White's Electronics Surfmaster P.I. Pro
For more than 35 years, water hunting has been one of my favorite forms of treasure hunting. I started searching fresh water lakes and ocean beaches around New York City in the early 1970s, and while the equipment available today wasnt even on the drawing boards yet, those of us that ventured into the shallow water found a virtual gold mine in many places. One of the first truly waterproof detectors I purchased was a Whites TR Amphibian. Over the ensuing years I have used a number of different detectors from most major manufacturers and there has always been a Whites detector in my arsenal. Two of my water detectors are Whites the BeachHunter I.D. and the original Surf P.I. and I have made a number of nice finds with them over the years. When I was contacted by Lost Treasure to conduct a field test on the latest version of the Surf P.I. Pro I agreed and anxiously awaited the arrival of the unit in order to put it through its paces.
Beach and water hunting is truly the final frontier when it comes to treasure hunting, after all, there are more pieces of jewelry waiting to be found on beaches than all other land sites combined and in areas still in use, goodies are continually being replenished! White's Electronics was one of the pioneers in the waterproof-detector market and has continually worked on improving existing products in their line to ensure detectorists have the advantage of state-of-the-art technology in their equipment. The Surfmaster P.I. Pro has been in the Whites line-up for a few years now; however, they have recently made some additional enhancements to a proven performer which can give users an edge over machines even a year or two old. Pulse Induction detectors (PI for short) have been available for decades and this circuit has been recognized as being able to handle salt water and black sand with ease. Unlike the reduced sensitivity and chattering found on most VLF detectors, PI units could search even the most difficult of sites and find deeply buried targets. Despite this major advantage over VLF detectors, PI units did have a few flaws that caused many treasure hunters to pause and reconsider buying one. These included a very slow sweep speed for optimal operation, limited sensitivity to low-to-mid range conductivity targets such as gold jewelry and an audio response that sounded like a fire truck on steroids. Well, the engineers at Whites listened to the end-user and worked on developing a PI detector that offered all the inherent advantages of a pulse unit while addressing the negatives most people perceived it had. After a considerable amount of development and testing, the Surfmaster PI Pro was introduced several years ago and subsequent refinement resulted in the latest version which is the basis of this report. The biggest changes that Whites has made to the PI circuit have been an increased sensitivity to targets in the mid-conductivity range, such as yellow and white gold and platinum, addition of a Quick Target Recovery circuitry which allows one to separate targets in areas where numerous targets are closely packed, improved performance under the most challenging conditions, and an audio system that sounds almost like a conventional VLF detector. The electronics are contained in a robust, time-tested waterproof housing that can either be mounted on the shaft or unclipped and hip-mounted to reduce the weight of the detector when searching for extended periods. The case is waterproof down to 100 feet which is more than sufficient for any diving application recreational or professional. The headphones and search coil are hardwired into the control housing to ensure the electronics remain dry even at rated depth. The search coil on the standard version now utilizes the case of the coil found on the Matrix M6 and has been designed to offer improved performance and better shielding of the coil itself. If you plan on diving or wading extensively with the PI Pro, you can order it with a weighted search coil. The Surfmaster PI Pro is controlled through two dual-purpose knobs on the side of the control housing. The GAIN control turns the detector on and adjusts the unit's overall sensitivity. The TUNER control is used to adjust the audio threshold or background hum heard through the waterproof headphones and, when turned fully counter-clockwise, activates the battery test circuitry. The strength of the resulting tone will indicate the relative strength of the batteries. Both controls have PRESET marks to enable users to get up and running quickly under most conditions. Unlike many other PI detectors, the Surfmaster can be swept at speeds ranging from a slight movement to almost as fast as a VLF-type detector with no loss of sensitivity or signal response. The Surfmasters SAT (Self-Adjusting Threshold) circuitry automatically maintains the selected threshold without any adjustments even if ground conditions change significantly. The PI Pro is powered by 8 AA batteries mounted inside the waterproof control housing. Alkaline batteries will provide 25-30 hours of operation. Rechargeable batteries can be used with no adverse affect and will produce 10+ hours of use per charge.
