The original White's Eagle, introduced in 1987, was revolutionary; the new Eagle II is evolutionary. It's the result of almost a year's worth of extensive field use of the Eagle I.
Though the two instruments at first glance appear to be identical, the difference is created by a new silicone chip which resides deep within the control box and makes the Eagle II a much improved and more versatile version of the original.
It can be anything from a simple yet effective start-up- and-search coinshooter with automatic ground balancing, to the most complex and versatile land detector being made today. In fact, it's really three detectors in one.
As with the Eagle I, White's has conducted a series of all-day, comprehensive seminars for its dealers and their sales people to explain the features of the Eagle II before they attempt to sell them. I attended one of these as a member of the working press, so that when I received an instrument for field testing I was already familiar with it.
The Eagle II was packed in the usual shock-resistant shipping carton that I've come to expect from White's. Assembly was quick and easy and required no tools.
One improvement that was evident in the Eagle II at once was that the lower section of the stem, which slides easily into the upper section, is made of nylon to provide maximum insulation for the coil; both sections of the Eagle I's stem are aluminum. Although it has somewhat more flexibility than aluminum, I didn't experience any unacceptable bending, even when searching in tall grass,
Some care must be taken to wind the connector cable snugly around the pole, again to ensure maximum isolation. This is important but not difficult, and the exact method of doing it is clearly shown in the accompanying 72-page instruction book This is not exclusive to the Eagle H, or even to White's. As detector sensitivities have increased, most manufactures have declared war on the dangling coil cable.
The standard coil itself is a big improvement. White's Blue Max- 950 (9 1/2 inch) deep scan, open-center coil is standard on the Eagle II, rather than the familiar White's standard closed-center coil, eight inch concentric loop, which came with the original Eagle.
I was very happy to see this, partly because I've become partial to open-center coils. It's very easy to eyeball. the target's exact location after pinpointing and to stick a probe in the ground there before moving the coil aside for serious digging - thus often saving a lot of needless poking around. In addition, White's claims that the Blue Max has about 30% more sensitivity and, consequently, depth than the standard coil, and I believe it.
Just to see what would happen, I took the Eagle II to an area that I thought I'd cleaned out field testing the Eagle I (Lost Treasure, Aug. 1987) and, using the same pair of earphones, I was able to find four more coins, unfortunately all clads. Since they were all at just about the maximum depth of the meter, it wasn't much of a help in pinpointing. I found that, as with the Eagle I, the audio alone did a more than adequate job in the pinpoint mode.
Although the Eagle II has more sensitivity built into it than the Eagle I, I wasn't able to use anything like full sensitivity with either detector due to ground mineralization, so I attribute the increased performance at least mostly to the Blue Max.
Other than the stem, the coil and the lettering on the control box the Eagle II appears to be identical to the first Eagle and is similar in configuration to the other White's Pro series detectors. Both have a rectangular, blue control box with a handle fitted to the top, a V.D.I. (Visual Discrimination Indication) meter projecting from the handle, and a pinpointing and retuning switch mounted to the meter casing within easy finger reach of the handle.
The meter is identical in appearance to that of the original Eagle: a rectangular L.C.D. (Liquid Crystal Display) surrounded on three sides by 14 clearly marked key-pad switches similar to those found on some touch-tone telephones The fourth side is a lamp that can be turned on for after-dark searching. The key-pad switches replace the usual control box knobs and buttons and then some. On the Eagle II, several have more than one function.
The meters on both of the Eagle detectors have divided the target responses into 95 increments, starting with 00 as iron and working up through familiar items of junk and modern US. coinage to a dollar in the 91-95 range.
Almost all detectors with analog (moving needle) meters have a reference scale, often marked from 0 to 100, to help the operator identify frequently encountered targets. But, because of the small size of the numbers, it is useful mainly in bench testing. Some treasure hunters use their depth scale for the same purpose while searching 'because the numbers are usually larger.
The numbers on the Eagle's L.C.D. display, however, are 1/4 inch high (about the height of two lines of type on this page) and proportionately wide. They are easy to read while searching and are accompanied by probable target identifications, such as PULL TAB or NICKEL, which appear on the screen in the range where these items usually come in. I found them to be quite accurate although, understandably, not 100%.
The display has another useful feature which, to my knowledge, no other detector has. White's calls it "Two Quadrant V.D.I." It divides ferrous metal into 96 increments which show up on the screen as the usual V.D.I. numbers, but is accompanied by the word LOW, thus providing a full scale from LOW 96-0-95.
One of the problems with all metal detectors with probable I.D. is that all ferrous metal targets read out as IRON, be they a building nail or something of real value. On the Eagle II, the LOW scale makes it possible to differentiate 'between iron junk and goodies and often between magnetic hot rocks and small gold nuggets. The Eagle I has this feature, but it's somewhat cumbersome to turn on. By contrast, when the Eagle H is in a search program where two quadrant V.D.I. is really helpful, it's automatically on.
