Discovery Electronics is not as new a company as you might think. They have been in business since 1981. Their chief electronics engineer/inventor is George Payne. George holds some rather important patents in the metal detector industry. His innovations are the most important features and tools still in use today. Ground balance was his first patent in 1973. George went on to invent Synchronous Phase Discrimination, better known as motion discrimination, in 1977. Next was metered target depth indication. Then came visual and audio target identification, notch discrimination, and surface blanking... need I go on! When asked by the company if I would evaluate his latest detector design, my answer was a comfortable yes! But the deal is, along with any praise I might have, I make constructive criticisms as well. This is something I have always felt very strongly about when writing field tests on metal detectors for the people who read them.
The Treasure Baron is the base of this modular detector. The modular concept allows the owner to upgrade and change circuit boards within the control housing himself. This means your investment in the searchcoil, pole, and control housing doesn’t lose its value throughout the life of the detector. Every time this company comes out with a new circuit, you don’t have to buy the whole detector all over again! Another interesting aspect of the modular concept is that should a problem with the detector develop, you could possibly go to your local Discovery Electronics dealership and get a warranty replacement of just the circuit board and be on your way without ever having to send the whole detector back to the factory for repairs.
The base Treasure Baron I tested was fitted with the new Gold Trax module. It is not my intention or desire to detail all the modules currently available. I will concentrate on the Gold Trax only. Although primarily designed for gold nugget hunting, Discovery Electronics (herein referred to as DE) feels the detector may have stature as a coin and relic hunting detector as well, this is where my evaluation and test begins.
Out of the box was a striking red control housing. Many of you veterans may remember a detector called the Red Baron back in the late ‘70s. This was the first motion discriminator on the market invented by George. I believe the red color and “Baron” in the name Treasure Baron is intentionally nostalgic. The upper pole and control housing are heavyweight aluminum with a special powder coated baked finish that is highly abrasion resistant. The lower shaft is completely nonmetallic. I think the nylon bolt/wingnut combo that fastens the searchcoil and secures angularity should have a larger thread diameter. The searchcoil provided was an 8-inch concentric with a smaller viewing hole than most other brands. This proved to be very helpful in training my eyes on a spot of ground after pinpointing a target. This coil, despite its size, delivered an impressive transmission range in bench tests.
The control box is extruded aluminum by design with internal rails to support the modular circuit board arrangements and battery compartment. I feel the battery compartment door screws could be a bit larger and made captive to the cover plate. I wouldn’t want to change batteries in the woods and drop one or both of these little screws around an old foundation littered with hundreds of square nails! Another dislike was the 1/8" stereo headphone jack on the bottom of the housing. With multiple circuit boards occupying most of the internal control housing area, I can understand why they chose the small jack. However, most of my coin and relic sites are heavily overgrown at times and the thin wire and loose fit of the smaller digital headphones are extremely vulnerable in this environment. I would have liked to see the standard 1/4" stereo jack here with the option to use an 1/8" adapter if need be. Since the Gold Trax has no volume control, I expected to have my ears blown off on the first large target using headphones that have no volume regulation. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that DE did their homework and reduced the audio output to a very comfortable level.
For those of us who like to hunt from sunup to sundown, the Gold Trax is a bit heavy in the polemounted configuration. Fortunately the Gold Trax is convertible to a hipmount detector. Two sets of spring buttons release the control housing from the pole. Two slots on a bracket, to which these buttons lock into, form the loop where your belt passes through. I would strongly recommend that you pad the underside of this bracket when wearing the control housing for long periods of time.
I liked the weight and sturdiness of the searchcoil cable. In the hipmount configuration, the wire did not tangle easily and present any obstacles to movement of the “S” pole. DE wisely provided strain relief where the searchcoil cable connects to the module. I would like to see the strain relief attachment at another location other than one of the battery door screws. Overall, the base Treasure Baron is built to last and makes for a sound investment when future modules are introduced by the manufacturer. Converting the Treasure Baron into the next generation detector will be far less expensive than buying a whole new detector. Incidentally, the upgrades can be performed by the purchaser.
