A Field Test: MINELAB GOLD MONSTER 1000
Minelab displays great confidence in their new detector by the name alone
By Kevin Hoagland
Gold Prospectors Association of America (May/June GPAA Magazine 2017)
When Minelab dealers and various media outlets from around the world attended the recent Minelab Worldwide Dealer Conference in Las Vegas, Nev., we were introduced to what Minelab described as a new “entry level” gold prospecting detector; the Gold Monster 1000. The detector created quite a bit of discussion along with a certain amount of skepticism among many of us that have been detecting for decades. Coming from Minelab, a company that has been known for innovation since the 1980s, the Gold Monster 1000 was not what we expected.
The Gold Monster 1000 is unlike any detector platform seen coming out of Minelab, and according to them, it was designed to be a worldwide detector. It has the ability to work in a number of environments, and has parts that can be replaced with items found at a local hardware store, or even a broom closet. The Gold Monster 1000’s platform looks so different that many of the first impressions (that were shared quietly) was that it looks more toyish over Minelab’s famous reputation of serious detecting. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but I will assure you that this is not what we had in mind; however, our initial reaction to the appearance of the detector was quickly put to the back of the list after the explanation of why the Gold Monster 1000 was designed and the technology behind it.
The Gold Monster 1000 is a modular detector that is lightweight (less than three pounds), breaks down into a compact size that can be carried in a small backpack, runs on a rechargeable battery or 8AA batteries, and comes with a few spare parts that are unique in design giving the Gold Monster 1000 an advantage unlike any other detector. Simply put, the Gold Monster 1000 performs.
The Gold Monster 1000 is a traditional VLF detector utilizing a single VLF frequency of 45KHz. When this was introduced to us, the Minelab engineering team categorized the Gold Monster 1000 as a detector for small gold targets as well as deeper gold. Naturally there were many of us in attendance that were skeptical. That was until the explanation of why Minelab chose this frequency, and how by incorporating high speed processing they were able to enhance sensitivity signal response across a broad range.
Minelab development spent a great deal of time looking for that one frequency that worked more like a wide band of frequencies over the traditional thinking of low frequency for deeper targets and higher frequencies for shallow small targets. I have no idea of the engineering man hours Minelab racked up testing different frequencies in real ground and with real targets to come up with 45KHz, but the proof is in the engineering and in the results that I and others have had with the Gold Monster 1000.
I seldom use quotes from manufactures in a field review yet I feel like the explanation from
Minelab Engineering is well worth the read and will help in understanding why the Gold Monster 1000 is in my opinion, more than an “entry level” detector for gold prospecting.
From Minelab Engineering:
“Up until now, there has always been a compromise between frequency and sensitivity when optimising detector performance, because lower frequencies are more sensitive to larger gold nuggets and higher frequencies are more sensitive to smaller gold nuggets…
When comparing detectors, the three curves in the diagram represent each detector’s ability to find small gold nuggets of a certain size, at a maximum possible depth. Most detectors will find a very large nugget just beneath the surface, however a detector’s sensitivity to gold determines how many smaller nuggets will ultimately be recovered in difficult (noisy) ground at greater depths.
An 18 kHz detector will normally have a depth advantage on nuggets ≥ 1.0g over a basic mid-frequency detector, and a 71 kHz detector will have a depth advantage on nuggets ≤ 0.1g. The advanced GOLD MONSTER 1000 uses an intermediate 45 kHz frequency AND a high speed 24-bit signal processor. This primary combination greatly boosts sensitivity to gold beyond that of other single frequency VLF detectors over a wide range of nugget sizes, without introducing excess noise and false signals.
The GOLD MONSTER 1000 also has improved ferrous/non-ferrous discrimination and copes better with conductive (salty) soils than higher frequency detectors, making it the perfect choice to maximise your gold recovery!” END QUOTE
When you take as much time as I have to really dig in and research what Minelab has done, it makes a lot of sense. Now of course you have to take into consideration certain variables such as soil and atmospheric conditions, but the science behind the development holds up.
Detector sensitivity comparisons are representative only. Actual performance will depend upon nugget size, detector settings and ground conditions.
Well, there was no unboxing. The Gold Monster 1000 was still in production at the time I wrote this and was not yet available for sale. I received the detector in a Minelab SDC-2300 box with what I assume is the cutouts that will be in the final packaging. All the parts were there, and that was all I cared about.
The box contained everything needed to go detecting: Control Box, Arm Cuff, 3 piece shaft assembly, 2 waterproof coils (5-inch round and 10-inch elliptical), rechargeable battery, 8AA battery holder, wall charger, clip type battery cable charger, accessory parts for attaching the coils to other shafts, headphones, digging tool and quick Start guide.
The Gold Monster 1000 is very different in that the shaft is a three-piece screw together design, and all of the components slip on to the shaft and are held with connecting sleeves and finger-tightening bolts. The design allows the user to be able to replace the shaft assembly (if it were to become broken or lost) with anything round that will fit the connector rings for the control box and the arm cuff. There is a lower piece included in the box as well that allows you attach the coil to any round object like a broom handle. This in and of itself is a well thought out plan for offering a worldwide detector. Not everywhere that there are great gold fields will you find a prospecting shop or even a hardware store. The ability to use anything that will fit, in some areas of the world, may mean the difference between detecting today or waiting weeks for a replacement part.
