Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links.
Are you looking to strike it rich by finding gold?
You should know that it’s not only fun, it’s addictive and can be financially rewarding.
But, there are specific features in a gold detector that you must be aware of as they differ to the regular coin and jewelry kind.
But, how much should you spend on a gold detector and why does it need to have special capabilities?
There is a trade-off between the depth and size of the finds that you can detect at an specific frequency. This problem is solved by Multi-Frequency metal detectors which make our top recommendations.
Pulse Induction metal detectors have also been very popular for their ability to work well under the high-mineralization conditions that gold is often found in. We added the best one to our shortlist as well.
Ground Balancing (manual and tracking are best) and Target Discrimination are the other two key features that we will tell you about on our reviews
You’ll find a longer answer in our buyer’s guide down below. Right now, let’s dig into our shortlist so that you can find the best gold metal detector within your budget right away. Beep when you’ve found it!
Best Gold Metal Detectors
Finding gold jewelry and gold relics is a very different sport when attempting to successfully detect gold deposits. The difference is in the ground conditions that natural gold is typically found. To detect gold, you must be on the right hunting grounds. And, as always, you should always do your research on prospective gold sites to avoid trespassing on claimed land and private property.
A hobbyist’s goal is usually to find placer deposits. Detecting particles, flakes, and nuggets with a conventional metal detector will be a difficult task due to the earth, sand, and rocks that contain concentrated quantities of minerals that can interfere with successful detection.
To detect gold in these environments, you must have a detector that has gold-specific settings to not only detect it but to cancel out false signals and interference from ground signals.
But, do you have to be an expert to find gold?
No. Gold detectors are available for beginners to advanced detectors with varying levels of quality, features, and price. If you have a gold detector and you take the time to familiarize yourself with what it can do and you’re in the right place, you’ll eventually detect gold.
How much gold?
Well, it depends on the site, user technique, and how much data and performance your detector can provide. Here are some of the best options in the market to get gold-digging right away.
Best Metal Detector for Gold Reviews
1. Minelab CTX 3030
The CTX 3030 is an excellent, all-purpose detector, and when it comes to gold, it can certainly find that too. Priced on the higher end of the spectrum, it’s an expensive buy, but finding gold will pay for itself.
Pros & Cons
✔️ FBS2 Technology (multi-frequency)
✔️ Smartfind 2D Discrimination
✔️ Target Trace
✔️ Tracking Ground Balance
✔️ Customizable Detect Modes
The CTX 3030 may not be a gold-specific detector, but it sure has the capabilities needed to detect gold that includes smart search coils and FBS2 (Full Band Spectrum 2) tech. It’s a true multi-frequency detector that offers 28 simultaneous frequencies from 1.5-100 kHz. You can truly comb the ground to find any target you’re after with just one sweep and greater depth detection.
With Smartfind 2D Discrimination and Target Trace, you have greater target information and improved target separation to determine if you’re hitting gold or some other type of metal. For mineralized conditions, you can ground balance and allow the detector to function in automatic tracking mode as you move over questionable soils in your search for gold.
Even though the CTX does not have a dedicated Gold search mode, it does allow for multiple, customizable profiles where you can set specific parameters best suited to detecting conditions for each site you visit.
Although expensive, the CTX is one of Minelab’s more affordable, premium detectors. If you’re looking for a model that can detect gold and provide optimal performance for all other detecting goals for various types of targets, it should be on your short-list.
2. Garrett ATX Extreme
The ATX Extreme Pulse Induction is a top-end gold metal detector. Designed for professional use and serial prospecting, there isn’t anything the ATX can’t do in the hands of a pro.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Pulse Induction
✔️ Maximum detection
✔️ Advanced GB
The ATX Extreme has extreme performance. It has military-grade construction, and it’s built to be submersible up to 10 feet below water – freshwater, saltwater, there are no limitations. Its lack of an LCD display is part of its waterproof design. Instead, LED lights indicate signal strength to provide data in a visual form.
It’s a pulse induction metal detector operating at 18-19 kHz emitting 730 pps. It is inherently immune to many types of soil conditions, but it can be ground balanced if conditions prove to be challenging even for a PI.
