The patents are in place, the shrouds have been lifted, and finally after nearly 3 years of research and rumors, the long-awaited Garrett Infinium LS is here. For the past few months, this mysterious detector has been the topic of chat rooms and prospecting forum discussions all across the Internet. In all my years of detecting, I can hardly think of any other machine (besides the SD 2000) that has been as highly anticipated as this one.
Garrett Electronics carved a name for itself with the creation of their esteemed Groundhog line, known to many as the most revolutionary gold machines ever. Sure these early detectors were a bit awkward, noisy and only penetrated several inches, but few will deny the overwhelming impact they had on the worlds goldfields. That was back in the 1980s and since that time the Texas-based company has remained idle on the gold front. Many prospectors, myself included, have often wonderedwhy the long vow of silence? Whatever the reasons may be, one thing is for certain, Garrett has awoken from their 20-year slumber with guns blazing.
Blasting the ground at a whopping 730 pulses per second, the Infinium is outfitted with Garretts Advanced Pulse Induction (API) and has been specially designed for cutting through highly mineralized soil. Some of its exciting features are automatic ground tracking, enhanced discrimination, and audio target identification. It is recommended for prospecting, beach/diving, and coin/relic hunting.
An impressive feature of the Infinium is its ability to be customized. The control box can be mounted in a variety of different positions to suit the operators own preference. It may be used as a belt mount, under the cuff, under the stem, or placed above the stem. It comes standard with the 10 x 14 Power DD, a coil designed to cope with severe levels of ground mineralization. Its larger-than-average size provides ample ground coverage and depth, while still retaining moderate sensitivity to small targets. The open-face design also works to reduce the overall weight. The Infinium is powered by 8 AA batteries, which are housed in a sealed compartment at the rear of the control box. The expected life is anywhere from 10-15 hours.
With only 3 dials, this detector offers simplicity at its finest. It is so easy to use that anyone with a bit of detecting experience can become proficient in its operation within a matter of hours.
The Threshold Adjustment is used to set the base or background audio level. This knob also doubles as a Frequency Adjust. One thing that has plagued PI users over the years is external interference. This interference comes in many forms, be it radio transmissions, power lines, or from other detectors. The Infinium combats this nuisance by having the ability to alter its operating frequency. With only a turn of the dial, it is possible for the user to select between 32 different operating frequencies until the quietest one is found.
The main function of the Automatic Ground Track knob is to turn the detector OFF/ON, and to adjust the ground balance. It has four different positions; these are power, slow, lock and fast. The Slow and Fast positions are used to compensate for changing ground conditions. If, while hunting in the Lock position, you experience false signals or erratic behavior, you will need to ground balance the detector by selecting one of these two positions. Use Slow when only minor ground balance adjustments are needed. Use Fast when more severe adjustments are needed. When placed in the Lock position the detector no longer compensates for changing ground conditions, but rather remains locked in its current ground balance. This setting provides maximum depth and sensitivity and should be used whenever possible. The other positions will cause a slight loss of detection depth and sensitivity and should only be used when the detector is not properly balanced, or when ground conditions change so rapidly that constant reground balancing becomes a nuisance.
The Discrimination dial affects the way in which the detector responds to targets of varying composition. With zero discrimination the detector will achieve maximum detection depth, but will respond to all targets. As the level of discrimination increases, the amount of unwanted items (i.e., pull tabs, iron, etc.) detected decreases. A unique feature of the Infinium is its use of reverse discrimination. This is how it works. Once a target has been found in minimum discrimination, the discrimination dial is increased to its maximum level (Iron Check). If the target still produces a substantial signal there is a good chance it is iron. If the target has disappeared or weakened then its probably a desirable target.
Before beginning any discussions about the field test, I must clarify one thing. The new Garrett is a multi-purpose machine and can be used for a variety of different hunting applications. However, since my personal specialty is electronic prospecting, this field test was only concerned with the Infiniums ability to locate gold, specifically placer nuggets, in the highly mineralized soils of the southwest. It may very well be an excellent coin, relic, and diving machine, however, as far as this article is concerned, it was only evaluated on its prospecting merit.
Unfortunately, when I received the Infinium, it was smack dab in the middle of summertime. I was anxious to get out into the field with the new unit, but it was hard to bear the thought of detecting in a scorching 110 degrees. I decided that the cooler, high elevation goldfields were my best option. The first test location I chose holds the title as being Arizonas richest creek; the famous Lynx. Nestled in the foothills of the Northern Bradshaw Mountains, Lynx Creek has produced nearly 100,000 ounces of placer gold over the years. It was here that I decided to try my luck.
As I approached the creek, I noticed that someone had dug several trenches down to bedrock on one of the inside bends. They had obviously found something, so I figured this was an excellent place to begin. I powered up the Infinium, tuned it using the Slow position and began working the exposed bedrock. Although well balanced, the Infinium is a bit on the heavy side. Operators that plan on using it as a pole mount are likely to benefit by the addition of an arm-strap over the cuff and possibly a bungee cord. Veteran prospectors have been doing this for years, and I can think of no reason why these methods will not work with the Infinium.
The detector had no troubles coping with the mineralized country rock nor the occasional hot rock - the trash, however, was a different story. Even with the help of the discriminator, the concentration of trash in this portion of the creek was simply unbearable. I dont mind digging my fair share, but after 130+ years of mining activity, you can probably imagine how much rubbish had found its way into the belly of the creek. Although I wasnt able to glean any gold from this location, I did leave with a collection of bullets, several old buttons, a modern day penny and some valuable knowledge about the machines operation.
