In the early 1990's, I became aware of a new and radically different type of metal detector.
Several early-use detectorists were quietly making almost unbelievable claims of detection depth with this detector, especially at the beach. They were bragging of its unparalleled operating smoothness in mineralized soil, and its near-zero response to hotrocks plus its dead on discrimination ability with almost no target masking.
I had heard through my detecting grapevine that these guys were really cleaning up at the beach, hunted-out sites and areas with either high trash content or heavy ground mineralization.
Shortly thereafter, I purchased my own unit, was equally impressed, and became a dealer for the company. I did in fact find out for myself that it was a phenomenal detector! One which I successfully continue to use to this very day. Which detector is it? Its the Minelab Sovereign!
The Sovereign is the only metal detector in the world to operate with a proprietary 17 frequency (from 1.5kHz to 25.5kHz) Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) technology. This technology provides increased accuracy in discrimination and target identification, increased detection depth, greater sensitivity to nonferrous metal, and increased ground stability. Its a technology that works!
Having now used a Sovereign for so many years, I was anxious to field-test the new XS-2 Pro, curious as to how Minelab could further improve on its earlier versions the original Sovereign and the newer Sovereign XS.
The Sovereign XS-2 Pro does not appear to be much different than most other currently available detectors. It consists of an S-pole rod assembly, searchcoil, control box, meter and armrest. Its construction is somewhat robust, heavy-duty and of commercial-grade quality. This makes it very durable, but contributes greatly to its somewhat too heavy overall weight.
The control box is simple and uncluttered with only five rotary controls and a single toggle switch controlling its entire operation. The beauty of the Sovereigns design is that all of its complex operational functions are automatically controlled by its internal microprocessor, allowing for very easy and effective detecting and operational control.
The five user-adjustable controls are: Disc(rimination); Notch (reject); Volume; Sensitivity (and auto); Threshold. A single toggle switch controls the Discrimination/All Metals mode. A 1/4-inch stereo headphone jack and a front panel mounted loudspeaker are also provided.
The Sensitivity control works a little differently than the one used on most detectors. As you turn the control up (clockwise), sensitivity decreases - just the opposite of what you would expect. Maximum sensitivity is achieved when the control is set at its full counterclockwise position just before it clicks into the Auto-Sensitivity position. The Disc and Notch controls are both one-turn potentiometers with 17 individual reference graduations marked on the control-box label for each control.
The underside of the control box features a sliding lid that enables access to the battery compartment. The Sovereign XS-2 Pro comes equipped with a drop-in NiCad battery pack and charger as well as two standard four-cell AA battery holders and its drop-in contact adapter.
An audible and distinct sharp pip low battery warning sounds every 30 seconds when the battery is about 15 minutes from being completely drained. Eight AA Alkaline cells will provide about 40 hours of operation and the NiCad pack will easily last all day.
A unique, 10-inch round Double D waterproof searchcoil is supplied. It features a widescan search pattern that is capable of detecting targets over its entire center area from front to back edge of the coil. This gives the user a wide swath of ground coverage per sweep, ensuring that more targets are in the detectable hot zone and are not missed. Because of comfort and ease of use, I recommend that most users purchase and use the optional 8-inch coil, unless they absolutely need the larger one for additional depth or ground coverage.
The 10-inch coil is somewhat heavier than others its size, but is extremely well-made and durable. After some field use, because of its weight and mass, the coil became loose and would not hold its angularity position very well even with the mounting hardware tightened to maximum. The detector feels very front-heavy and it would be a big plus for this model if Minelab would seriously work at making it lighter and more comfortable to operate, meaning less weight and better overall balance. Of course, without sacrificing any of its performance!
Using the XS-2 Pro was like being with an old friend. I have used a Sovereign for so long now that I am extremely comfortable with its operation, nuances and abilities.
