Whites Electronics has been one of the leaders in the metal detecting industry since the 1950s when its founders, Ken & Olive White, started building Geiger counters for the people out searching for Uranium at the start of the Cold War. When that demand dried up, Ken White switched over to building metal detectors and as they say, The rest is history. When I first got into treasure hunting more than 40 years ago, there were dozens of manufacturers and even more models to choose from; however, even then Whites had the reputation of being the "brand that would produce" and I can attest to that in reviewing my old logs from when I started using some of the original Coinmaster and Goldmaster models. With that background and experience with Whites products, I was looking forward to testing their latest addition the Matrix M6.
The Matrix M6 arrived in the typically- sturdy Whites box which ensures it arrives undamaged and can also be used for storage. Assembly was intuitive and I was out in the test garden minutes after unpacking it.
The M6 shares some of the circuitry from its bigger brother the MXT and as such, operates at 14 kHz which provides increased sensitivity to low conductive targets (great for beach hunters in search of gold jewelry).
The M6 is controlled by two knobs and a toggle switch on the housing and a three-position trigger on the handgrip. The SENS knob serves a dual function; i.e., ON/OFF and adjusting the output signal strength. The DISC control allows you to select what targets are accepted or rejected. The AutoTrac toggle has three positions BEACH, OFF and ON. This circuit allows even a novice to quickly and precisely compensate for ground mineralization and then if desired, have the M6 automatically adjust for any changes in conditions that might occur. Ground balancing could not be easier - simply set the toggle for the type of ground you'll be searching and raise-&-lower the coil a few times thats all there is! If you find yourself hunting a site which is littered with rusted ferrous targets or the ground conditions change rapidly causing the M6 to false or chatter, rebalance it and then place the toggle switch to LOCK which fixes the ground balance setting and may result in smoother operation under these conditions.
The toggle switch in front of the handgrip serves multiple purposes. In the center position, the M6 will produce a single audio tone for any target that registers above the DISC control setting. When you pull the trigger back and hold it, the M6 switches to a non-motion all-metal pinpoint mode. The LCD display changes as well to provide depth indication and a graphic that aids in precisely pinpointing the target to reduce recovery time. Pushing the toggle forward, it locks into a new mode added to the M6 called the Tone ID mode. The M6 provides 7 different audio tones ranging from low (iron) to high (silver coins). With a little practice one can ID targets based on their audio response and confirm that with the LCD indication. Having either option to choose from is a nice addition.
The LCD screen is typical High-Quality Whites and provides one with a great deal of information even in bright sunlight that allows targets to be identified quite accurately and then easily pinpoint them within the 3 open center of the coil. The target ID information includes a VDI (Visual Discrimination Indication) value that ranges from -95 (ferrous) to +94 (non-ferrous), labels which reflect what the M6 believes the target is most likely to be (in terms of common targets; i.e., 5c, tab, screw cap, 25c, etc.) and a series of 16 blocks that appear along the bottom of the screen which line-up with values and icons on the label. A point to remember is that these blocks are generated independently from the VDI number so a comparison check between the two can further aid in deciding if a target is worth recovering. Depending on how sure the M6 is as to the targets identity, the height of the block will vary.
A full-height block means it is 100% sure, while a half-height indicates a strong probability it knows and a quarter-height block means very little information about the target was extracted and identification is questionable. Switching to the pinpoint mode changes the display to indicate depth in inches and a set of blocks that move from left to right as the coil moves over the target. When the maximum numbers of bars are showing, the coil is precisely centered over the target what could be easier!
The M6 uses the standard Whites drop-in battery pack which takes 8 AA batteries. The new circuitry produces almost 40 hours of use from alkaline batteries and the optional Whites rechargeable pack can also be used if desired. A standard stereo headphone jack is provided on the rear of the control housing and as always, headphone use will extend battery life and ensure weak signals are not missed.
Timing on field tests always seems to be inopportune for some reason or another and the M6s arrival was no different. At the tail-end of recovering from a broken right shoulder received in a car accident, I was a bit limited in how much swinging I could do so I improvised. Playing on his sympathy regarding my condition, I enlisted my 16-year old son Paul to swing the detector while I made various adjustments and took notes (actually I found this is to be a great way to detect!). Thanks to an unusually warm winter in the Southeast, we were able to get out throughout December and January in weather that approached 70F at times.
Since the M6 is geared primarily for coin and beach hunting, we took it to a few local parks and schools which were still in active use thanks to the warm weather. After a brief tutorial, I had Paul see how simple it was to adjust and operate as its simplicity was one of the M6's big selling points. Ground balancing has always been an adjustment that Paul has struggled with so when I told him that the M6 had a ground balance circuit, his eyes started to roll. What he found however was that it couldnt have been easier! A few pumps up-&-down and he was off. We tried both of the audio search modes and in less-trashy areas, I personally preferred the single tone and a quick glance to the LCD screen when a target was detected while Paul preferred the Tone-ID mode at all times.
