Metal Detector Field Test & Review
By Andy Sabisch
From Page 44
August, 2010 issue of Lost Treasure
Originally founded in 1950 to build Geiger counters for the unfolding uranium boom, and transitioning to metal detectors in 1958, White’s Electronics has become one of the most widely recognized names in the metal detecting industry worldwide.
Family owned and operated since day one, the philosophy that started the company - “Give the customers quality and value, treat your employees like you would like to be treated and the future will be bright” - has remained constant over the decades and is readily apparent in the wide range of cutting edge detectors they continue to produce and the blue-ribbon customer support they provide.
In early 2009, White’s introduced a detector that set a new standard against which other metal detectors would be measured.
This detector – the Spectra V3 – took the metal detecting industry by storm and the investment made by White’s before its release was clearly evident.
Not resting on their laurels, the engineers gathered feedback from end-users and, after additional extensive in-field testing, took the V3 to the next level in terms of usability and performance by introducing the Spectra V3i.
The new Spectra V3i is an evolutionary change to its predecessor that utilizes the ability to improve performance via software upgrades, which was a capability, designed into the V3 as it first came off the drawing board.
Not only did the ability to improve performance and functionality through programming provide the engineers with a tool that expanded the possibilities of future development, but it benefited the consumer in that a detector would not be obsolete soon after it was purchased (more on that benefit in the Summary section).
Following the philosophy of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” the White’s design team kept the proven features of the original Spectra V3 as the foundation for the V3i – adding several new features that provide real benefits to the end user.
The Spectra V3i is a state-of-the-art detector that is unique in that it can operate on three separate frequencies simultaneously for optimal all-purpose hunting, or on any one of the three frequencies when enhanced performance for specific applications is desired.
The frequencies and the type of targets they are optimized for are: 2.5 kHz (copper & silver), 7.5 kHz (brass or simply general hunting), and 22.5 kHz (nickel, gold or small targets).
As with all White’s detectors, assembly is a snap and, even with the rugged metal control housing, the V3i is extremely well balanced, allowing for hours of tireless operation in the field.
One of the first features one notices on the Spectra line is the easy-to-read, high-definition COLOR LCD screen atop the handgrip. Thanks to the talented software engineers, the V3i provides users with a wealth of information in an easy-to-use format, incorporating intuitive icons, user-customizable menu and display options and a built-in reference manual.
The last feature was added based on feedback received since the V3 was introduced and provides instant assistance in the field when one has a question as to what a specific option or adjustment is used for. Another innovative feature (especially for us that might need longer arms for reading) is the ZOOM function, which provides four levels of magnification for the text on the screen. You can zoom in and out of any menu or help screen as needed with the touch of one pad.
Both the screen and the touchpads used to make adjustments are “glow in the dark,” allowing the V3i to be used under all lighting conditions, which is extremely useful if you hunt sites that are too crowded during the day or find yourself in a “hot spot” you don’t want to leave as the sun starts to set.
The V3i provides users their choice of multiple screens for use in displaying target information. When searching in any of the three frequency programs, the SignaGraph display shows you which frequency is providing the strongest response, which helps define what the object is made of.
This frequency response is also provided on the Sweep Analysis as well as the new Vector Analysis screen in different ways, allowing you to pick the one that best “clicks” with your personal preferences. A number ranging from -95 (highly ferrous) to +95 (highly non-ferrous) is shown on all screens, providing additional information to aid in identifying targets.
An innovative feature first introduced on the V3 is that there are different libraries of icons, which can be selected based on the type of target(s) you are searching for. This allows different icons to appear; i.e., coins, relics, prospecting, etc., based on the particular program being used.
Holding the trigger in the rear position activates the PINPOINT mode and target depth is displayed on the screen. No motion is required to detect targets in this mode and the center section changes to provide signal strength on each of the operating frequencies, which is helpful when trying to pinpoint a good target amongst trash.
The ability to fine-tune the V3i may seem intimidating at first to some would-be users, since virtually any setting can be adjusted for optimal performance and personal preference; however, the engineers at White’s created the nine base programs using input from many seasoned hunters around the world.
Combine that starting point with a well-written owner's guide, an instructional DVD, and several active Internet forums that will help reduce the learning curve on the Spectra, and one can start using it to make first-rate finds right out of the box.