The addition of the new-style numeric readout ID meter greatly contributed to my success. It is accurate and repeatable the two most necessary attributes of any good identification system. Its target capture and lock-on are very good and readings are not as easily lost (reset) as on another brand of meter I have used. I also like and appreciate the no switching needed between meter ranges as was required on the older-style Sovereign ID meter. The meter is totally powered by the control box and requires no additional battery for its operation. It does have a single rear-mounted calibration control and knob that should be set each detecting session to read 550 when the coil is passed over a U.S. quarter. No other calibration is necessary.
Although Minelab recommends wrapping the connecting cable wire around the hipmount bag belt loop for strain relief, I prefer a different method and would like to see the meter connecting cable extended in length by a foot or two to allow it to pass up and under the detectorists belt. I have used this method for years to strain relief the cable and it works well. Unfortunately, the new meter cable is too short to do this.
The Sovereign XS-2 Pro also features an audio identification system that produces 17 individual tones to match the 17 individual frequencies and discrimination/notch levels.
A very low tone is heard for iron and foil targets, with progressively higher tones produced as target conductivity increases. With practice, it can provide much additional information about a detected and buried targets conductivity and identification before retrieval. My field-test unit was equipped with only the 10-inch searchcoil. While I found this to be an asset at one particular site that I searched, which had many deep targets scattered throughout an expansive field, I would have preferred the smaller 8-inch coil for detecting parks and cellar holes. Actually, it would be nice to own both coils, then you are covered for any detecting situation.
I detected with the Sovereign set to its Auto(matic) sensitivity setting, which I typically do unless searching over low-mineral ground. This setting provides very smooth operation and threshold sound while maintaining excellent depth and sensitivity.
I noticed that the new XS-2 Pro had slightly better depth, but mostly that deeper and weaker signals were now much more pronounced and repeatable than with my original Sovereign. Sometimes, with the original Sovereign, deep signals would break up and sound as if they were being rejected. This was not typical of the XS-2 Pro, as deep hits were much more positive.
All Sovereigns are incredible discriminators and handle almost any type ground or beach flawlessly while just about totally eliminating false signals from hot rocks, coke and saltwater; the XS-2 Pro is likewise capable! Its a detector that I feel extremely comfortable taking anywhere, knowing full well that it can more than handle any detecting situation at hand.
During the course of my field test, I visited several sites, one of which I frequent for just about every field test I conduct. This provides me with a gauge to compare performance between various detectors, as I know what to expect as far as ground conditions, trash content and the amount and types of targets present. The Sovereign XS-2 Pro did an excellent job at this site!
Many old, military-style buttons were recovered that span a period from the Civil War to about 1950. The buttons are uniquely monogrammed with three script letters and appear in several sizes and styles. In a single visit to this site, using the Sovereign XS-2 Pro, I dug 14 coat-size and 17 cuff-size buttons.
At another location, in a few hours time, I retrieved two old and worn Indian Head cents, a 1942-D Mercury dime and two old (colonial era) flat buttons. In addition, were found a handful of clad coins and some miscellaneous junk artifacts.
The Sovereign XS-2 Pro retails for $850 and includes the detector control box, three-piece pole assembly with 10-inch searchcoil, digital target identification meter, drop-in NiCad battery pack and wall charger, standard battery pack and hipmount bag.
The control box is warranted for two-years, parts and labor while its searchcoil is warranted for one year.
While I find the Sovereign XS-2 Pro to be somewhat bulky and heavy to use, especially if not hip-mounted, it is one of the best performing metal detectors I have ever used. On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate its depth capability, sensitivity, ground handling ability, discrimination and ease of use a solid 9.5.
If its steadfast in-the-field performance you are after, Minelab has done it again! The multi-frequency Sovereign XS-2 Pro is unmatched.
For additional information, contact Minelab Electronics PTY LTD, 118 Hayward Avenue, Torrensville, SA 5031, Australia, Minelab Electronics PTY LTD, PO Box 537, Torrensville Plaza, SA 5031, Australia; Telephone (618) 8238-0888 or Fax (618) 8239-0890.
Minelab USA, 1878 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe, AZ 85281, Telephone 1-(888) 517-2066 or Fax (602) 829-7550.