Do you want a screen or do you want a tone?

Many modern metal detectors come with LCD screens that provide a visual readout that provides the machine’s interpretation of what the object under the search coil might be. These LCD screens make for a very slick interface between operator and machine, but how necessary are they? Do you really need the added expense that the LCD screen provides? And, are machines equipped with LCD screens actually any better than those that either have an old-style gauge, or no visual aids at all?


It’s undeniable that technology has provided us with many benefits, and LCD screens are only one small benefit out of many. For many years metal detectors had no gauges at all, with the operators working solely by the sound change when the search coil was passed over a metal object. Later, meter style gauges were included to help the operator judge the strength of the signal and in some cases the type of material under the search coil. That eventually evolved into the more complex computer-driven screens that we find today on midrange and high-end metal detectors.


Metal detectors, even today, make slightly different sounds when the search coil is passed over different materials. A well-trained operator can usually distinguish between the different sounds and be able to tell fairly well what type of metal machine may be reacting to. In fact, many experts recommend that you dig up everything that the metal detector finds because many metals will oxidize underground and react differently than they would otherwise. An operator, who blindly accepts the information provided by the LCD screen or meter, may pass over valuable finds while still digging up small bits of trash.


Discrimination in a metal detector means that the unit has been adjusted so it will not react to certain types of metal. A machine is equipped with an LCD screen may still show a readout, but no tone will sound. In this manner and LCD screen is quite handy since the operator may still be alerted to a potential find even though the machine is not producing an audible tone. In the long run, however, many experts are recommending that treasure hunters do not rely on discrimination mode for the reason stated above. Their best advice is dig all signals.


So is a unit equipped with an LCD screen actually better than something with only a meter or only sound? In all fairness the answer is probably yes, simply because the machines that have LCD screens are generally more expensive and the rule of thumb in electronics has long been “you get what you pay for.” From this standpoint, a metal detector with an LCD screen would be more expensive and therefore could be expected to have more expensive components inside. Not all units with LCD screens will be higher-quality units, but enough of them will be of better quality but it’s reasonable to say that most LCD equipped metal detectors have better electronics than those that are not so equipped.


If you are looking for a metal detector, you might consider one with an LCD screen, but don’t be afraid of units that don’t have screens. The idea behind using one of these machines is to train your ear so you have some idea of what type of trash or treasure might be below the ground before you dig. A visual representation of that is fun, but may not be something necessary to your success.




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