In January of 2000, Minelab introduced the Explorer series of metal detectors that introduced technology found on no other detectors on the market. Almost immediately reports of exceptional finds from even the most heavily-hunted areas began to come out. The Explorer S and XS proved to be one of the fastest selling detectors of all time and its popularity shows no sign of abating.
Since its release, I have used the Explorer XS extensively with a high degree of success in a wide range of conditions and applications; however, despite my familiarity with the XS model, I have had only limited exposure to the S model so I was looking forward to seeing how it performed in comparison.
The Explorer series is the result of extensive research and development using input from treasure hunters worldwide. The extremely popular Sovereign and Excalibur models, utilizing Broad Band Spectrum (BBS) technology, had developed the reputation of being able to handle extreme ground conditions and provide top-notch detection depth. Capitalizing on the processing power of todays micro-processors, Minelab engineers were able to develop an enhanced detection circuit as well as extract additional information from the target signal to more accurately identify it in the ground.
The Explorers utilize Full Band Spectrum (FBS) which is the newest detection circuitry from Minelab. FBS simultaneously transmits 28 frequencies up to an upper range of 100 kHz. The Explorer is able to provide superior detection depth and accuracy of target identification in even the most adverse ground conditions. In addition to the new FBS circuitry, Minelab found that with the aid of new microprocessors, additional characteristics regarding the composition of a target could be obtained and displayed on an LCD display panel. Now, by combining the conductivity value of a target used on all other detectors to provide target ID with the objects inductance value, the ability to differentiate similar targets such as a gold ring and a pull tab can be achieved. This 2-dimensional target identification circuit, called SmartFind (discrimination) is found only on the Minelab Explorer series.
With the SmartFind circuitry, a greater degree of target acceptance or rejection can be obtained than with conventional conductivity-only discrimination circuits. This allows users to select specific targets to either search for or eliminate which translates into more finds in less time when in the field. For example, if you are hunting a site where you know there are Indian Head pennies; however, it is also littered with screw caps and pull tabs, the SmartFind circuitry allows you to open a window where the Indian Heads will be accepted while ignoring most of the surrounding trash. And, once you have setup one of these discrimination patterns as they are called, it can be saved for use later on. Up to six different patterns can be created and saved.
The LCD display screen provides a wealth of information, both in terms of target ID and depth as well as when adjusting the detector. The controls are fairly self-explanatory; however, if you are not sure of the function of a control, pressing and holding the touchpad will cause a help box to pop-up on the display screen that explains most features. Combine that with the 100 plus spiral-bound manual and pocket-sized menu short-cut sheet, it is apparent that the factory has put more effort into the manual than typically found on metal detectors today.
Another extremely useful feature on the Explorer is the ability to select the degree of iron elimination through the Iron Mask circuit. Sovereign users may remember the Iron Mask toggle switch on the original Sovereign. On subsequent models, this switch was removed as 99 percent of all hunters left it in the ON position. This was the right setting for most applications; however, it was not ideal for relic or beach hunters who may have wanted to find ferrous artifacts. Well, the Explorer has restored this control and now allows users to select any degree of iron-rejection ranging from none to full. You now have the ability to define precisely what type of target will produce a positive response thanks to the SmartFind and Iron Mask circuitry.
The Explorer has multiple display options which aid in identifying objects. The Digital mode depicts target ID with a numerical value ranging from 1 to 32 and a corresponding picture icon; i.e., coin, nail, pull tab, etc. The Digital mode is best suited for basic coin hunting. The increased target differentiation of the SmartFind and Iron Mask display modes make them more suited for most forms of treasure hunting. In the SmartFind and Iron Mask modes, the unique Conductivity and Inductance value for each target will define a point on the display screen and this point will be indicated with a cross-hair icon that can move around the screen.
The Explorer S comes with a 10.5 inch Double-D search coil. Double-D coils take a little practice to become proficient at pinpointing targets; however they do a more through job of covering the ground than a concentric coil. Pinpointing is aided by the depth indicator which appears on the display screen and registers depth in the motion search modes.