In addition, not only can any setting be adjusted, but changes to the specific colors used on individual screens, tonal response from individual targets, icons displayed for specific targets or groups of targets, as well as program names, can be made and saved.
Any of the changes one makes can be stored in the on-board library with unique names and recalled for later use; don’t worry about fouling up any of the factory programs as they can be reloaded with just a few keystrokes.
If you are still just looking at the V3i, visit White’s website and download a copy of the Owners Guide, which will get you started on the road to understanding it before you pick up your new detector. NOTE: All programs and settings are retained even when the battery pack is removed.
Other new features found on the V3i not described in this report include five different language options, making it truly a detector for use anywhere in the world, a Prospecting Scan display, which shows ground mineralization beneath the coil in real-time, aiding prospectors in locating areas most likely to contain precious metals, continuous indication of the search mode, program in-use and other options selected, and the ability to tell the detector what type of soil you are planning to search in so that internal processing changes can optimize performance automatically.
The V3i comes equipped with the 10” D2 Double-D search coil designed for general use, particularly in highly mineralized soil. Six optional coils are available from White’s that expand the versatility of the V3i and come in both concentric as well as Double-D designs.
A new feature on the V3i is the ability to “tell” it what coil is being used via an easily-accessible menu option, which in turn optimizes the detector’s performance and calibrates the depth indication based on the coil in-use.
An accessory that was introduced on the original V3 and carried over to the V3i is its unique wireless headphone capability. Have you ever stepped on your headphone cord as you stood up after recovering a target or had them pulled from your head after the cord was snagged on a tree branch?
With the optional wireless headphones, those issues have become a thing of the past. A side-benefit of the wireless system is that you can have multiple users listening to one V3i if a training session is desired. Conventional corded headphones as well as the built-in speaker can also be used.
The V3 comes with two drop-in battery packs – a NiMH rechargeable pack (with charging stand) and one designed to hold eight AA batteries. The standard charger provides for trickle charging so the NiMH pack can be left on the charger without worrying about damaging it. The NiMH pack provides 10-12 hours on a charge. The type of battery in-use can be selected from the menu for more accurate monitoring.
The first site I took the V3i to was a local park with a large playground area frequented by mothers and children. I chose it not so much to push the V3i to the limit in terms of performance, but to familiarize myself with some of the new features, as well as try the Loop Selection option with a few of the optional coils I had for my original V3 and DFX. The basic COIN & JEWELRY program was selected and, after quickly ground balancing the V3i, I headed off to see what might turn up.
Before the two words in that last sentence – ground balancing - gets readers worried, the V3i has a highly accurate automatic ground tracking circuit; however, it is recommended you start out by quickly balancing the detector.
This is done by holding the trigger switch, pressing the ENTER touchpad, and pumping the coil up and down until the threshold remains constant…release and start hunting – what could be easier?
I spent three hours at this location and, other than a few “tweaks” to options, such as SENSITIVITY (targets were not very deep so lower values provided less falsing), GROUND FILTERS (I prefer a slower sweep speed so a lower setting was used) and RX GAIN (nearby high voltage power line interference was easily eliminated with a lower value), I used the stock settings the entire time.
The V3i was stable and the accuracy of the target ID and depth indications was “dead-on” virtually every time. Switching coils and checking marked signals, I saw that, by using the LOOP SELECTION menu option, the target ID (on all three screens) and depth indications were optimized to the coil in-use. Almost 45 coins, keys, matchbox cars, and a 10KT child’s ring wound up in my pouch.
The new stereo Mixed Mode audio option was one that caught my attention for some of my relic hunting sites. Almost any site containing relics also contains ferrous “trash” that challenges any detectorist regardless of the specific detector they use. If you hunt in all metal, the noise tends to overwhelm you and, if you increase discrimination, you stand the chance of missing a find due to target masking (signals from unwanted items over-riding those from good targets).
This new mode actually allows one to hear all metal targets under the coil in one ear and those accepted based on the Discrimination level selected in the other. While it takes a little practice to get used to, it lets the user decide if a target is worth recovering rather than the detector.
It also is a great tool when scouting out new sites, in that you can identify ferrous targets, which indicate human habitation, and then slow down to find the non-ferrous targets, such as coins, buttons, and bullets.
