Discovery Electronics is a manufacturer that many treasure hunters have never heard of yet they have been producing a line of solid performing metal detectors for 25 years now. Several of the detectors theyve developed over the years have been quite innovative in nature incorporating features such as interchangeable modules to literally create different detectors for different applications using the same basic chassis and a 2-box deep seeking detector that is still considered to be the standard against which others are judged. In talking with Ron Shearer, president of Discovery Electronics, he said that the SST Baron was a limited-edition model intended to celebrate their 25th anniversary and offer detectorists a simple-to-use detector with high performance where it counts - in the field. With this in mind, I was interested in seeing how the end result of their efforts turned out.
The SST (Smart Scan Technology) Baron is a single frequency VLF detector operating at 12.5 kHz which offers high sensitivity to medium-conductive targets such as gold and brass making it well suited for relic and beach hunting as well as the usual coin hunting.
At first glance, the Baron might seem to be a bit dated with the size and location of its control housing; however, it is deceiving. While not as light as some of the newest feather weight models that have been introduced, it is well balanced. With the overall weight being 2.9 lbs with the batteries and 8 open concentric coil, it is lighter in the field than it might initially appear. But remember, its what inside the housing that really matters to a treasure hunter.
The Baron is controlled with only 2 knobs, a 3-position toggle switch and a push button located in the center of the faceplate. The knobs are 1) POWER which turns the unit on & off as well as controls the sensitivity level being use and 2) DISC which allows you to decide what targets are accepted or rejected in the field. If the POWER control is turned fully clockwise, the PRO circuitry is activated which provides enhanced detection depth and its activation is signaled by a short high-pitched beep. While not recommended for use in high trash areas, in those sites where you can use it, you will be assured of detecting even the deepest of targets.
The toggle switch is used to select what audio response mode you want to hunt with. The SINGLE mode produces the same response for any accepted target. The IRON ID mode produces a distinctly different sound for iron which relic hunters may find helpful when hunting with no discrimination allowing them to know what is in the ground without having to dig iron if they do not want to. The final mode is the TONE ID mode and it will produce a different tone for each type of target that the coil passes across. This mode is well suited for beach or coin hunters that want to use their brain to determine what targets are worth recovering rather than relying on a circuit that may result in lost targets.
Across the upper portion of the control housings face is a row of LED (no this is not a typo the SST uses a bright red LED rather than the conventional LCD indication found on other target ID detectors) that provides target ID information as well as depth as described below. There are 10 segments which lock-on when a target is detected. The target IDs are listed below the segment and include commonly found items such as Iron, foil, tab, 10c, etc. The LED is easily viewable in all conditions (although bright sunlight directly hitting the LED area does wash it out a bit). This is a nice feature if you hunt beaches or other areas after the sun goes down to either avoid crowds or the heat as you can ID targets with the need for a separate light or battery-draining backlight.
The pushbutton switches the SST Baron from a motion search mode to a non-motion pinpoint mode. In addition to activating the pinpoint mode, the LED indication will switch to indicate target depth ranging from 1 to 10. Testing of the Baron in my test garden showed that extremely accurate pinpointing was possible with most targets easily narrowed down to the 1.5 diameter hole in the center of the search coil. Since the faster you can recover a target the faster you can be off searching for your next one, the Baron can help you find more per hour of hunting in the field with its pinpointing abilities.
The Baron is powered by two 9V batteries. Alkaline cells provide about 20 hours of use and rechargeables can be used with no adverse effect. While not offered by the manufacturer as an option, you can pick up a pair of high-capacity NiMH batteries at your local department or office supply store for under $20 including the charger. A standard headphone jack is located on the bottom of the control housing and this location helps ensure that moisture and dirt does not wind up inside the housing in the event you are not using headphones. A 90-degree headphone plug will work best on the Baron with the bottom-mounted jack location.
With temperatures hovering in the mid-90s and humidity not far behind, I opted to hunt a few local parks that had some trees to afford some relief. Setting the DISC control between the 2nd and 3rd line to reject foil and iron and the SENSITIVITY at just below the PRO setting, I started searching at the first site. A few minutes into the hunt my first signal registered 10c and when switching to Pinpoint, showed a depth of 5. Cutting a plug, I recovered exactly what the SST had said it was - a dime at the indicated depth. Since this was a field test, I recovered anything that produced a signal to assess the detectors accuracy in both indications ID and depth. Over a 2-week period at several sites, I found that the SST would provide very consistent ID and depth readings on good targets, even on deeper targets when using the PRO mode. Trash targets would either lock-on and indicate as trash (iron / foil / tab) or cause the indication to bounce around a good deal. In no cases did these bouncing signals produce anything other than trash. All of the sites I visited have been hunted by local detectorists over the years; however, the Baron was able to sniff out 9 wheat cents, 2 Buffalo nickels, 3 Mercury dimes and a nice silver and turquoise ring.