The Explorer S is powered by 8 AA batteries. An optional NiMh rechargeable battery system is available from Minelab and can be recharged at home or in your vehicle using the charger adapters.
When I field test a new detector, I try to hunt areas that have been previously hunted since that gives a truer indication of how well a detector performs rather than hunting a virgin site where virtually any detector can find targets. The first site I took the Explorer S to was an old high school in a town 20 miles away. Built in the 1920s and closed in the mid-1980s, it had been HEAVILY hunted by hunters from all over the area for years. Opting for the COINS option on the SELECT menu, SmartFind search mode and semi-automatic sensitivity set at 30, I started hunting the small front yard. The first few signals registered in the area where screwcaps / pulltabs would and were quite shallow based on the target depth indication. To check the accuracy of the Explorer S, I recovered them and they were exactly what the indication had been. As I approached the hedges near the building, I received a repeatable signal that registered in the upper right corner of the SmartFind screen and was approximately 8 inches deep according to the depth indicator. Cutting a deep plug and removing some dirt from the bottom of the hole I saw the glint of silver and pulled out a 1937 Mercury dime. I continued hunting along the hedges which seemed to be the most productive area in the lawn apparently most detectorists had avoided the overgrown area. Over the next hour or so, I recovered six wheat cents, two more silver dimes, a Cracker Jack toy from the 1940s and a key. The SmartFind screen combined with the target depth indication had allowed me to identify and ignore virtually all of the modern trash that littered the area.
The next spot I took the Explorer S to was my mother-in-laws backyard which I had hunted with numerous detectors over the past 20 years. While the house was only some 50 years old, the land had been part of a small coal-mining town since the mid-1800s. My in-laws had used coal to heat the house up until recently and the cinders had been dumped in the backyard for years. As a result, the ground was extremely mineralized making detecting difficult at best. The Explorer S with the FBS circuitry made short-work of the bad ground. After determining the optimal NOISE channel for the conditions, I hunted a portion of the yard with no change in threshold or any falsing. Since the potential for finding a relic or two existed, I hunted in the IRON MASK mode with the left-third of the screen blacked out; i.e., accepting everything in the white area. This allowed me to identify targets and then decide if they were worth recovering. The first few targets turned out to be unidentifiable pieces of metal made of brass or copper that came from depths of 5 to 9 inches. Near a large tree, I received a good signal that registered slightly above where screwcaps typically registered and appeared to be approximately 6-7 inches deep. After nearly 15 minutes of trying to dig the target out from under the roots, I found an 1887 Indian Head penny in the loose dirt. A few wheat pennies and a clad dime capped off the hunt. Considering I would have thought the area was thoroughly hunted-out after years of searching it, the Explorer S had proven what Minelab states in their ads which is Even worked-out areas are productive again with the Explorer series!
I hunted several other sites throughout central-Pennsylvania and New Jersey and found the Explorer S to be as effective as the XS model in detecting and accurately identifying valuable targets in sites most hunters have long since given up on. FBS-technology is definitely a detector technology that results in improved performance where it counts in the field!
As with the field test report I wrote on the Explorer XS, space limitations keep me from delving into many of the unique features found on the Explorer S. The new FBS technology and SmartFind target analysis circuitry in the Explorer has taken metal detecting technology to a new level. The ability to hunt in even the most adverse conditions and obtain information to aid in identifying targets with accuracy not found on other detectors make the Explorer S a detector of choice for a wide range of applications. A hands-on demonstration is highly recommended to see just how different and effective the Explorer S is especially in comparison to the detector you are currently using.
The Explorer XS offers some additional features not found on the S model as well as accessories such as the rechargeable battery system; however, if price is the deciding factor, the S model will save you some money. The Explorer S retails for $995 and comes with the standard 2-year Minelab warranty. Despite the fact that Minelab is an Australia-based company, there is a dedicated service center in the US to handle any repairs that may be required.
For the name of your nearest dealer or more information on any of the other detectors in the Minelab line, contact Minelab USA at 2700 E. Patrick Lane #11, Las Vegas, NV 89120, call them at 702-891-8809, or visit their web site at http://www. minelab.com and be sure to mention you read about the exciting new Explorer S in Lost Treasure.