The ATX also allows for discrimination with Iron Audio when the DD search coil is used, and it offers 25 adjustable Discrimination/Delay settings. There are 13 Sensitivity/Depth settings to take advantage of that are more than suitable to detect even the smallest pieces of fine jewelry, thin coins, and sub 0.1-gram gold nuggets.
If you desire extreme performance out of your metal detector, go with a pro model. The ATX Extreme couldn’t be named more appropriately.
3. Minelab Equinox 800
Another Minelab metal detector wins a spot in the lineup. As a true multi-frequency detector, it’s a high-performing workhorse with additional features that prove it can conquer challenges that would otherwise slow down your quest for gold.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Multi-IQ (multi-frequency)
✔️ Full Ground Balancing control
✔️ Adjustable user settings
❌ Battery life
As a multi-frequency metal detector, you have more than one frequency that is operating at a time. Of course, it’s going to drain battery juice faster than most other models. With only 12 hours of use, you’ll have to come prepared with chargers or a power bank if you want to hunt for days on end.
But, what are those extra frequencies? The Equinox 800 has five, simultaneous frequencies in operation: 5, 10, 15, 20, and 40 kHz. With low to intermediate frequencies being put to use, your chances of finding all types of targets including gold are high.
With multiple ground balancing methods in place, such as manual, automatic, and tracking, you can truly ground balance to the toughest mineralized ground conditions. You’ll need them if you plan to hunt in the conditions where gold is usually found.
Experts will have a field day with the many adjustable settings they can customize and control. Threshold, noise cancel, and recovery speed can all be manipulated to tailor your detection success for each hunting site and its unique challenges thrust upon you.
Waterproof up to 10 feet and lightweight at 2.96 lbs, the Equinox 800 can be taken anywhere for as long as you’re up to the job. Finding gold with a detector under $1000 is a rewarding experience that will financially pay for itself.
4. Garrett GTI 2500
If you want more information before you dig, the GTI 2500 strives to provide it. With a graphic imaging display and advanced user settings, you’ll have a better idea if a target is worth your time before you pull out the shovel.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Graphic True-Size Imaging
✔️ Fast & Ground Track
✔️ Eagle Eye compatible
✔️ Long battery life
The GTI 2500 is a VLF detector. It’s not a disadvantage in and of itself as it has its benefits, but it’s worth knowing what the operating principle is before you drop $1000 into it. Operating with a single frequency of 7.2 kHz, the GTI is a coin-finding metal detector for sure, but with its many user settings, it can effectively detect gold.
The Garrett metal detector provides full-scale, true-size imaging. Alongside this scale is a depth indicator, so the position of the target on the scale provides more information before you dig. Size is determined by a letter reference from A-E with a depth indicator of 2-12” or more.
With Fast Track and Ground Track, you can quickly go into automatic ground balancing mode or you can allow the detector to automatically and continuously ground balance as you move along changing mineralization.
What’s ScanTrack? User sweeping motion and technique have a lot to do with successful detection. It’s always recommended that you adjust the swing rate to maximize performance for various circumstances. To aid in this endeavor for either high trash areas or poor user technique, the GTI has ScanTrack that automatically keeps track of your sweeping speed so that you the detector is constantly providing maximum performance.
Speaking of maximum performance, the GTI is compatible with the Eagle Eye search coil that increases depth detection on large targets. With all the features the detector has, it’s impressive that it can provide up to 35 hours of operation. When looking for the one detector that can be used for multiple types of targets including gold, the GTI may surprise you.
5. XP Deus
The Deus has been around for a long time, long enough to have seen five software upgrades come down the line. So, if you’re familiar with the Deus, you’ll know how efficient it can be. If not, there’s a lot to learn.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Selectable frequency
✔️ 3-element design
✔️ Multiple preset modes
✔️ User adjustable settings
✔️ Feature loaded
❌ Not for beginners
Unfortunately, the Deus is not an easy detector to learn with, so it will not be a beginner’s first choice. However, intermediates and experts will have the skills to understand the technology behind many of the detector’s functions.
One such function is its selectable frequency. Depending on the search coil used, it can provide single frequency operation between 4-80 kHz. Obviously, a higher frequency would be better for gold prospecting.