A co-worker, Hardy Russell, had recently gotten into detecting and when he mentioned that he was going to an event being hosted by a family member who owned property which had been used since the days of the Indians, I offered him the Baron to get an independent assessment from a novice. With no instruction on its use other than giving him the instruction manual, its ease of use would be put to the test.
The first area he took it to was an old road bed between two long-gone home places. Leaving the DISC control at minimum, he opted to use the audio and visual signals to identify targets before recovering them. Since iron relics would be good finds as well, Hardy recovered most of the targets that the SST located and in the span of an hour or two had several artifacts dating back to the mid-1800s including mule shoes, bridle parts and some items that are awaiting cleaning to identify them.
The next area was the site of a spring that had been used for more than 200 years. With similar settings, Hardy experimented with the IRON ID and TONE ID audio modes and found that they both were easy to understand and allowed him to identify targets with a high degree of accuracy; especially when combined with the LED indication. Pinpointing was equally as easy and he said that in almost every case he was able to recover the target in the first plug that he opened up.
While no gold coins or priceless artifacts were unearthed, Hardy did say that the SST Baron was simple to setup, well balanced and detected several targets that his own detector was not able to. A nice collection of 1800s artifacts showed that the SST was doing what it was designed to do. The only comment he had was that in direct sunlight the red LED was a bit hard to read; however, tilting the housing slightly or walking into the sun eliminated that issue.
With relatives living in Charleston, SC, it makes it easy to combine a visit with some field testing at one or two of the wide variety of sites available. I had to travel to Ohio on business, so my family took that opportunity to do a little visiting and I had them bring the SST Baron along to see how it performed under the challenging conditions of the nearby ocean beaches. They arrived at Foley Beach on James Island just as the tide was going out so there was plenty of area to search. Starting in the dry sand area, my wife set the Barons sensitivity at the 3 oclock position and turned up the discrimination just far enough to eliminate any iron she might come across. The beach is hunted regularly by tourists and locals alike, so despite the fact that it was usually packed with beach-goers, signals were as expected, few and far between. Hunting along the dune line, Rosanne and her aunt picked up a several coins at depths down to 8 inches. The signals had all produced solid audio and visual IDs which made deciding if a target was worth recovering quite simple (although she also recovered everything to confirm what the detector had told her). Increasing the Sensitivity into the PRO range produced noticeably more detection depth, and until they reached the wet sand region, the SST did not chatter or false even at this high setting.
As with most other single-frequency VLF detectors, the SST did false a good deal in the wet sand / surf region. Much of the time was spent rechecking ghost signals, and after 30 minutes with only a few recently-lost coins to show for their efforts, they retreated back up the beach to where the detector settled down. Overall, my wife and her aunt enjoyed using the SST Baron and found more than two other detectorists that they ran into had that day. The two comments she provided were 1) that the LED was easily readable even in sunlight and 2) that you need to use headphones in high noise environments (such as the beach) as the fixed volume level is a little hard to hear in those areas. Her overall impression was that the SST was fun to use and she said she had found more using it than the last 2 or 3 detectors I had her test on the Charleston beaches.
If you are looking for a solid performing detector that does not require any complicated adjustments, you might want to add the Discovery SST Baron to your list of detectors to consider. It provides extremely accurate target ID indications both visually and audibly (when Tone ID is selected) and is comfortable for extended periods of use in the field. Even very slow sweep speeds will provide maximum performance so if you are looking for a detector that does not required a bionic arm to be able to hunt for hours, the SST fits the bill.
The SST Baron lists for $649 and comes with the 8 concentric coil and a two-year warranty. As this is a limited production model, it will only be available through the manufacturer.
For more information about the SST Baron or the other models in the Discovery Line, contact the factory at 1415 Poplar Street, Sweet Home, OR, 97386 or call them at (800) 337-4815 / (541) 367-2585 and be sure to let them know you read about their newest detector in Lost Treasure Magazine.