Starting up is simple. The coil angle should be set so that it will be parallel to the ground and in a comfortable search position. The trigger switch is in the center position for the whole start-up sequence. The detector is turned on by pushing the ON/OFF control once. All of the display items will be visible on the screen briefly and will then fade; this is a type of self-test common to a number of computers. If nothing appears, it probably means that the batteries should be replaced (alkaline) or recharged (ni-cad).
When the display clears, an outline of a detector pointing upwardwill appear along with the letter A next to the AUDIO MODE control. You can now choose which of three types of detectors you'll be using. The letter A indicates that it's set up for coin & jewelry searching.
Pressing AUDIO MODE again replaces A with the letter B. This shows that the Eagle II is now programmed for prospecting (nugget shooting) relic hunting.
Pressing AUDIO MODE again will replace B with C, indicating that the beach hunting program is in place.
The choice is the operator's its just that quick and simple to make. If the detector is going to be used for coin hunting, it isn't necessary to make any selection.
The next step is setting the automatic ground balancing. The coil is raised to waist level and the AIR control is pushed. The detector will emit either a single beep or a multi-note one. If it's multi-note, it means that there's some kind of interference, and it's necessary to move around and keep pressing AIR until a good, Solid single beep is heard.
At this point, the outline of the detector pointing up will fade and be replaced with one showing the coil on the ground. The coil is now placed on the ground and the GND control pressed. The Eagle II should give a good, solid beep. If a multi-tone beep is heard, it means that the coil is over a target or that there is so little mineralization present that the pre-set ground balancing is sufficient.
If moving to another location and pressing GND again produces a multi-tone beep, it means that the latter is probably the case and should be ignored. When the outline of White's trademark (logo) appears at the bottom center of the screen, the detector is ready for searching to begin.
This is a good time to check the batteries, and the Eagle II offers a precise method of doing so. Pressing LAMP will bring the actual voltage correct to 1/10 of a volt onto the screen for as long as the control is pressed. There is no decimal point. The number 48 is read as 4.8, a good working voltage for rechargeable ni-cads. Fresh alkalines will read 60, or 6.0 volts. An internal voltage regulator allows either type to be used.
If voltage falls too low during operation, about 4.2 volts, LOW BAT will appear on the screen. Voltage can be checked any time during searching simply by pressing and holding LAMP. This turns on the lamp, located at the o of the screen, which is useful for after-dark searching.
If it's not desired to use the lamp and it does shorten battery life, it can be turned off by briefly pressing LAMP again.
As mentioned before, the Eagle II is really three detectors in one thanks to the choice of one of the three search programs selected before ground balancing. The notch discriminator and the other basic operational controls are set up for the intended use.
The audio discriminator, pre-set to an appropriate program, is on for coin and jewelry searching and for beachcombing, but not for prospecting and relic hunting, where ALL METALS is the desired mode.
The LOW scale on the meter isn't used for coin and jewelry searching since any ferrous metal would be of little interest; all such targets simply read 00 IRON.
Any. of the pre-sets for each search program, with the exception of the notch discriminator, can be altered by the yellow "secondary" controls to suit the needs of the operator.
A black bar on the screen next to DISC ON (a 'prompt" in computer lingo) indicates that the audio discriminator is on. Pressing this control shuts it off, shifting the Eagle II to a non-motion, ALL METALS mode, and the prompt disappears. Pressing DISC ON again turns it back on and the prompt reappears.
Similarly, pressing AUTOTRAC, which is used in all three search programs, shuts it off and the prompt next to it disappears; pressing it again turns it back on and brings back the prompt. I don't think this will be done very often because AUTOTRAC does a fine job of adjusting to changing ground mineralization and has been very successful on the Eagle I and on the Liberty Di and 6000 Di/Pro, which preceded it.
Once the Eagle II been ground balanced and is ready for searching, successively pressing AUDIO MODE will bring up the letters A, B, or C next to it Just the way it showed these letters after the detector was turned on, now it selects one of three audio modes.
A mode, the initial setting, is the familiar threshold hum. B mode is silent search. C mode is audible threshold, but operates in two different ways: When the discriminator is on, it produces a high-pitched beep for accepted targets and a lower-pitched beep for rejected ones. When the discriminator is off and the Eagle H is in ALL METALS mode, it beeps at the lower pitch for all targets.
SENS controls the Eagle II's sensitivity. Successively pressing it will bring up the numbers 1 through 7 next to it. Seven is maximum, two levels higher than on the Eagle I. In the Prospecting & Relic and Beach programs, it starts out at 4; in the Coin & jewelry program it begins at 3. As with all metal detectors, searching at the maximum sensitivity the terrain will allow is most desirable.
The VOL UP, VOL DOWN controls threshold volume. The lowest level consistent with the operator's hearing is best. A bar graph indicating volume level appears next to the controls. One bar is minimum, eight is maximum.
The bar graph has a second very important function. Searching is done with the trigger switch in the center position and squeezed for pinpointing. This shifts the mode to ALL METALS non-motion, and the screen reads in depth up to 9 1/ 2 inches. When the audio is at its highest volume, the target is directly under the center of the coil. This also shows up on the bar graph; the stronger the audio, the more bars.
