White's Electronics Surfmaster P.I. Pro

By Andy Sabisch
From page 26 of the October, 2003 issue of Lost Treasure
Copyright © 2003 Lost Treasure, Inc. all rights reserved


White's Electronics is probably the world's best known metal detector manufacturer and that reputation was earned over the past 60+ years by producing equipment that did what it was advertised to dofind treasure! White's was also one of the first companies to build underwater metal detectors with their earliest model bearing the Surfmaster moniker. Over the past 30 years, I have spent countless hours searching for treasure in the water and equipment from White's has accompanied me on a number of those excursions. In drafting this field test, I saw that the last report I did on a White's PI detector was done 10 years ago almost to the month and was on the predecessor of the new Surfmaster P.I. Pro. Based on my success with that unit, I was hoping that my luck would continue as I took the new Pro model out in the field.

Features

Water and beach hunting have become some of the most popular forms of treasure hunting in the past decade. After all, there are more pieces of jewelry waiting to be found on beaches than all other land sites combined! White's Electronics has long recognized the potential held by beach and water hunting and has continually worked on enhancing the equipment designed for that application. The Surfmaster P.I. Pro is the result of those efforts. The most noticeable improvement is its increased sensitivity to targets in the mid-conductivity range such as yellow & white gold and platinum. Combining this improved sensitivity to the type of targets everyone hopes to find with the Quick Target Recovery circuitry which allows one to separate targets in areas where numerous targets are closely packed, the new Pro detector is well suited for today's demanding treasure hunters.

The electronics are contained in a rugged waterproof housing that can be mounted either on the shaft or hip mounted to reduce the weight of the detector for extended periods of searching. Designed to be waterproof down to 100 feet, more than sufficient for even the most active treasure hunter, the Surfmaster P.I. Pro exhibits the characteristic solid feel and construction of White's detectors. To ensure the electronics remain dry even at rated depth, the headphones and 9.5 non-buoyant search coil have been hardwired into the control housing. There are actually two versions available, one for land / water hunting, another designed for divers. The electronics on both are identical with the main difference being a vibrator-type headphone, shorter rod length and shortened cables on the dive version.

The Surfmaster P.I. Pro is controlled through two dual-purpose knobs on the side of the control housing. The GAIN control turns the detector on and adjusts the unit's overall sensitivity. The TUNER control is used to adjust the audio threshold heard through the waterproof headphones and when turned fully counter-clockwise, activates the battery test circuitry.

Another design feature that White's pioneered with the Pro's predecessor is the sweep speed required for proper operation of the detector. On most PI detectors, the coil must be swept at a slow and steady pace or a loss of detection depth results. On the Pro, the coil can be swept at speeds ranging from barely moving to almost as fast as a VLF-type detector with no loss of sensitivity or signal response. With the SAT (Self-Adjusting Threshold) circuitry, once the desired threshold has been set, no further adjustments should be required even as ground conditions change.

Eight AA batteries mounted inside the control housing power the Surfmaster P.I. Pro. Low-cost carbon-zinc cells will provide approximately 15 hours of use while alkaline batteries will last 25+ hours. Rechargeable batteries can be used with no adverse affect and will produce 10+ hours of use per charge. White's sells a rechargeable battery kit or you can use some that you may already have around the house.

Field Test

For those of you that read my reports on a regular basis, you know that one of my common complaints is that the detectors arrive at the most inopportune times; i.e., water detectors in the dead of winter, coin machines in the midst of summer drought, etc. Well, the Surfmaster P.I. Pro arrived in the summer when time in the water would be a welcome relief to the oppressive heat here in Georgia.

The first site I opted to take the Surfmaster P.I. Pro to (after a stint at the local playgrounds getting used to the signal response) was a swimming beach on a lake in the north Georgia mountains. This particular beach consisted of sand over a red clay base that tended to cause erratic operation on most other detectors I had used there. Grabbing my scoop and strapping on a belt/pouch, I waded into the roped off swimming area with the Pro. Wanting to see how high I could set the GAIN adjustment, I turned it fully clockwise and then set the TUNER so a faint hum was just audible through the headphones. The audio signal was somewhat erratic and several false signals were received at this setting so I reduced the GAIN to the 2 o'clock and the Pro become extremely stable. Signals were more plentiful than I had expected and I recovered a number of coins with solid signals at the sand/clay interface layer, between 5 and 8 inches deep. The sand had apparently piled up near the ropes as a few targets required 2-3 scoops to recover them. Pinpointing was not difficult (the practice sessions in the parks had definitely helped) and even the deeper signals found their way into my bag in short order. I spent the better part of two hours here and only opted to leave as the sun sank below the surrounding hills. My take from the beach included 43 coins, several sets of car keys, a few Matchbox cars and a small 10k gold medal. The medal showed me that the Pro was sensitive to even small pieces of gold and I knew that had I gone over any other jewelry, the Pro would have detected it.

As in my previous field test on a Whites PI unit, I took the Pro to a Civil War Confederate campsite that was on a hillside containing a high concentration of hot rocks and ground composed of mineralized red clay. I, and others have been frustrated hunting this site in the past and I was interested to see if the Pro's P.I. circuitry could handle the adverse conditions better than conventional VLF units had been able to. Setting the GAIN to the preset mark and the TUNER to the desired audio threshold, I began hunting in amongst the rocks that jutted from the hillside where troops had camped back in July of 1864. The first few signals turned out to be rusted pieces of trash but the fact that the threshold remained quite steady and no false signals were received was a promising sign. Near the base of a long jagged rock, I received a clear, repeatable signal. It took more than five minutes to reach the target that was wedged between two rocks, but the fired Williams Cleaner Minnie ball recovered from 7+ inches was worth the effort! An hour was about all I could take with the temperatures hovering in the mid-90s and the humidity not far behind, so I started to work my way back to the truck. While 4 bullets and a few miscellaneous pieces of brass may not sound impressive as far as finds go, the fact that the area had been hunted for more than 30 years and the ground conditions were far from favorable, I was more than satisfied with the Pro's performance.

A fellow treasure hunter, Martin Grill, was heading to northern Florida and offered to give the Pro a workout in some of the freshwater springs and rivers surrounding his property. Unfortunately I did not receive his feedback prior to the article being sent to the printer; however, his feedback will be included in the online version on the Lost Treasure website.

Summary

The Surfmaster P.I. Pro builds on a proven heritage of previous Surfmaster detectors. Ignoring mineralized ground and salt water without any complicated adjustments, the Surfmaster P.I. Pro is ideally suited for beach and water hunters, divers and even land hunters that find themselves in areas with these types of adverse conditions. The P.I. Pro lacks any discrimination capabilities as is the case with most PI detectors which precludes it from being used in high-trash sites unless one is willing to dig every target; however, in areas where little trash exists or maximum detection depth is required, the Surfmaster P.I. Pro deserves a closer look.

The Surfmaster P.I. Pro lists for $699 in either the standard or dive configuration and comes with the standard 24-month transferable parts & labor warranty. Accessories worth considering include the rechargeable battery system, coil cover, instructional videotape and dive handle if you plan on diving with the standard model.

For the name of your nearest authorized dealer or to request information on the entire line of quality detectors and accessories produced by White's Electronics, write the factory at 1011 Pleasant Valley Rd., Sweet Home, OR 97386, call them at 1-800-547-6911 or visit them online at http://www.WhitesElectronics.com and be sure to mention that you read about their newest water unit in Lost Treasure.