The Minelab Explorer series, first introduced in 2000 with the S and XS models, has probably produced more first-rate finds in the past six years, thanks to its unique and innovative technology, than any other single detector. Magazines, Internet forums and club displays routinely show new finds that are simply amazing, many from areas that have been hunted continuously for decades. Having used all of the Explorers since the first was in development, I was looking forward to putting the latest addition through its paces when I was contacted by Minelab and Lost Treasure telling me one was on the way for a field test.
Features Minelabs Full Band Spectrum (FBS) circuitry the Explorers secret weapon to handling virtually any site condition has become legendary in what it has done for treasure hunters worldwide. Unlike other detectors that operate on one or two frequencies, the 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 LCD screen and audio response provide users with a wealth of information allowing for accurate identification of even deeply buried targets, or in areas littered with unwanted trash. The Explorers are 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 users to accurately identify even deeply buried targets or differentiate between targets that on other detectors appear similar such as nickels, pull-tabs and gold rings. This unique circuit is called SmartFind and one noticeable improvement of the SE over its predecessors is the speed at which the cursor on the screen updates the probable ID of the detected target (thanks to a faster processor under the hood).
Rather than revisit many of the controls on the new Explorer SE which have been covered in past Explorer field tests (available on Lost Treasure's website and described in literature available from Minelab), this report will focus on the major changes to the latest addition to the Explorer family.
The first difference one sees when opening the box is the colorno longer an off-white; the new SE is a sleek black. The other notable difference is the new slimline search coil. Double-D in design, it is slightly lighter than the older Explorer coils and, being of solid construction, is fully submersible and non-buoyant for those that want to hunt shallow water areas. The literature states it is a 10.5 coil; however, it actually measures 10 edge-to-edge.
The face of the SEs control housing looks virtually identical to its predecessor. With the exception of some slight decal changes, all of the same touchpads are present, making it simple to transition to the SE from an XS or II. The faster processor is first apparent with the quicker start-up when the POWER touchpad is depressed and the unit turned on.
Minelabs engineers did incorporate feedback from users in terms of streamlining the menuing system used to adjust or program the detector. While all of the adjustments that were available are still there, those that are used more frequently have been brought to the forefront and others moved to more logical locations. Three of the most noticeable and talked-about changes to the SE are 1) the new pinpoint mode, 2) a new audio response option (Pitch Hold), and 3) an expanded Iron Mask circuit which has proven popular with many successful hunters. The pinpoint mode now provides an updated target ID reading (in both SmartFind and Digital) as the coil is swept across the target, which allows one to see if there are multiple targets in close proximity to one another. It also uses a VCO circuit causing both the volume and the pitch to increase as the center of the coil approaches the center of the target, similar to many other detectors using concentric coils. Pinpointing was a challenge for some users with the DD coil and, with this new system, Explorer users will be able to zero-in on even deeply buried targets with ease. The Pitch Hold option may not be for everyone, but what it does is provide another tool to help locate and identify small or deeply buried targets.
The way it works is once a signal is detected and the coil continues past the target, the threshold PITCH will be the same as whatever the detected target was and remains there until the next target is detected. This will provide you with continued information to avoid missing deep or small targets and is extremely effective once youve tuned your ear to the sound of specific targets. The new Iron Mask circuit allows users to select the degree of ferrous (inductive) content in targets which causes a target to be rejected again, a feature unique to Minelab. The new range starts at 0 (all targets are rejected) and goes to 31 (which provides a minimal amount of ferrous rejection). Continuing past 31 is the All Metal setting which will cause all targets to be detected; however, they will all still be identified visually and audibly, which is a search mode used by some hunters.
Another user-induced change was the removal of the icons on the Dual Digital screen which allowed for the actual numbers to be made slightly largernot sure why, but all text or numbers seem to be getting smaller over the years (of course age cant have anything to do with that!). Those using that screen to hunt or check targets will appreciate the increased digit size.
Field Test After a few checks in the test garden and some comparison against my Explorer XS and II models, I set off to put the new SE through its paces at several local sites that date back to the 1800s and have seen more than a few detectors scanning across their grounds.
