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Located in the heart of some of America's finest gold country, Tesoro Electronics of Prescott, Arizona, has been manufacturing quality metal detectors for nearly 30 years. Founded in the family garage in 1980 by Jack and Myrna Gifford, the family owned company set out to supply a good product at an affordable price while backing it with an unbelievable warranty. The idea worked and, since then, the company has prospered, becoming one of the most respected manufacturers in the industry.
The reputation of their products and excellent support has continued to win over customers, and now Tesoro has dealers in virtually every U.S. state and several countries throughout the world.
Ownership of the company has passed to their sons, James and Vince, but the original business philosophy set in place has not.
In August of 2009, I had the pleasure of testing Tesoro's finest gold machine, the Lobo Super TRAQ.
Since the Lobo is equipped with discrimination circuitry, it can double as a coin and relic hunter, but its primary purpose is sniffing out nuggets.
The Lobo weighs in at approximately 3.5 pounds and operates at 17.5 kHz.
It is supplied with a 10” elliptical widescan coil and features a built-in external speaker as well as a 1/4” headphone jack.
The Lobo is powered by eight AA batteries, which typically offer 20-30 hours of run time.
As far as controls go, there are very few, making the Lobo an incredibly easy detector to use. All the knobs and switches are located on the front panel and readily accessible for quick adjustment in the field.
The first of the five controls is the THRESHOLD, which is used to turn on the detector and set the constant audio level or “hum” heard while detecting.
The second is the Ground Selection Switch, which offers three possible settings: ALKALI, NORMAL, and BLK SAND. This switch alters the way in which the Lobo performs in different types of ground and will be discussed further.
The third is the Mode Selection Switch. This 3-postion switch allows the user to toggle between PINPOINT (no motion needed), ALL METAL and DISC (or discrimination). The normal setting for this control while prospecting is the All Metal position. The Pinpoint mode is helpful for determining the location of a potential targets, while the Disc mode can be used to eliminate certain types of metallic trash targets.
The fourth is the SENSITIVITY knob, which is used to either increase or decrease the detector's level of sensitivity. Like the Ground Selection Switch, this control is also important because it affects the size of targets that will be found, overall depth penetration, and how the Lobo performs in highly mineralized soil. This control will also be discussed further.
The fifth and final control is the DISC LEVEL. This knob adjusts the discrimination level, enabling the detector to accept or reject different types of metal targets.
A low setting will allow most all metallic objects to produce an audible response, while higher settings will “blank” out typical trash items such as rusty nails, tin foil, bottle caps, etc.
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The area I selected for my field test was first discovered in 1863 by a group of prospectors led by Captain Joe Walker. This famous gold deposit located in the northern Bradshaw Mountains is commonly referred to as the Lynx Placers and is, coincidentally, only a short drive away from the Tesoro Factory.
Official records indicate production somewhere around 80,000-ounces, but since many prospectors did not report their finds in the early days, I would put the figure considerably higher. Many small nuggets have been found there, including larger pieces weighing as much as four ounces. Unfortunately, the use of motorized equipment is now prohibited anywhere on Lynx Creek, however, metal detectors and gold pans are still an acceptable form of prospecting.
Detecting along the creek bed itself would seem a logical choice, but, after a century of heavy placer mining, it has become loaded along its entire length with bits and pieces of man-made trash. Items such as bullets, scrap iron, nails, bits of wire and pull-tabs are very common. Some of these targets have worked themselves deeply into the gravels and retrieving them can be quite a chore, and a disappointment.
Rather than fighting my way through an endless supply of junk, I decided to hunt the surrounding hillsides and smaller tributaries that fed the main creek. These areas had produced gold for me in the past and, while I had never found anything large outside of Lynx itself, I knew I wouldn't be bending over to dig a piece of trash every few swings.
The soil on the hillside contained an above average amount of mineralization, and I was skeptical as to how the Lobo would deal with it. After following the start-procedure outlined in the instruction manual, I found myself rather pleased.
For being a VLF machine, the Lobo handled the iron-rich ground surprisingly well. One of the toughest challenges new detectorists face is the act of ground balancing. Fortunately, the SuperTRAQ System found inside the Lobo automatically performs this troublesome procedure.
This self-adjusting ground balance technology is, in my opinion, one of the biggest selling points of this detector. SuperTRAQ senses changes in mineral content and automatically updates the ground balance. This saves time and frustration, but, more importantly, helps maintain a smooth and steady threshold - something all seasoned nugget hunters know is crucial for success.
I started off with the Ground Selection Switch in the Normal position, Mode Selection in All Metal, Sensitivity at 10, and Disc level at minimum. I tried this for a while, but found it was necessary to reduce the Sensitivity to 7; I was getting too much feedback from the ground and picking up lots of hot rocks.
Generally speaking, the more Sensitivity the better. In quiet ground, a high Sensitivity setting will greatly improve signal response on both small and deeply buried nuggets. On the other hand, in bad ground, a high Sensitivity setting will cause the detector to become noisy, unstable, and overall performance will suffer. This is not a good scenario, as valuable targets will be masked by the background noise. The key is finding a good compromise.