Features and Controls
It will not be my intent here to detail each facet of every control. The Gold Trax’s features are quite intense and will satisfy the needs of the most demanding detectorist desiring precision control. I also do not wish to scare away any of you who have “touchpad phobia”. As sophisticated as the Gold Trax is, it is truly a “turn-on-and-go” detector. I found the factory “preset” (default) settings more than adequate for coin and relic hunting. In fact, during the entire time I tested the detector, I did not find myself needing to make any advanced adjustments. Unfortunately, limited publication space does not allow detailed discussions of advanced features and their adjustments. This is time better spent reading the owner’s manual. Instead, I would like to concentrate and highlight the things that concern the average person when using a new detector.
The heart of the Gold Trax module is microprocessor controlled ground tracking primarily designed to continuously compensate for frequent changes in negative ground mineralization (ferrous oxides) in both search modes. There is also a factory preset ground balance option designed for low minerals and salt beach hunting. DE has also included the option for manual ground balance when mineralization is very stable.
There are two search modes of operation on the base Treasure Baron module: motion “Disc/ID” and all-metal. What I find attractive about the Treasure Baron/Gold Trax is that you can technically operate without conventional discrimination or rejection of any target, yet target ID is possible. The Gold Trax utilizes visual and audio identification in both search modes! I especially like the LED visual system of indicating the presence of metallic iron. As the searchcoil passes over ferrous metal targets, a small red light (light emitting diode) flashes brightly on the control panel. I tried to fool it with small pieces of low-conductive aluminum foil, but it knew the difference. In the all-metal mode, iron targets produced a very distinct distorted audio compared to nonferrous targets.
The Disc/ID mode has a two-pitch audio identification of metal targets and the option to block audio on small iron and foil targets. I liked the fact that the operator can adjust the conductive break point where the audio pitch change occurs. I used this to my advantage during the field tests. All targets conductively under the break point produce a low pitch, while targets above sound off with a noticeable higher pitch. With the low conductive audio block “on” (knob push-switch), small nails and foil are not heard. Large rusted iron still produces high or mixed pitch audio, but the LED still flashes to indicate iron. In bench tests, the effective range of the LED indication on iron ended after the target went beyond six inches from the bottom of the searchcoil.
The other knob of the two on this detector is the Power on/off and Audio Range. The Audio Range controls the depth at which the detector responds with full volume. To the right of this knob is the main mode switch. The center position activates the all-metal/autotuned pinpoint mode. The right position switches to the motion Disc/ID mode. Momentary to the left retunes the all-metal mode and sets up the “Automatic Turbo Ground Tracking” function.
Above the base module faceplate, lies the Ground Trax module. Both modules operate when the power is switched on. The Gold Trax module has six touch pads, the aforementioned LED and a ground balance option switch. The switch selects automatic ground tracking control or factory preset ground balance. The six touchpads control 10 circuit functions. Again, I wish I had the available space to detail operation of each touchpad, but the operator’s manual covers them in depth. The ten adjustable functions are as follows with the factory preset assigned values:
1) Auto Ground Tracking Mode - ON
Before I take any detector into the field, I
take the time to do some bench testing to get an approximation of what to
expect. In air, the Gold Trax responded with a clear, unmistakable signal
on a silver dime held eight inches from the bottom of the searchcoil using
the default settings. The same dime freshly buried in my test garden produced
the best signal at seven inches. On a scale of 1-10 (ten being intense), negative
mineralization in my area is about a “7". One inch less depth than the air
value on silver (freshly buried in my soil) is rather good by my standards.
Personally, I like conducting my field tests
in areas previously searched with other brands of detectors. Picking an area
to test that has never been searched does little to prove whether the detector
has any advantage over the last unit tested. A site that is easy to hunt and
has no challenge to finding targets could make any detector seem very good
in the mind of the reader.
I scanned the ground in several locations of the park to find the worst concentration of signals. Finding just the location, I spent time digging quite a few targets to get an idea of their composition. I adjusted the Disc/ID so that the breakpoint between high and low tones was centered on aluminum screwcaps. This target proved to be the most numerous in the area I chose to search. By doing so, I would have a better chance of identifying this type of target without rejecting it. With no rejection enabled, I might have a chance of getting between targets that might ordinarily mask each other out. The iron LED indicator flashed repeatedly throughout the hunt. Several of these indications were verified with the recovery of heavily rusted steel bottlecaps, nails, screws and washers of various sizes. I directed my attention to high-pitched signals that were repeatable in nature. My hope would be coins from the swamp of mixed tone and broken audio. Pinpointing targets was easily accomplished with the main mode switch in the center position. Manual detuning was not necessary. The default autotune speed was fast enough to reduce the signal width to a small area. This was easily translated to the ground via the small hole through the center of the searchcoil. I was not getting any high-pitched signals at this point, so I slowed the speed of my searchcoil sweep and tightened my overlap.
