What is Target Separation in Metal Detecting

by Daniel Bernzweig

A metal detector with excellent target separation will help you find valuable objects, such as coins and jewelry, hidden among modern trash and iron. If you want to use metal detection to find coins in trashy areas, ensure it has excellent target separation capabilities.

Target separation is the ability of a metal detector to distinguish between different types of metals that are close to one another. The best metal detectors have very good target separation, which means they can discriminate between different metal types and detect the objects you're looking for.

Some metal detectors have automatic or manual ground balance, which helps to improve target separation by reducing or eliminating the effects of the ground on the detector's performance. This article will explain target separation, how it works, and how to choose a metal detector with good target separation.

How Target Separation Works

Metal Detector Target separation uses different frequencies to target different types of metals. For example, gold is a conductive metal that responds best to high frequencies, while aluminum is a conductive metal that is best detected with low frequencies. A gold detector that is at a high VLF frequency can easily find the target and isolate it from other junk targets. If you are looking to locate targets at greater depth, the target isolation is reduced. A fast multi frequency VLF detector with a fast recovery speed will provide the best results for target separation in a wide range of situations. Aside from this type of unit, most multi frequency metal detectors are too slow to provide target separation that is as good as a single frequency model.

When metal detecting, the detector's search coil sends electromagnetic waves interacting with the metals in the ground. These interactions cause electrical currents to flow through the metal, which the detector picks up and uses to create a signal as you metal detect targets. If you are detecting in low-light hunting conditions, it is even more important to know that you can rely on what your metal detector is telling you about the signals on the ground.

The strength of the signal depends on several factors, including the type of metal, size, and depth. Target separation occurs when the detector can distinguish between different types of metals based on the strength and nature of their signals.

For example, iron objects tend to create strong signals very similar to one another, while gold nuggets or other metal objects create weaker ones that are more distinct. By filtering out the stronger, more similar signals, the detector can more easily find the weaker, more distinct signals that are likely to be from valuable objects.

In an industrial setting, a different type of target separation process comes into play. In a manufacturing plant, the process of magnetic separation detects ferrous metals based on their magnetic properties. While metal detectors can detect and separate targets or contaminants, including ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel contaminants, using target separation in this fashion is excellent for automation.

How to Choose a Metal Detector with Good Target Separation

When choosing a metal detector, it's important to consider its target separation capabilities. Some detectors are better than others at discriminating between different types of metals.

Some metal detectors have a feature called Iron Audio, which makes a loud noise when it detects iron objects. Iron audio allows the user to hear discriminated iron which is normally silent. Having your iron audio off or at a lower volume will give you the best chance of hearing the good targets you are looking for.

Good targets like gold, coins, and jewelry usually have a conductivity different from iron. When using a gold metal detector, you can set it only to detect objects with a conductivity similar to gold. This feature in gold detectors will help eliminate false positives from iron objects and other junk metals when gold prospecting or relic hunting.

Ground mineralization and highly conductive metals can also interfere with target separation, so choosing a detector designed to work well in these conditions is important. If you're interested in coin shooting, relic hunting, treasure hunting, or gold prospecting, look for a metal detector with good target separation and detection at greater depths.

Some of the best metal detector models with excellent target separation are:

  • Garrett AT Pro - Within each of the two major search modes of Standard and Pro, the AT Pro has three discrimination settings, giving you six options, including custom, coins, and zero (all metal). Pro offers more target information and faster recovery from target to target.
  • Garrett ATX and Garrett AT Max - The AT MAX provides a backlit display to help hunters see in low-light conditions. It also offers three discrimination settings, like the AT Pro.
  • Fisher F75 - The F75 has a light and balanced design with a large LCD screen displaying Target Identification and Depth. With Digital Shielding Technology (DST), you can use maximum sensitivity settings without all the background noise. The F75 also features non-volatile memory and saves settings.
  • Nokta Makro Simplex - The Simplex features an easy-to-use control interface with its one-touch operation. It also has a waterproof search coil and is submersible up to 10 feet, notch discrimination, and adjustable iron audio, making it a great choice for beach or water hunting.
  • Garrett Ace Apex - This multi-frequency model has a fast recovery speed and can easily separate a good target from junk. Remember, finding a metal object is one thing, but finding a precious metal object like a gold nugget will make your time in the field the most rewarding.

The settings for more sophisticated metal detectors, such as the XP Deus 2, and the Nokta Makro Legend, allow target separation capabilities to be enhanced or decreased. The Garrett ATX is a high end gold nugget unit that uses pulse induction technology. The ATX has very good target separation for a detector that can locate the tiniest of gold nuggets and flakes.

Metal detecting tip: When it comes to gold prospecting, relic hunting, or coin shooting, target separation is an important feature when choosing the best metal detector for your needs. A detector with a fast recovery speed can easily isolate good targets in and around junk metals. Especially around old house foundations and on the beach, this will greatly improve your ability to find good targets on top of junk.

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