The Deus also allows for the wireless headphones or remote control to function as the control box. They’re independently equipped to work alone or together to provide for a compact detecting platform. The headphones feature an LCD screen and electrical components that allow full user control to communicate with the search coil.
There are 10 preloaded factory search modes and many adjustable settings that include ground balance, sensitivity, threshold, and reactivity. The Deus is so feature-loaded to the max that it may end up inhibiting detection if you’re spending more time fiddling than you are actually hunting. Needless to say, you’ve gotta do your homework before you head out the door. For a high-functioning detector, expert-level knowledge is a given.
6. Minelab Gold Monster 1000
Now, here’s a Minelab gold-specific detector. This is entry-level quality at its best, and beginners and intermediate users will quickly be out the door and weighing up their finds with the Gold Monster.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Easy to use
✔️ High-speed signal processor
✔️ Gold indicator
✔️ Fully automatic operation
✔️ Adaptable platform
❌ Not multi-purpose
The Gold Monster 1000 has an intermediate frequency of 45 kHz for gold prospecting. But, its high-speed 24-bit DSP provides boosted benefits. With high frequencies, ground noise, and interference increase. To improve signal processing stability at higher speeds, this DSP is best-suited for gold-specific needs while filtering out false signals and excess noise. This is what pushes the Gold Monster above its VLF single-frequency competitors.
Since the 1000 is designed purposely for detecting gold, it has an easy to interpret discrimination indicator that provides segment bars with the likelihood of a target having a ferrous or Gold (non-ferrous) nature. To help out beginners and to provide seamless detection, the Gold Monster has a fully automatic operation that includes noise cancel, sensitivity, and ground balance.
With its unique and adaptable platform, the Gold Monster is an ideal detector to take across the globe. One highlight feature about its assembly is the included universal shaft adapter that allows you to replace the shaft with anything with a round end, like a broom stick, should the need arise.
Since this is a gold-specific detector, the display and preset search modes are not tailored for multiple types of targets like coins and relics. However, as a metal detectorist, you’ll still come across these objects and the best discriminator is always the shovel. Priced right at the lowest point for a quality gold detector, the Gold Monster 1000 fits the bill.
7. Minelab SDC 2300
If you have the luxury of buying a pulse induction metal detector specifically for hunting down gold, then Minelab must be your go-to brand. The SDC 2300 is made for gold hunters.
- PI & MPF
- Salt Mode
- Good weight
If you’re going to commit yourself to find gold, then you must commit yourself to a decent budget for a gold finding machine. One that won’t financially hurt so much is the SDC 2300. It’s pricey, but not as much as the unbeatable Minelab GPZ 7000.
In its own right, the SDC has some special features that are worth investing in. This pulse induction detector has Minelab’s MPF (Multi Period Fast) technology that allows for fast residual signal decay. What does this mean for you? All receive signals are true hits on what is hopefully gold – not from residual signals.
The SDC 2300 allows you to take your search beyond the sand and towel line to 10-foot depths of saltwater. With Salt Mode and a sealed-off waterproof body, you can try your luck beneath the tide.
Completely collapsible, the Minelab metal detector is an excellent choice for those who need to hike some ways before hitting the ground. Weighing in at approximately 5 lbs, it’s reasonably light for a PI.
With an SDC 2300 on board, there’s no way you won’t find gold.
8. Fisher Gold Bug Pro
Priced under what I would consider entry-level for gold detectors, the Gold Bug Pro offers the best value for the beginner gold hobbyist.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Digital display
✔️ Motion & non-motion
✔️ Ground Grab
❌ Battery life
The Gold Bug Pro is one of the more affordable models within the Gold Bug series, and unfortunately, it eats up battery juice faster than most other Fisher detectors. The Pro provides up to 15 hours of operation.
One of the Pro’s upgrades is its digital display. It displays Target ID values when in a discriminate mode, but while in Motion All Metal mode, a scale at the top of the screen provides a quick reference for the type of metal detected. Operating at 19 kHz with a 5” searchcoil, the Fisher detector is equipped to find small targets with some good depth detection and maneuverability in the tightest spots.