At the end of my test in an area 14 feet wide by 50 feet long, I recovered: 1920, 1924, 1946 Wheat Cents; 1933, 1957 Canadian Cents; five Lincoln Memorial Cents; one clad dime; and a 1945 Mercury Dime. The depths at which the coins were found ranged from 3-6 inches. I was impressed by the fact all coin targets responded with a clear, loud, repeatable signal among the ever present trash chatter. One unidentified nickel-plated brass target, 1.5 inches long by .50 inches in diameter, was retrieved at the depth of nine inches. With the search method prescribed above, I could easily ignore most trash targets by tone and LED indication and hear coins quite well. If gold rings were my primary target, I would have spent a lot of time digging trash though. The Gold Trax easily passed the “worked out” park test for coins!
For the relic portion of my test, I chose a site that I have frequented more recently. On this site both coins and military relics from the mid 19th century have been found. I believe the site saw training activity before and during the Civil War. Added to the thick undergrowth in this area were “hot rocks” and shotgun shells by the pouch full. Employing the same strategy as before, I set the tone breakpoint for sampled shotgun shells. This time I enabled the iron audio block feature since the concentration of targets was not as intense as before. Other adjustments were again left at the default. Throughout the two tests, despite my love to tinker, I did not feel the need to alter the factory default touchpad settings. My plan would be to listen to both high and low pitched targets and dig any LED indications that proved long or wide in the pinpoint mode (hopefully gun barrels!?). For a time I hunted in the all-metal mode and checked targets in the Disc/ID mode, but the shotgun shells got the best of me. After digging many shotgun shells at the audio tone breakpoint, one signal edged out on the high pitch side near the base of a small tree. This target was a fired .58 cal. “Williams Cleaner” type II Minie Ball. It bore the cup marks on its nose from a hardworked ramrod down a fouled barrel. Hot rocks gave a telltale double beep in the motion Disc/ID mode with a strange edge of sound character. The all-metal pinpoint mode threshold nulled over the hot rocks. Being the all-metal mode has a moderately fast autotune rate, each hot rock responded with a rebound as the searchcoil passed over. Several iron LED indications responded with distorted audio in the all-metal mode and proved to be large square nails. Not being a great fan of digital earphones, I did however appreciate the fact they were a lot cooler than my normal sized headphones. But, before the day ended, the tugging from brush and branches took their toll on these fragile little phones. I was forced to hear signals from only one side of the phones - the other earpiece went dead. I did find the need to frequently tighten the nylon searchcoil bolt to maintain angularity of my preference.
From about a 500 square foot area, I retrieved eight relics with repeatable low-pitched signals. Ranging from just under the surface to seven inches deep, they were: a fired .44 cal. Colt pistol ball (conical); a fired .44 cal. unidentified pistol ball (conical); fired .38 cal. round shot; brass pendant or tag pierced perhaps from a small caliber gun shot; a small religious metal; half a brass tongue buckle I believe to be from the rear adjustment strap of a 1850s military vest; a brass locket cover; and a brass chain link possibly from a pocket watch. And, as stated earlier, a “pouch full” of brass shotgun shells that did not respond at the breakpoint. I recovered one high-pitched signal - a 1938 Wheat Cent obviously dropped by the same people who liked dropping shotgun shells!
Observations and Conclusions
I would have no trouble recommending this detector
to anyone hunting military and nonmilitary relics and coins. The Gold Trax
detects small low and high-conductive nonferrous metals readily.
I found the economy of operation very good. During both tests I used 8 AA nicad rechargeable batteries for a total of sixteen hours. After the first eight-hour test, I saw little loss in status in the LED flash rate when the “Iron” touchpad was pressed and held for on-the-fly battery testing. I very much liked the feature of combined audio and visual indications for iron targets. Despite minor personal dislikes in mechanical items mentioned earlier, the modular concept stands out as a true value in terms of investment. In comparison to other brands, the number of detectors you will have to sell to help pay for a new one will be virtually zero.
Overall, on a scale of 1-10 (ten being best), I rated the Gold Trax as follows:
1) User Friendly (full features): 7.5
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This article is copyrighted by Robert H. Sickler and may not be reproduced in part or full without written consent.