The Aquanaut: Fisher's 1280-x
By Jerry Pattee
From Page 20
May, 1986 issue of Lost Treasure

It took the people at Fisher Research Laboratory three years research and development to come up with the 128O-X Aquanaut. All that time and effort has paid off. A pioneer in metal detector technology, Fisher Research has come up with one of the first completely automatic underwater metal detectors.
What really makes the 1280-X different from most other underwater metal detectors on the market is its simplified automatic operation. Although it has three external, adjustable controls-power on-off/volume, battery test/sensitivity, VLF full range discrimination-the majority of its electronics are fully automated and electronically stable, made possible by a high-quality, drift-free 2.4 KHz quartz crystal and 100% electro-static-insulated circuits in addition to Fisher's already highstandard electronics.
Outwardly, however, the new 1280-X offers automatic ground rejection and a fully-automatic silent scanning mode. These two features make the 1280-X one of the easiest underwater metal detectors on the market to use.
By automating some of the more technical aspects of their metal detector, Fisher has virtually eliminated one of the biggest problems encountered in using metal detection equipment of any kind-the necessary, and sometimes frequent, readjustment of key operator controls while the detector is being used.
One of the unique things about the 1280-X, from a user's point of view, is that this type of detector is what's known in the trade as a "motion" detector. What that means is the metal detector (or object being detected) must be in motion-however slightly-to generate a response from a detectable object.
Taken at face value, this "necessity" of motion to generate a response might be a bit puzzling for someone who has tried other types of detectors where motion was not required, or to someone who has never used a detector before. However, motion-type detectors generally have more pluses than minuses. In fact, the underlying reason for making the 1280-X a motion detector gives the detector its unique properties.
While the detector is being used, an advanced Fisher circuitry called "Pulsegate Unipolar Audio Processing" allows operation below the "Audio-Threshold Tone" while at the same time keeping the detector neatly in balance with its surroundings and, according to the manufacturer's specifications, insuring no loss of sensitivity while doing so. What this translates to is the detector's audio output remains semisilent while you search, and only responds positively when you pass the detector over a detectable item.
Other features of the 1280-X have also been well designed. The headset, a highly-advanced customdesigned Piezo Electric, and the detector's 8-inch concentric co-planar search coil are permanently wired to the control box to insure leakproof connections and positive electrical contact at up to depths of 250 feet in both fresh and salt water.
A conveniently mounted light emitting diode (LED) between the control knobs on the rear of the housing is used both as a battery check and visual target response indicator. A special desiccant, mounted around the LED in a clear plastic housing, will change from blue to pink should any moisture inadvertently find its way into the factory-sealed electronics housing.
Another nice touch to the 1280-X is the fact that this already versatile unit can be easily converted to a hipmount. Simply slide the control box housing off the top of the cushioned hand grip (no removal of fasteners and/or nuts and bolts is needed) and attach it to the belt clip that is included with the unit.
The lower fiberglass shaft can be extended or retracted to change the overall length of the unit from 33 inches to 48 inches. With shaft extended, and by utilizing the unit's standard 7-foot cord and belt clip the 1280-X can be used for shallow water wading or on dry land. Of course, the extra length could also come in handy when trying to reach some out of the way places while diving or snorkeling.
The unit itself is constructed of lightweight, rugged, injection-molded ABS thermoplastic, and all exterior components and fasteners are corrosion resistant. It weighs in at just slightly over five pounds, and is equipped with an adjustable arm rest and adjustable fiberglass lower shaft.
The 1280-X is powered by eight 1.5-volt AA penlight batteries in a custom-designed holder housed separately from the factory-sealed electronics. Access to the o-ring sealed battery compartment is achieved by simply removing two stainless steel thumb screws. Battery life is an amazing 45-75 hours when using alkaline batteries (30-50 hours with carbon Zinc). This extended battery life is made possible by using the same advanced solid-state electronics as found elsewhere in the Fisher line.
All this may sound great. But the real question is: "How well does the 1280-X perform in the field?" Or, in this case, in the water?
To help answer that question, I enlisted the aid of a friend of mine to help me with the field test. As a long-time treasure hunter, writer and editor, I feel I have all the qualifications necessary to conduct almost any type of test-and that's precisely why I don't do it all myself. I'm always afraid that if I conducted the entire field test on my own, my point of view would be totally subjective. I might be too picky about little details and my suggestions and criticisms would overshadow the overall point of conducting a field test in the first place-which is to see if a piece of equipment is what it's cracked up to be and, more importantly, to see if it's something that will improve or enhance a user's enjoyment and success.
So to get a better overall picture of a new product, one of the first things I do is turn it over to several different people who have nothing at stake and let them conduct a sort of a pre-field test for me. I hope they will use it as if it was something they intended to buy, and not cut any corners or be swayed by the responsibilities or predetermined judgments based on the company's track record. I try to get my pre-testers to understand that their sole purpose in using this new product is to see if it's something they would like and, in doing so, make sure it's going to do what the manufacturer claims. Then, and only then, do I go out and test it myself and form my own opinions.
I like to use at least two types of helpers: experienced and inexperienced. That way I feel I get a balance of responses and a range of inputs. One of those people who pre-field tested the Fisher 1280-X Aquanaut for me is George Anderson, of Shrewsbury, Mass. Although Mr. Anderson is not a full-time treasure hunter or writer, he has had a certain amount of experience with other detectors both on land and underwater.
"After one and one half hours of diving on a beach that had been covered many, many times before with all types and makes of detectors (including several that I now own), here's what I found with the Fisher 1280-X: two Walking Liberty halfdollars; two pre-1964 silver quarters; nine Mercury dimes; four Buffalo nickels; 67 post-1964 coins; three rings; one chain.
"Although I had never seen or used any Fisher detector before, I felt that I had been using the 1280-X for weeks. It was easy to handle, and I had no trouble pinpointing finds once I adjusted to responses of a motion-type detector.
"In my opinion, I believe the unit could be a little heavier; it seemed to be somewhat buoyant when fully submerged. And although I used the detector with the extension fully retracted while diving, I found myself wishing it could have been even a little shorter, because when making a hole or checking for finds, I had to back up or swing the detector out of the way. I believe the forearm loop and/or handle would be better if adjustable, which would allow the user to move closer to the control box.
"Also, as most divers know, when working to clear a hole underwater, you have a tendency to raise your back. A bend in the lower shaft might make working in this position a little less uncomfortable."
Others that I let use the 1280-X, regardless of their level of experience with detectors, had comments and observations similar to that of Mr. Anderson. About all I can add in the way of suggestions is that I found the loop cord to be somewhat stiff and inflexible when cold and would like to see some improvement in that area. However, I understand that this somewhat minor problem, as well as others, have been taken care of (or will be by the time this gets into print).
Overall, I would rate the 1280-X as an excellent piece of equipment that is well suited for land as well as underwater use and a credit to the Fisher line.
In addition to the headset and belt clip, the Fisher 1280-X Aquanaut comes complete with a heavy-duty foam-padded carrying case, batteries, a detailed instruction manual and Fisher's "Gold Seal" five-year limited warranty. Suggested retail price is set at $649.95.
If you are looking for something new int eh way of water detectors, the Fisher 1280-X bears a careful look. For additional information and the name of your nearest Fisher dealer, contact Fisher Research Laboratory, 1005 I Street, Los Banos, CA 93635. Telephone (209) 826-3292.
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