So when X'ing the target, its location can be determined visually by noting at what point the greatest number of bars are seen. I found this to be a big help with weak targets, where the audio response can be deceptive, and it was much easier to read accurately than the needle of an analog meter.
I tried out all three search programs, making alterations only to SENS, to suit the terrain, and VOL, to adapt to my own hearing and the earphones I was using - just the way that any treasure hunter new to the Eagle H very likely would. They all worked better t the single pre-set program in the Eagle I did.
This was to be expected because the Eagle I's single program had to be adapted to a much broader range of targets than did the three programs in the Eagle II Moreover, the Eagle I's LOW quadrant had no pre-set accept/reject at all programmed into it.
In the Coin & jewelry program, it did a markedly better job of separating garbage and goodies in a couple of really trashy areas, although the Eagle Is performance in this respect was certainly admirable. I used the audio to pick up the targets and then consulted, the meter to find out what I had. I dug the good ones, marked the questionable or junk indications with golf tees and then went back and dug them all.
There were nothing but clad coins and a couple of dime store rings, but I had dug a minimum amount of trash thinking it' was something good and there were only two nickels misidentified as pull tabs.
The Prospecting & Relic program, just as pre-set into the Eagle II, gives the nugget shooter all the advantages of non-motion, ALL METALS searching, the traditional desirable search mode. At the same time it provides enough VISUAL discrimination to avoid a lot of wasted time digging hot rocks and ferrous metal trash, thanks to the LOW quadrant on the meter. The audio beeps on all targets, but the meter will only show readings from -19 to 95. Anything outside that range simply reads LOW.
During my shooting, which did ultimately yield a couple of small nuggets, I dug everything to verify the effectiveness of the programs.
There's a beach near where I live that's a good workout for any detector. It rarely draws huge multitudes and it's very well searched, so the finds aren't spectacular, but it's loaded with black sand - a real salt and pepper affair.
Lowering SENS to 3 from the pre-set 4 smoothed out the hum and eliminated false signals at the end of each swing. My searching produced a few clad coins, some right in the highest concentrations of black sand. The fact that there were any there at all is a reasonable indication that they'd been missed by other detectors.
The pre-set program in use can be altered precisely in any way the operator wants by use of the blue key-pad switches. The Eagle I uses the same method, but only on VDI numbers 0 through 95 On the Eagle H it runs the whole range from LOW 96-0-95.
One way to use the LRN ACC CLR and LRN REJ SET to teach the Eagle II to accept or reject actual samples is by passing them across the coil about four inches away from it.
Another method is to use EDIT control to scroll the discriminator program up or down and use CLR and SET controls to cause any individual VDI to accept or reject.
It's also possible to set up blocks of V.D.I. numbers to either accept of reject. This may seem complicated, but the instruction book gives very explicit directions and with the detector in hand to learn by doing, it took me about 15 minutes to become a reasonably good Eagle programmer.
The detector will retain the new program after it's shut off proving the battery voltage doesn't go below 3.6 or there isn't a battery in the compartment for more than 30 seconds. To get it back the next time the detector is turned on, the trigger should be squeezed and released as soon as the detector is turned on by the ON/OFF switch and before any other switch pad touched.
Other new features of the Eagle II are that squeezing and holding the trigger switch or locking it in the pinpoint (forward) introduces a second layer" function for each o the touchpad switches. AUTOTRAC turns on or off S.A.T. (Self Adjusting Threshold), which helps to provide a smooth threshold in rapidly changing mineralization.
DISC ON controls AUTO SENS, which helps to reduce false signals under the same conditions. VOL LIP and VOL DOWN control target response volume only to provide a maximum beep with a minimum hum. AUDIO MODE selects one of three audio response frequencies (high pitch, medium pitch, low pitch) to suit the operator's hearing ability.
EDITUP or EDITDOWN turns on yet another series of advanced functions which include such things as S.A.T. delay, elimination of reject V.D.I. numbers on the screen, a special bottle cap reject program and target response time - just to name a few.
Too expensive? Too complicated? These are criticisms I've heard, and my answer to both is a resounding NO. The Eagle II can be a simple turn-on, set-the-automatic-ground-balance-and-search coin shooter. If that's all it ever will be used for, it might not be worth its $789.95 list price.
Its real value is up to its owner: how much use is made of all the possibilities packed into the Eagle II. And, yes, it can be a very complex instrument just reading some of the descriptive literature might be enough to scare off a prospective buyer.
But to have one in hand, follow the well thought-out instructions and start experimenting with it is another matter entirely. It gets to be downright fascinating. White's is aware of this and, as with the Eagle I, its basic operating instructions are printed on the bottom of the control box for handy field reference. In addition, there is a little folder that fits in the battery compartment describing some of its more advanced functions.
There is another feature, unique to the Eagle series, that tends to make its price appropriate. The detectors are designed to be obsolescence-proof simply by replacing the memory chip. Already, the Eagle I can be up-dated to approximately an Eagle II for less than $100, and in time both will be able to incorporate any further advances the geniuses at the factory cook up.
For more information, contact Whiite's Electronics, Inc., Dept. LT 1101 Pleasant Valley Rd., Sweet Home, OR 97386; phone: 1-800-547-6911.