The shaft and control box design got me thinking about some of the areas I detect. By leaving one of the connection shafts out of the Gold Monster 1000 and turning the control box 90 degrees from the coil, it makes a perfect shorty detector for crawling under desert brush and scrub. Don’t knock it, I’ve found a lot of gold where others refuse to hunt. Plus, what’s a few scrapes, scratches and scars when chasing gold?
Assembly is fast and intuitive. No tools were needed, and in less than two minutes I was ready to turn on the Gold Monster and go hunt. The control panel is simple and straight forward. There are four press rockers on the front and a monochromatic LCD screen that is usable in direct sunlight. The panel rockers are the on/off switch, Sensitivity (+ & -), Mode (shallow with discrimination and deep all metal) and volume (+ & -). There is a ferrous/nonferrous scale meter on the top of the screen which works in the shallow discrimination mode as well. The back of the control box has the battery door which is a positive locking twist door, coil connector and headphone jack.
There were a few things about the Gold Monster 1000 that Minelab was really going to have to sell me on to gain my confidence in the machine. I jokingly refer to myself as a DOS detectorist, and for those of you that remember DOS you get it. With DOS I was in control, and I like the same freedom in my detectors. I want a sensitivity setting that I can exactingly match to the ground I am hunting, a threshold that I can set to that perfect spot, and a ground balance that allows me to instantly hear changes in the ground noise. The Gold Monster 1000 offers very little of this control. The quick start guide sums it up in three steps:
• Turn on the detector- This starts the noise cancel mode which eliminates (or at least lessens) interference from other detectors and other electronic devices. In testing this it worked very well in removing “noise” from other detectors, and I could tell that the noise canceling was working properly by the time it took from starting up to being ready.
• Select your Mode – shallow discrimination or deep all metal. Of course, I chose deep all metal.
• Begin detecting.
The Gold Monster 1000 sets the sensitivity and ground balance to match the ground that is being hunted, but also allows you the ability to fine tune the sensitivity to the ground. This is a major factor in my detecting. Without a threshold, I found myself experimenting with the sensitivity to act as a pseudo threshold. I was getting the sensitivity setting to a point that it was becoming slightly erratic, and I used that as a point of reference for the ground I was hunting. I believe that this method worked well for me, and it is simple enough that it would be easy for anyone to get the hang of in no time at all. I found that during the day I kept my thumb on the sensitivity rocker making slight adjustments when necessary to keep the ground finely tuned. The auto sensitivity works exceptionally well and made my tuning easier and in some cases not necessary. You know, old dog new tricks.
In the field: The Test Garden
I began my testing in the test garden where the Gold Monster 1000 proved that the extensive research done by Minelab payed off.
My first target: a sub-gram pure lead shot nugget at a depth of 4 inches in moderately heavy iron soils. The Gold Monster 1000 found this target with no hesitation and returned a strong signal. This target has been a challenge to some detectors in the past, and it was an excellent result to have this target hit hard. I tried the target in both the deep mode and the discrimination mode. In the discrimination mode it was a target, but the discrimination reading bounced back between ferrous and non-ferrous with much of the response being non-ferrous. As a long-time nugget hunter, I was not overly concerned with the scale reading. I have learned that in any detector with iron discrimination, they are only somewhat accurate mainly due to soil conditions with high iron content. I have never and will never pass up a target that the detector signals off on. I have found a good deal of gold that read as iron and have found gold nuggets under junk iron targets as well. My rule is simple, “If it signals I dig.”
As I continued my testing in the garden I did find limitations to the Gold Monster 1000, yet most were outside of where I thought they would be. It was not able to find one of the smallest pieces of gold (3 grains) that I have in the garden and it did not find one piece (3 grams) at 12 inches. Yet it easily found my 5-gram target at 10 inches using the 10-inch coil. This was a respectable performance for this detectors classification.
In all the Gold Monster 1000 found eight of the ten targets that I have in the garden for testing VLF detectors. Given the nature of the targets, they all fell right into the chart that Minelab supplied covering the capabilities of the detector.
Moving to my PI section of the patch, the Gold Monster 1000 faired as expected with the ability to find targets within the first few inches but little else. This is not surprising as this garden with it’s extreme ground mineralization was developed for pulse induction detectors.
In the Field (cont.): Out of the Garden
The area that I decided to detect with the Gold Monster 1000 is an old favorite spot that I have not hunted in quite some time. This spot has produced quite a bit of gold over the years. It has been exceptionally rainy over the past few weeks and I was hopeful that the ground was well saturated to a decent depth. I was eager to pop a couple of nuggets. With the soil being wet to a depth exceeding 6 inches, I felt this would be a good testing ground for the Gold Monster 1000 as damp to wet soils can enhance your detectors abilities. It also enhances a detectors response to iron soils making the ground noisier and more problematic to keep the detector in proper ground tuning.
