were turning up on a regular basis and it was easy to see that the Excalibur II was handling the conditions with ease, as coins were recovered at depths of up to 15 in the wet sand.

Even at those extreme depths, the audio target ID was accurate and I was able to identify virtually every target before I recovered it. A cell phone call from my wife letting me know it was dinner time cut my stay short, but in the three hours I spent at Kiawah, I had turned up 42 coins, 4 sets of keys, a 14KT cross / chain and a well-corroded cell phone.

Summary
Beach and water hunting remains the one form of treasure hunting where valuable items worth at times $1?s are lost on a regular basis, and a detector such as the Minelab Excalibur II can help one recover a portion of these with ease. The demands placed on a detector when used under the conditions typically encountered in this type of hunting require that it be ruggedly built and the Excalibur II more than meets that requirement.

Many of the original Excaliburs are still in use today after more than a decade of regular use, which speaks for the quality of their construction. If you are looking for a detector that is unaffected by adverse ground conditions, can be used on land or in the water, is extremely simple to operate and offers superior detection depth, you need to stop by your local dealer and try out the Excalibur II.

The new Excalibur II retails for $1? and comes with your choice of either the 8 or 10 Double-D coil, rechargeable battery pack and charger, coil cover, both shafts (wading and diving) and a 1-year warranty. Optional accessories include the alkaline battery pack, a car charger for the rechargeable battery pack, a hipmount kit and a modified upper shaft that allows the electronics to be mounted sideways which further reduces drag when searching in the water.

For the name of your nearest dealer or for more information on the Excalibur II 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 website at www.Minelab.com, and be sure to mention you read about the new Excalibur II in Lost Treasure magazine.

Minelab Electronics' Excalibur II


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