The first was a pair of vacant lots near downtown York, South Carolina, that once held stately homes when cotton ruled the area. I searched this site a few times in the past and, while a few keepers did turn up that had been deep, there was a good deal of trash present from the old homes that created challenges. Starting out in the factory preset SmartFind settings and discrimination pattern, I let the SE automatically compensate for the ground conditions using Noise Cancel and started searching near the sidewalk along the street. Several non-repeatable chirps and bouncing target ID indications were easily recognizable as coming from rusted iron objects, and recovering several confirmed just that. On the second pass parallel to the street, I received a solid signal that registered in the upper right section of the screen typically a good indication that a keeper has been detected. Removing a deep plug, I checked the hole and the SE indicated the target was still thereright in the center. After carefully removing another few inches from the hole, I saw the unmistakable glint of silver in the dirt clod and breaking it open revealed a 1902 Barber dime from a good 8 depth.
Nothing of note other than a few pieces of twisted copper or brass turned up over the next few passes, however, even though they were worthless, the SE had produced easily identifiable responses to these items at depths up to 9 and from amongst the trash that littered the site. Another high-pitched tone, that moved the crosshairs to an area of the screen which typically produces copper coins, indicated a target near an old oak tree which was particularly challenging to recover, being covered by multiple layers of roots. As I checked it from different directions, I received a null (indicating a target was being rejected) in one direction. After several minutes of careful excavation, I pulled an 1897 Indian Head covered in a beautiful green patina. Rechecking the area in the Pinpoint mode, I received a signal from another target - this one ferrous - in the edge of the hole. From 4 down, I pulled a rusted bolt free which had been less than 2 inches from the Indian Head - proof of the SEs capabilities to hunt difficult sites thanks to the FBS circuitry and the Double-D search coil. The next area I visited was an older park that contained some of the most challenging ground conditions I have ever come across. I have had a few manufacturing reps and even one of Minelabs engineers to this site and even they admitted the ground was unusual in composition and response. Tweaking the settings a bit, including dropping the sensitivity, using the Semi-Auto mode to aid in ground tracking, and running with minimal discrimination so that ground conditions would not potentially mask a good target, I Noise Canceled the SE and started hunting near a large tree. There was a fair amount of chatter in the form of clipped audio signals; however, since they did not repeat in any direction, I recognized them as being ground-induced. The first solid signal produced a fluctuating audio response and a corresponding bouncing visual indication that moved around in the lower center section of the screen. Glancing at the target depth icon, it showed a depth of ~4. Cutting a plug and folding it back; I could see a dirt-covered coin sticking out of the bottom. Pulling it free, I saw a Buffalo nickel in well-worn condition. While a 4 deep Buffalo nickel may not seem impressive in anyones book, recovering anything old or deeper than 1 or 2 inches at this location is a standout event. While I typically dig all targets during a field test session, I believe the faster processor allowed the cursor to track the audio response better than previous Explorers, and made deciding to recover the target more certain than might otherwise have been the case. Another hour searching a small section of this park netted a few clad coins, two car keys and a 1936 Wheat cent, which, based on past experience, was a good day. The Wheat had been a tad deeper than the Buffalo nickel had been, yet had provided a solid, repeatable definite dig signal. One is never sure if there are more keepers even deeper; however, Explorers have produced more from this site than others have found using a wide range of other detectors and the SE continued the tradition.
As the deadline for the field test report approached, I visited several other locations, most of which were a lot newer than the first few yet contained a plentiful number of targets. The Explorer SE was just as at home in these locations and creating discrimination patterns to cherry pick select targets such as higher denomination coins and, in one case, gold jewelry, netted me close to $25 in change along with two nice gold rings in areas where detectorists are often seen searching.
Summary The new Explorer SE demonstrates how a metal detector series can continue to evolve as available technology improves and is incorporated into an already proven design. While some of the changes found on the SE may be subtle, it does offer users different features and simplified operation than its predecessors with no increase in price. The overall weight and balance may still be of concern to some; however, the impressive performance it provides in the field makes that a trade-off well worth considering. The SE is a detector that will satisfy the needs of even the most demanding treasure hunter for years to come, yet is simple enough to be used by a novice just getting into the hobby who is looking for a top-of-the-line detector.
The Explorer SE retails for $1,395 and comes with a two-year parts and labor (one year on the coil) warranty with service handled by the US repair center. It comes standard with a NiMH battery / 120v charger, alkaline battery holder and a set of collapsible Koss headphones designed for the Explorer.
For the name of your nearest dealer, more information on the Explorer SE, or any of the other detectors in the Minelab line, contact Minelab USA, 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 in Lost Treasure.