I made my first pass through an old patch leaving the Gold Monster 1000 in factory specs with the 10-inch coil. This proved to work well. I would suggest that if you are new to detecting, trust that the Gold Monster 1000 is doing what it is designed to do. It was less than 30 minutes for me to pull my first nugget, a nice 11-grain piece at six inches in wet iron rich soil. The nugget hit with a good signal response on the first pass, and when I turned the coil 90 degrees to the target there was no mistaking it for a good solid signal. Before digging I decided to test the target with the discrimination setting in shallow mode. The target response was much weaker but still there, and the meter showed into the non-ferrous metal scale. I did find that in the factory modes I was swinging the coil a bit faster than normal and had to slow myself down a few times to hear faint signals. A slower coil speed responded better to the detector.
Moving to a wash on the site that I knew to have very shallow bedrock intersected with schist belts, I swapped to the 5-inch coil and began slowly hunting the exposed and shallow bedrock. This time I was manually adjusting the sensitivity and keeping my swing speed very slow. This is where the Gold Monster 1000 gave me the greatest feedback in the headphones and allowed me to hear everything including a great deal of non-repeatable false targets. This is exactly what I was expecting given how I was hunting the detector. I was by my own admission pushing the detector to its limits.
I came off of a bedrock slab onto a schist inclusion, and before I could make an adjustment to the sensitivity, the Gold Monster 1000 sounded a very weak but clear signal. Turning the coil slightly, the signal was a bit louder and gave a very clear target response. I pulled the Gold Monster 1000 away from the target, powered it off then back on and performed a complete factory reset. Leaving the detector in all factory settings and in deep mode, I swung over the target (again faster than I would normally swing my detector) and the target was still there yet greatly reduced in response. This was of course still a target I would dig. Moving away from the target completely, I swung over bedrock and into the area of the target at my normal coil speed. There was no mistaking that this was a target. Switching to the discrimination mode, the target read slightly into the non-ferrous range and was stable in its reading.
I took a small piece of rusted tin roofing I had found earlier that was about the size of a match-head and placed it in the target area. I was wanting to find which of the targets would take the majority of the detectors response. I was surprised to find what I believe was a slight amount of target separation in the discrimination mode between the two targets. If this is possible, then checking targets in the discrimination mode may be a viable tool for prospecting as long as the targets remain in the detectors working area. I would hate to think that anyone would walk away from the possibility of a piece of gold because there was a loss of one target when in discrimination.
Assured that there was a target in the ground I began digging and found myself breaking up a schist band within a couple inches of the surface. Digging a bit further with my pick and rechecking the hole, the signal was exponentially louder and more defined. Scraping the bottom of the dig hole with a plastic scoop, I pulled the mud off the edge of a small nugget wedged in the schist. Recovering the nugget, I realized that I was hearing no more than a thin edge of the target. It was a flat piece of gold, and given its orientation in the ground I was surprised to have had that defined of a target response.
With the second nugget of the day in the jar, I called the testing over. I had found gold in iron-rich wet ground which should have challenged the Gold Monster 1000 to what I would consider the limits for an “entry level” detector, and it performed very well.
There is very little that I do not like about the Gold Monster 1000. That said, I am not a fan of the factory headphones or the 3.5mm headphone jack. I understand the reasoning for the 3.5mm on a worldwide detector which is why I have a short adapter cable that will allow me to use my favorite headphones. The built in speaker works exceptionally well but I have and will always recommend the use of headphones.
I am very interested to use this detector with the new Minelab Pro Sonic wireless system. Being able to use wireless and make some on-the-fly modifications to the Gold Monster 1000 will get me into some all but inaccessible areas I have been wanting to hunt for years.
I was truly on the fence about not having a threshold on the detector given my past experiences with other detectors, but in the long run, and as long as I continue finding gold with the Gold Monster 1000, I’ll deal with it.
I think that Minelab is understating the Gold Monster 1000 in calling it an “entry level” detector. I think Minelab may be underrating the detector because they had never really built anything that I can remember them calling “entry level.” Other than the Gold Monster 1000 having a few less features than other detectors in the market space, I think the technology and platform stand on their own.
• Easy to use and intuitive. A great choice for the new detectorist.
• Very light weight.
• Rechargeable battery and adapter for AA batteries saves a great deal of space on the platform and in your gear bag.
• Adaptability built into the design. You can build this detector on a broomstick if you had to.
• Comes complete and is ready to use in minutes after some minor assembly.
• Comes standard with two coils.
• Competitively priced.
• Not a fan of the factory headphones.
• If you are moving over to the Gold Monster 1000 from another detector you may feel that you do not have finite control of the machine. It will take some time and finding some gold to totally trust the Gold Monster 1000.
If you are in the market for your first detector, the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 should be on your short list. Minelab has created a simple to use detector that performs well above its claimed “entry level.” For the seasoned detectorist, it is worth a hard look. You may feel that it lacks some of the functionality that you are used to, yet I think that you will be completely surprised with the Gold Monster 1000’s overall performance.
A huge thanks to Kevin Hoagland for allowing us to repost his field test here. Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development for the GPAA and LDMA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org