Do Gold Detectors Really Work?


Some gold hunters especially amateurs often think that there is something special about “gold detectors”. The fact is, there is really nothing so special about it whereas gold detectors are standard metal detectors or LRL (Long Range Locators) with some slight modifications made specifically on their “operating frequency”.

When it comes to electronic gold detectors, there are two general types of products for you to choose from which can be VLF (Very Low Frequency) or PI (Pulse Induction).


The VLF gold detectors has an operating setting of higher frequency as compared to what standard metal detectors use. The reason is that, gold is best detected at high operating frequencies. Thus, if you want a reliable gold detector then you should only choose units that operates at around kHz. At this range of frequency, the tool is quite sensitive to small gold nuggets. Detectors that are designed to find coins and relics will most likely ignore small sized gold nuggets which is a huge disappointment for gold seekers. It is important for you to know that it is quite interesting to detect and uncover big 1-ounce nuggets but in reality, such sizes are extremely rare that most gold nuggets that can be found are way much smaller.

The Search Coil plays the most important part of a VLF detector. So if you bought a certain unit of this kind, you should expect that the package has a set of search coils with different sizes. They have to be of varied sizes because it has something to do with the settings of the device’s sensitivity to gold. Avid metal detectorists already knew that large size search coil has deeper penetration and it can easily detect large objects but ignores the small ones. If you are a gold nugget hunter, using a small search coil is a much preferred choice because it increases the unit’s sensitivity to gold. It also has a better performance than the large search coil when detecting on areas with highly mineralized soil. Although, the downside of using a small search coil is less penetration and it would really take a lot of time to cover the ground.

Another huge downside of the VLF is that, it poorly performs on areas with highly mineralized ground and a lot more worse under the presence of hot rocks. In most cases, the equipment will go erratic giving out a lot of false feedbacks. Some latest VLF models can be fine-tuned which has something to do with the sensitivity but this hugely affects the penetration of depth which is terribly not good.


Sadly, VLF is now considered by many as an old technology particularly when Pulse Induction came out to take its place. The main reason why most detectorists prefer PI detector is due its capability to penetrate deep buried objects with amazing accuracy even at a highly mineralized type of ground condition. In comparison, VLF detectors can only detect gold nuggets at a depth of around 6 to 12 inches while PI detectors can impressively detect such object up to 2 feet or even more.

Perhaps the only downside of a PI over VLF are its price and handling. Not all detectorists can afford to buy their own PI detector due to its very expensive amount of price. The best once are of course the newest models and they usually cost around several thousands of dollars. When it comes to handling, PI are heavy unlike the VLF which can be swung all day with less fatigue.


Unlike VLF and PI, LRL works in a different manner which involve vibrations. Detectorists who are using this type of tool claims that all objects has their own specific and unique vibration. So in order to detect gold, all they have to do is to tune their locator in the same level of vibration as the gold. However, most individuals often gave up on this tool due to its inaccuracy especially when used by the amateurs. Worst, many individuals claims that these simple type of detectors are fraud. Regardless of this issue, the few people who claim that it works for them often explains that their success comes from their deep understanding about how their tools works.

How Gold is detected by Electronic Detectors?

As already explained above, electronic detectors send frequency signals that penetrates through down the ground. But, there are a few more occurrences that follows through. If the signal happens to hit a target underground, it will bounce back into the antenna or search coil acting as both the transmitter and receiver. At this point, the signal received will be processed by the unit’s circuitry converting it into an audible or visual output.

Aside from the operating frequency signal of the electronic detector, the type of object buried under the ground also plays an important factor. Generally, metals are classified into two major categories known as the “non-ferrous” and the “ferrous”. Gold do belong under the non-ferrous type. Other types of metals on this category includes nickel, lead, zinc and silver. Ferrous, the second group are materials that often contain iron and tin. The main difference between these two groups is that, metals under the non-ferrous category are a much better conductor than the ferrous type.

Manufactured electronic gold detectors are now equipped with a technology known as “discriminator”. This is an improved part of the unit’s circuitry that processes the received signal classifying it as either non-ferrous or ferrous automatically. When the object found is classified as ferrous then the detector will simply ignore it.

Moreover, finding the best gold detector is the real challenge. If you have been researching by reading several forums and reviews, you will notice that they have different and conflicting personal opinions. This leaves you a tough decision. Anyway, I would not be recommending any specific model on this post but I do suggest that you should stick your choice among these top popular brands: Fisher, White’s Electronics, Garrett, Kellyco, AccurateLocators and Minelab.
As for my final words, “the real success of finding gold underground is not all about the detector but how to operate and understand what exactly it is telling you.”