I visited three sites to try out this search mode, including one from the early 1800’s, one from the early 1900’s, and a small Civil War campsite. While the settings I selected differed between the sites, based on the ground conditions, the stereo Mixed Mode option worked like a champ.
For example, the campsite was littered with nails and boot tacks; however, the V3i easily picked out several non-ferrous targets including four Minie balls, a General Service coat button, and camp lead at impressive depths from amongst the iron.
Similar results were experienced at the other sites and I could see that, for relic hunting (and possibly coin hunting in areas with high concentrations of trash), the stereo Mixed Audio option could be the trick to making some super finds.
As a side note, two of the sites were heavily overgrown with new growth and the advantage of the wireless headphones was quickly recognized. Having hunted sites like this in the past with corded headphones, I would have been forced to hunt without headphones had I not been using the V3i’s wireless set.
Over the next two weeks I had the opportunity to take the V3i to a few well-hunted sites in the surrounding area, as well as a pair of old homes I had received permission to search.
At one old park in a neighboring town, I bumped up the RX Gain and Sensitivity to just below where the V3i started to false; i.e., “pushing-the-envelope” so to speak. The target response on extremely deep targets was a bit different than what a coin at, say, 2” would produce, but by squeezing the extra performance from the detector I was able to find several coins at 8” to 11” from areas I know I had searched diligently in the past.
On the V3, I preferred the Analyze Screen over the SignaGraph display as, visually, it provided information that helped me identify targets and determine which were worth recovering. The V3i added the Vector Analysis screen as another way to display the information being processed by the circuitry. At an older school, a section of one field was littered with rusted nails that, on most detectors, registered as a coin. Opting to see if the Vector screen would help distinguish the nails from keepers, I scrolled through the menu and made the requisite changes.
After digging several nails to confirm the “looping” display in fact indicated a ferrous target, I slowed my sweep speed and scanned a heavily infested section of the field. After a few hours of working this area, I had seven wheat cents and three silver dimes, which was more than I had found in five previous trips with other detectors.
At one of the private homes, I opted for the Deep Silver program, which utilizes only the 2.5kHz frequency, to focus on higher conductive targets. Making a few adjustments to the stock program, it worked well and, once again, several wheat cents, four silver dimes and a silver quarter were recovered. The versatility of the V3i and being able to tailor it to fit literally any site you come across is something not seen on other detectors currently on the market.
Throughout my testing I made extensive use of the Live Controls feature to adjust several of the factory-preset programs in the field. When a target was detected, I could scroll through the various options at the bottom of the screen and, as I swept the coil back-and-forth, adjust the detector to optimize the response received on a real-time basis.
Once the detector was “dialed-in” for optimal performance, a few taps on the touchpads allowed me to save the new setting with a name of my choosing (thanks to the pop-up keyboard on the LCD screen) and then retrieve it in the future...another useful feature found only on the Spectra series!
With the space constraints of this article, there are a number of features I was not able to cover in detail; however, this information, along with details of my in-field experiences and specific adjustments made in the course of the testing, are provided in the Subscribers section of the Lost Treasure website.
White’s Electronics has clearly seen the advantages of incorporating state-of-the-art computer technology into their metal detectors, with the Spectra flagship being an impressive example of how the customer benefits from this in the field.
Featuring a rugged yet lightweight construction, enhanced options, and improved performance under adverse conditions, the V3i builds on the reputation of the original Spectra V3 and clearly has set a bar against which other detectors will be measured.
Owners of the V3 can have it upgraded to a V3i for a nominal charge; White’s sees the benefit of continually improving their detectors while not forcing customer to purchase a new detector, and installing a new version of the software and performing some in-factory tuning will keep the user at the cutting edge in terms of technology and performance.
I found the factory preset programs provided me with an effective starting point that produced a number of keepers from impressive depths at well hunted sites; however, with precise adjustments at specific sites, I was able to obtain even more performance in terms of depth and target identification and then save the settings as custom programs.
The V3i comes with the standard 2-year transferable warranty, two battery systems and an instructional DVD. It retails for $1,799.95 with the wireless SpectraSound headphones, or $300 less without them. A full line of accessories and optional coils are available.
Contact the factory at 1011 Pleasant Valley Road, Sweet Home, OR 97386, (800) 547-6911, or visit www.WhitesElectronics.com for more information; be sure to mention you read about it in Lost Treasure Magazine.