The one drawback with Pulse Induction detectors is that they do not air-test well; i.e., they detect far deeper on targets in the ground, and as a result, many people are turned-off by the perceived performance of a PI unit when getting a demonstration of one. Recognizing this limitation, I ran a number of targets past the coil to see how it responded to targets of different size and composition. I was glad to see that even pieces of jewelry produced solid signals since these are the types of targets beach and water hunters search for. Having relatives in Charleston makes it easy to justify a trip to the beaches there for some testing. The winter season was just winding down and, as a result, the beaches had been sparsely populated and well hunted for months. Despite these less-than-positive conditions, I knew a quality detector combined with good ole fashioned luck could still produce some good finds. One of my favorite beaches to hit whenever I am in Charleston is Folly Beach. It offers miles of sand which are heavily used throughout the warmer months. It also provides a challenging environment in which to test detectors due to the heavy concentration of black sand present. Arriving a few hours before low tide, I parked south of the famous Folly Beach Fishing Pier and unpacked my gear. Starting at the surf line, I turned the Surfmaster on, adjusted the threshold to a gentle hum and increased the GAIN to a point halfway between preset and max. Lowering the coil to the wet sand produced no change in the threshold thanks to the S.A.T circuit and I headed off searching parallel to the water. Despite the lack of use the beach had experienced since the previous summer, targets were turning up with more-than-expected frequency. Most were fairly shallow; i.e., 5 inches or less, but deeper ones turned up as well. Three nickels were recovered at depths approaching 10 inches and, based on the fact they were similar in conductivity to gold targets, I felt certain if I passed the coil across a ring, the PI Pro would detect it. A few hours searching this location turned up more than 60 coins including a Buffalo nickel and two Sacagawea dollars, several keys, some costume jewelry and two keepers - a gold crucifix and a thin 14KT wedding band. Many of the targets showed signs of having been buried for extended periods of time and had been as deep as 14 inches in the sand. Over the next few days I hunted the beaches at Kiawah and Edisto Islands and found the Surfmaster PI Pro easily handled the salt / black sand conditions with ease and detected targets at depths similar to what I had found on Folly Beach. While I only fond three more pieces of gold during my trip to Charleston, based on the time of year and the fact that all of the sites had been hunted for months before I arrived, I was happy with the results of the testing. The only comment I need to make, one that applies to all PI units, is that due to the inherent affinity pulse detectors have to ferrous targets, I did recover a fair amount of items such as fish hooks, wire and sparklers. With a little practice one can discern a difference in the response from a coin or piece of jewelry and a long ferrous item which can reduce some digging, but there will be iron trash in your pouch at the end of day...simply accept that fact and realize it is a small trade-off based on the overall ease of operation and stable operation obtained under challenging conditions provided by a PI unit.
Whites Electronics has been building quality metal detection equipment since the 1950s when the company was founded by Ken and Olive White, and the newest version of the Surfmaster PI Pro obviously incorporates that philosophy which has kept Whites as a leader in the industry for more than 50 years. The Surfmaster PI Pro is a detector well suited for beach hunters, waders or divers that search sites containing even the most adverse conditions and want a detector that provides above average performance with minimal adjustments. While lacking discrimination as do all PI-based detectors, the Surfmaster PI Pro will find targets at impressive depths and, since target recovery is typically much easier on a beach than in a manicured lawn, the additional targets one recovers is offset by the quality of the keepers that are often found in beach and water locations. The Surfmaster PI Pro lists for $699 with either the standard or weighted search coil, and both models come with the standard 24-month transferable parts and labor warranty. Accessories worth considering include the coil cover, instructional video and dive rod kit, if you plan on doing any diving. For the name of your nearest authorized dealer or to request information on the entire line of quality detectors and accessories produced by White's Electronics, write the factory at 1011 Pleasant Valley Rd., Sweet Home, OR 97386, call them at 1-800-547-6911, or visit them online at http://www.WhitesElectronics.com and be sure to mention you read about their P.I. detector in Lost Treasure Magazine.