In non-motion Pinpoint mode, you will continue to hear signals as you quickly and precisely locate a target with the round search coil. Beginners will also appreciate the ease to ground balance since it’s an automatic function made possible with the Ground Grab feature. The ground phase value is also provided on the display, so you’re always aware of shifts as you cover more ground.
Weighing only 2.5 lbs, the Gold Bug Pro will make long detecting sessions easier than ever. Stay out all day and rake in the gold.
What to Look for in a Gold Metal Detector
Just to be clear, all metal detectors will detect gold nuggets if they’re big enough. The question on accuracy and effectiveness is if the detector can penetrate mineralized ground to pick up even the smallest of nuggets and flakes. So, what features should you look for to determine if it’s good enough for your prospective hunting site? Glad you asked!
There is no official price point for gold detectors as there are budget versions and high-end models that vary in features and price. However, you may typically see that the big brands often start their entry-level gold detectors at around $700, and then there are very advanced models that can be as expensive as $4000. But, just because a metal detector costs more than the other, it doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. You must evaluate a few things first:
- Hunting sites and ground conditions
- The average size of gold nuggets found in that area
- If you’re using the same detector for other types of metals e.g. coins, artifacts, jewelry, etc.
If you can determine your needs, you’ll know what to look for in a metal detector, and it may provide an idea of how much you should set your budget for.
What type of detector technology is best for you? Here are a few tips to think about when comparing operating technologies.
VLF: Very-Low Frequency single frequency detectors can offer high frequencies necessary for detecting gold. They’re also more affordable than multi-frequency and pulse induction detectors. They offer accurate levels of discrimination, are easier for beginners to use, and they tend to work better for shallow depths typically below 7-8”.
PI: Pulse Induction detectors are known for maximum depth detection in mineralized ground conditions as they’re designed to be inherently immune to many forms of minerals that can interfere with gold hunting. They’re expensive, are typically designed for experts and professionals, and they can pick up signals on larger nuggets buried at greater depths. However, discrimination, if offered at all, may not be as accurate as a VLF detector.
There are benefits and disadvantages to both types of detector technologies. Determine what your needs are based on your budget, conditions of your prospective gold hunting sites, and how you can make up for the inherent weaknesses of the type of operating technology of the detector you choose.
Gold Detecting Frequencies
The best frequencies for detecting gold will be high frequencies. As sensitivity is increased, the ability to detect the smallest of nuggets is higher. However, the higher the frequency, the more prone it is to signal interference from various sources and depth is compromised.
VLF gold detectors will usually offer a single frequency somewhere between 14-48 kHz. Some multi-frequency detectors will offer frequencies within this range and others may even stretch that max frequency to 80 kHz.
What if you have a low-frequency VLF gold detector? The lower frequency offered by most conventional VLF detectors may provide more depth and detection on larger nuggets, but it may miss the small, yellow stuff.
Searchcoil size is as important to consider as the operating frequency. There’s an inseparable relationship between search coil size, sensitivity, and depth detection. A general rule of thumb is, the larger the search coil, the larger an area it can see. This is good for maximum depth and detection of larger nuggets. On the other hand, it will miss small nuggets close to the surface, and since it can see more of the ground, it may be prone to more chatter from mineralized soils.
The smaller the search coil, the less of an area it can see, but it can detect smaller nuggets that can be closer to the surface and it may handle mineralized ground better. They’re also good for terrains where it may be difficult to maneuver a detector.
Mineralized Ground Conditions
Gold is often found in some of the toughest ground conditions for metal detectors. Ground minerals can cause false signals, noisy chatter, and can overload a detector system. This will force the user to make adjustments to cancel out or reduce the interference experienced. Sensitivity, ground balance, and even discrimination settings can be incorporated by some of the most basic gold detectors. Advanced settings to help with this can be in the form of noise cancel, reactivity, threshold, and gain controls.
Some examples of mineralized ground that can challenge a metal detector when hunting for gold include black sand, hot rocks, and iron minerals. High-frequency VLF and PIs will perform better in mineralized soils, but low-frequency VLF machines will suffer. You must look for advanced ground balancing methods at the very least to prevent constant false signals and interference.
Most gold detectors will have automatic ground balance and that may be all that you will need for low to medium-mineralized areas. For high-mineralized areas, look for a detector that has both auto and manual ground balancing methods.