Not satisfied with the results at Lynx, I decided that I would have to brave the heat and venture further south into the desert. Approximately 30 miles southeast of Lynx is another large goldfield, commonly referred to as the Black Canyon. This auriferous region of the Sonoran desert is a beautiful place to visit and prospect, but should be avoided during the summer months, as daytime temperatures often exceed 100F, not to mention there are rattlesnakes galore.
I followed a rough, winding dirt road along the eastern bank of the canyon until I reached a high terrace. Hundreds of years ago, the river had washed over this spot depositing not only water-worn gravels, but gold nuggets as well. Although the patch had not given up anything larger than 1/4 oz. it was incredibly noisy ground and covered with iron rich hot rocksa perfect test site for the Infinium.
Once my snake chaps were securely fastened, I set off in search of the elusive metal. I didnt have to wait long before hitting my first target; there on top of the ground was a fresh .22 bullet, one of the few pieces of trash a discriminator is powerless against. A quick sweep of the area yielded a handful more; apparently someone had used the terrace as their personal backstop. I shifted to the backside and was pleased to find that this portion had been shielded from the target practicing. Moments before stopping to take a water break, I passed the coil over what I initially thought was a hot rock. I kicked the dark-colored stone out of the way and cautiously waved the coil back over the spotthe signal was still there. I had a good feeling, but decided to hear what the discriminator had to say before digging it out of the ground. When placed in the Iron Check position the target almost disappeared completely; things were definitely looking good. Nearly 6 inches of the blood-red soil had to removed before the target was coaxed from its hiding place. The moment of truth had arrived. Mixed in with the handful of stained earth was a lovely 7.2-gram chunk of desert gold.
I wondered if other clusters of rocks were potentially hiding nuggets, so I systematically began moving them out of the way. Most concealed nothing, but eventually the rock flipping business paid off. Tucked beneath one of them, at a depth of only 2 inches, was another gold nugget weighing in at around 1.5 grams. Just as I was about to do my second victory dance of the day, I glanced up and saw that the old saguaro beside me was swarming with beesprobably Africanized. Bee attacks have claimed at least five lives in Arizona since 1993 and I wasnt about to become number six. I quickly grabbed the detector, scrambled up the rocky slope and dove into the safety of my truck. Because it was already getting late and the enraged insects were clearly not about to abandon their hive, I decided to call it quitsthe terrace would have to wait until another day.
One of the things I liked most about the machine was its ease of operation. There are no bells & whistles or blinking lights here, just straight forward, easy-to-use controls. This is a no nonsense detector designed to be used by even the most inexperienced operator. Its ability to cope with noisy ground was also rather impressive. The API technology, coupled with the DD coil, eliminated the burden of constant re-ground balancing, even in the harshly mineralized conditions of the second test location. It was also effective at eliminating about 75 percent of the highly responsive hot rocks that blanketed the ground. Another point worth mentioning is its discrimination capabilities. As with all discriminators, accurately distinguishing between good and bad targets is difficult, if not impossible; however, the reverse discrimination technique proved effective at identifying most of the iron rubbish I encountered in the field. Be aware, that occasionally small iron trash may behave like a desirable target, and some desirable targets such as large gold nuggets may behave like iron. Because this machine is completely waterproof, it can be used in places where other detectors cannot. I think it would be a valuable tool for seeking out alluvial-type deposits or for hunting nuggets in shallow water. Prospectors living in regions such as Alaska, California, British Columbia, etc., will want to keep this machine in mind. Of course its selling price is another huge bonus. With an MSRP of only $1,250, the Infinium is one of the most affordable PI machines currently on the market.
The only minor complaints I had about the machine were the headphone jack, audio signal response, and to some extent the supplied DD coil. Since the Garrett doubles as an underwater machine, it requires a special headphone jack design. This machine is not compatible with other brands of headphones, so if you are planning a long expedition, it might be wise to purchase a backup pairjust in case. I also found the signal response a tad tricky. Instead of a sharp well-defined signal, the Infinium reacts to metallic objects with a much broader signal response, making it somewhat difficult to pinpoint the exact location of a target. This really isnt a major drawback, other than it will take some getting used to. Although its sensitivity towards small targets was not as good as I had hoped, I was impressed with the DDs ability to locate larger targets at depth. If you are working noisy ground, the supplied coil is the way to go, however, in areas where ground mineralization is lower, the optional monoloop coils will provide better performance. I did not have the opportunity to test these coils, however I have spent many years swinging monos and will guarantee that although a bit noisier, the use of these coils will substantially increase both sensitivity and detection depth.
Im sure the big question on every prospectors mind is, How does the Infinium fare against the SD and GP series detectors? After giving the subject much consideration, I finally decided that a field test is not the place to make such comparisons. Given the limited amount of time I got to spend with this unit and the fact I wasnt able to test it with a monoloop, I feel it is inappropriate to draw such hasty conclusions. More importantly than its performance against existing machines is that for the first time in seven years, detectorists, namely prospectors, have a viable option when it comes to choosing a Pulse Induction machine. Better yet, it is my hope that this new competitor may help bring about the development of even more innovative technology, ultimately providing nugget hunters everywhere with the very best equipment possible. After all, it has been said that competition promotes creativity.
What I can tell you is that the development of such an advanced detector by any company is truly a monumental achievement. Its ability to cut through mineralization, its ease of operation, and incredible price all stack up to make the Infinium a serious contender. If you are thinking of breaking into the exciting world of PI machines, I would suggest giving this detector consideration before making a purchase, as it is undoubtedly Garretts finest gold machine ever.
For more information on the new Infinium LS, please contact the factory at: Garrett Electronics, Inc., 1881 W. State St., Garland, TX 75042-6797, 1-800-527-4011, or visit them on the web at www.garrett.com.