I recommend that a person always start out high and, if the ground will allow it keep it there. If the ground is severe, it will actually be beneficial to run it lower.
If reducing the Sensitivity doesn't alleviate the problem. Try switching into Alkali. According to Tesoro, this mode is similar to Normal except that the SuperTRAQ circuitry is allowed to operate over a much wider range of mineral conditions. In the area I visited, I felt the Lobo handled the soil better in Alkali and allowed a higher Sensitivity setting. Another bonus was its ability to greatly reduce the response I was getting from the hot rocks. After a few repeated sweeps of the coil, many of them virtually disappeared. If the areas you prospect are littered with hot rocks, the Alkali setting will certainly be worth a try.
The BLK SAND (Black Sand) setting actually handles extreme ground and hot rocks even better than Alkali or Normal. It keeps the Lobo Running smoothly in highly conductive environments by reducing the detector's overall sensitivity. A handy option to have, but one that should be used sparingly, as it greatly diminishes the signal response on all targets. If the nuggets in your area are small or deeply buried, you will probably miss them in Black Sand, so always try Normal or Alkali first.
Here are a few other observations I felt worth sharing, While out detecting, I did notice that when I lifted the coil a few feet above the ground, or hit a very large metal target, the ground balance would occasionally drift. Stopping and pumping the coil repeatedly over the ground easily fixed this problem. Typically after five “pumps” the ground balance returned to normal.
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Also, the Lobo is a motion detector. Unless the Mode Selection Switch is set to Pinpoint, a target will disappear if the coil is held stationary over it. For best performance, use a side-to-side sweeping motion rather than a front-to-back. Regarding the Disc mode, I did find that it would eliminate a bulk of the ferrous trash which plagues the goldfields. Being able to reject iron is nice, but this ability comes at a price.
From my experimentation, I noticed that small nuggets would generally not respond at all if Disc levels were higher than 2. Larger nuggets would respond, but the signal generated was broken and, if a person were sweeping too fast, they could easily be missed.
Also, if a piece of trash was lying in close proximity to a nugget, the trash usually overpowered the gold and the detector would blank both signals. If you plan on chasing coins and relics, the Disc mode definitely has its place. However, if gold is your primary focus, I strongly suggest putting the Mode Selection Switch in All Metal and leaving it there.
My field test produced an assortment of items, including numerous lead bullets, and old buckle, several jacket buttons, small BB's, and collection of rusty iron scraps. Luckily mixed in amongst these goodies were also three small gold nuggets. My search of the hillsides proved unsuccessful, but as I wandered down a narrow, bedrock-filled gully my fortune changed. The first decent signal seemed to be coming from atop the bedrock itself. As I bent down and blew away the sand I actually saw it wedged in a tiny crack. If a good flash flood had come through and stripped away the sand, I may have spotted it on the surface. It weighed 0.4-grams- not a bad start.
The second and third nuggets came from further down the gully. As I swept over a series of deep cracks I received a mellow, but distinct "ZIP”. I removed close to three inches of debris and, instead of the dull color of lead I was expecting to see, I was rewarded with something butter yellow! After coaxing the nugget form its hiding place I was excited, yet at the same time disappointed. Based on the strength of the signal response I was expecting it to be a little bigger.
Before walking away I decided to recheck the hole; something I was very glad I did. Lo and behold there was another signal. I pried the crack open a bit more with my pick and spotted the source of the noise. It was indeed another nugget that had become wedged beneath the first. The two of them together weighted 1- gram, which is why the signal had sounded sweeter. Finding multiple nuggets in a single hole always puts a smile on my face.
My treasures won during the field test weighed in at 1.4-grams. Not a bonanza, but it proved a point, The Tesoro Lobo Super TRAQ is indeed fully capable of finding gold.
My overall impression of the Lobo was positive. It offers great sensitivity and an automatic ground tracking system that really works.
The detector is also lightweight, well balanced and a pleasure to swing.
The ease of operation makes this model an excellent choice for first time detector buyers.
To use, simply turn on the detector, select the all Metal mode, adjust Sensitivity and Threshold, and begin hunting- it's that easy!
More experimentation with the settings will yield better results, but even the most inexperienced detectorist should be able to get up-and-running with little difficulty.
If I had to find a fault it would be the fact that the coil is not supplied with a skid plate. A skid plate is the first line of defense against coil damage, so it seems only logical that one should be supplied.
I also didn't care for the battery system. The battery packs tended to rattle around in the compartment and I wasn't a fan of the removable plate on the rear panel.
I would suggest a hinged door and possibly exploring the option of developing a rechargeable pack that could be topped off in the field using a vehicle's 12V outlet.
Aside from this, I was impressed. Tesoro has built a product they can be proud of, especially when you factor in their unbeatable Lifetime Warranty.
With a suggested retail price of only $799 and the company's outstanding reputation, this detector provides solid performance at a reasonable price. Not to mention it is made right here in the USA!
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* - Reprinted with permission from Tesoro, "Metal Detector Information" - 22nd Edition