A point to address that relates to interference is high-trash areas. When you’re hunting specifically for gold, you want to avoid digging up anything that isn’t the valuable, yellow stuff. Enter here: discrimination.
PIs usually suffer when it comes to discrimination. If you opt for a PI, look for some type of iron check feature or additional functions that can help a user interpret a signal based on its conductivity such as threshold. However, it’s not always helpful because gold can also sound off as iron, and sometimes iron can obscure gold nuggets. Additionally, gold can be found surrounded by other minerals that may cause the detector to sound off.
VLFs offer various levels of target metal features that include increased discrimination and notching. Block out the unwanted signals and get only the good – easy. Don’t forget, Target ID scales and values can help provide some visual confirmation on a target, but the best discriminator is always going to be your digging tool. Sometimes, it’s just going to come down to that.
Can Metal Detectors Detect Gold?
Absolutely. The major factor that will determine if a metal detector can detect gold is with the gold itself. If it’s a large nugget within 8”, almost any detector will find it. However, the smallest nuggets, flakes, and lode deposits will be the hardest to find and will require features that gold-specific detectors are equipped with to successfully detect it.
How do Metal Detectors Detect Gold?
Metal detectors detect gold in the same way they detect other metals. VLF and Pulse Induction detectors work differently but they essentially provide the same results – audio and/or visual indication of a detected gold object. However, there are other factors besides detector technology that governs if a metal detector can effectively detect gold. This includes ground conditions, size of gold, and user technique and experience.
What is the Difference Between a Metal Detector and a Gold Detector?
Gold detectors are metal detectors, but the differences lie in the specs tailored towards its purpose or target type. Most metal detectors are multi-purpose detectors and are designed to provide all-round performance for iron, coins, jewelry, relics, gold, silver, copper, all metals, etc. Gold detectors will typically have additional features to improve performance in detecting gold and canceling out mineral signals where gold is found. High frequencies, multiple ground balancing methods, and a higher price tag are common aspects of a gold detector.
What Kind of Rock is Gold Usually Found in?
Most gold hobbyists are looking for placer deposits which is a secondary gold source. Small nuggets and flakes are often carried away from their original location, so riverbeds (bench deposits), ancient river channels, and creeks are considered hot spots. This type of gold was freed from its original form from rocks and other minerals due to mining, erosion, and other types of disintegration.
Lode deposits consist of gold locked within its pure form in rock and often require industrial forms of mining. Types of rock and natural indicators that may hint at gold deposits nearby include Quartz, Alluvium, Iron Oxides (Magnetite and Hematite), red soil (rich in iron), and Chalcopyrite (“Fool’s Gold).
However, the rock type is largely irrelevant because gold can be found in various types of rock. It’s best to learn to detect the indicators showing that gold has been pushed to the surface and made contact with the rock types in that area. To improve your gold hunting goals, be sure to research geology contact zones prior to buying your gold detector so you can effectively determine what features you will need for that hunting site, region, or country.
Oh, Where O Where Will You Find Gold?
It comes down to where you’re going. If your goal is to find placer deposits, say, in a creek bed, there may be other minerals that can set off the metal detector such as magnetite, hematite, and other concentrated quantities of minerals.
You’ll need advanced ground balancing, perhaps a waterproof search coil, and high frequency to pick up the tiniest nuggets.
If you’re hunting in an abandoned mine where there is likely loose ore (tailings) or maybe even an overlooked vein, you’ll definitely need advanced user settings to ground balance, adjustable threshold, and some level of discrimination.
Old mines can be littered with various metal items like rail spikes, lamp remnants and the like. With all this filling up your knowledge bank, it should be obvious by now that the hard part in choosing the right detector will be determining what your gold detecting goals are, where you’re going, and what you can afford.
So, where are you heading for your big gold adventure?
- 7 Best Metal Detectors For The Beach
- 6 Best Metal Detectors For Coins
- 6 Best Underwater Metal Detectors – (Under $200 to $1,000+)
- 6 Best Metal Detectors For Beginners
- Best Metal Detector Reviews – Our 10 Favorites
Last update on 2021-08-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API