Some people have stated on the Internet forums that there is a difference in detection depth between the two modes; however, in checking every signal we could not discern any noticeable difference between them. Having used notch-type discrimination detectors extensively, the M6 took a little while getting used to with the conventional non-notch system especially in trashy sites; however, we found that by using the Tone-ID mode combined with watching the VDI & depth readings, a slightly slower sweep speed, locking the AutoTrac circuit (center position) and in extremely trashy areas, switching to a smaller coil (an Eclipse 5.3 coil borrowed from a friend) resulted in some nice finds from sites others (and myself) had long since given up on.
Due to work constraints I was not able to take off between Christmas and New Years, so I stayed home while the rest of the family went to visit relatives in Charleston, SC. The warm weather afforded them the opportunity to spend time at Folley Beach and the M6 went along with them.
Paul, my wife and her 80-year old aunt all took turns using the M6. Having used single-frequency VLF detectors on the black sand salt water beaches of the Carolinas before, they fully expected to be forced to stay in the dry sand or put up with consistent falsing and popping once they reached the wet sand region (which is usually where the good finds come from). Using the BEACH position of the AutoTrac toggle switch, Paul pumped the coil up-&-down a few times and started hunting in the wet sand area being swept by an occasional wave or two.
What little chatter he did receive was easily discernible from actual signals and despite the crowds having been absent for months, he was able to pick up a handful of coins from the surf line. As Paul and my daughter headed off exploring the beach, my wife and her aunt tried their luck with the M6. Again, setup and ground balancing the black sand proved to be quiet simple and they were also able to find a number of coins & other items in both the wet and dry sand.
New Years Day 2006 was picture-perfect for detecting and the previous weeks rain made the ground ideal for digging. Paul and I went to a spot near the local college hoping for a silver coin or two. By now he needed no instruction and before I had the rest of the gear out of the truck, he was off hunting. The ground was quite hot resulting in some chatter so Paul dropped the SENS to the 70 mark and the M6 ran silent.
A number of coins turned up over the next 2 hours but other than a lone wheat cent, they were all modern vintage. As we started back to the truck, Paul hit a target that registered 32/35 pull tab / ring but sounded different than some of the trash we had recovered. Rechecking it in the TONE ID mode and then checking the depth he saw it indicated 6. Since all of the tabs and screw caps we had recovered had been 3 or less, it was a promising signal. Well, we cut a deep plug and the unmistakable glint of gold was visible in the bottom of the hole.
Carefully pulling it free, we saw it was a class ring from the college dated 1946. We are drafting a story on this great find for a future issue of Lost Treasure but suffice it to say that we tracked down the daughter of the rings owner who said that her mother had never returned to the area once she graduated meaning the ring had lain there for close to 60 years! It was truly special being able to return the ring to the daughter . . . . as her mother had passed away just 4 months prior to our finding the ring.
Over the next few weeks I put the M6 through its paces at a number of sites in the Carolinas some of which were notorious for their highly mineralized ground or trash conditions. The M6 with the stock 9.5 concentric coil resulted in a fair amount of chatter in these challenging locations; however, I was fortunate to have a 6x10 DD Eclipse coil which resulted in much quieter operation and more stable target ID readings as ground conditions deteriorated.
If you experience less than optimal results with the stock coil, give one of the DD coils a try! At a few old homesites I used the M6 at, the heavy concentration of pieces of rusted iron caused the detector to chatter a good deal with the AutoTrac circuit in the ON position, but as recommended in the manual, switching to LOCK allowed me to hunt these areas with much greater success.
The M6 was designed for coin & beach hunters that might not have wanted the additional modes/features found on the MXT. The addition of the 7-tone audio ID circuit is a real advantage for those hunters that want as much information as possible as to a target's possible identity before they take the time to recover it; yet, with the flip of a switch, single-tone audio is available. Ground balancing is a snap and it worked well even under some harsh conditions on land and at ocean beaches. The weight and balance of the M6 make it a detector that one can use for extended periods of time without fatigue. A few comments that deserve mention are that the stability of the target ID indications (VDI & bars) drops off noticeably on deeper targets; in extremely mineralized ground the stock coil is a bit noisier than Id like to see (but the DD coil can address that issue) and if you are wearing a jacket, you need to be careful when putting your arm in-&-out of the arm cuff so that you do not inadvertently bump either of the knobs or the AutoTrac toggle (which happened to us in a few occasions).
The Matrix M6 lists for $699.95 and comes with the standard two-year transferable warranty. The wide range of optional coils and other accessories greatly expand the versatility of the M6.
For more information on the Matrix M6 or any of their other models, contact the factory at (800) 547-6911 or visit their web site at www.whiteselectronics.com and mention that you read about the M6 in Lost Treasure Magazine.