Initial Thoughts on Minelab Equinox Detector
When I first read the announcement of the Minelab Equinox detector, I have to admit to feeling a bit (OK, a LOT) excited! What they were offering was an affordable, multi-frequency, waterproof, lightweight detector which even let you change from to your choice of single frequencies.
After waiting WAY too long from my Sept 18 pre-order date, I finally got to open my Equinox800 detector on the spring equinox of 22 March. So far, I like the weight, I like the wireless, I like the speed as well as the depth.
When I got mine out to the first spot (more on that later) I had that “crap, what if I don’t like this thing” thought going through my head. After 3 hunts, I’m in LOVE!
I’m not offering advice on settings, because I don’t think it’s fair to make suggestions about something you haven’t fully learned, and I’m giving myself at least 100 hours of swing time before I can claim to begin to have a thorough understanding. These are just my initial impressions after a very limited time using it.
Putting it together
Even just taking all the parts out of the box, I could tell this was going to be a lot lighter weight than the Minelab CTX3030 I have been using for the last 5 years. The fit and finish of the parts are nice, and if you’ve ever put a metal detector together before you won’t have to look at any instructions to figure it out. I do like that Minelab changed the shape of the coil bolt washers from round to tear-dropped and also made them a snug fit. Those always want to fall out when changing coils on the CTX, but they stay nicely in place on the Equinox.
For anyone looking to buy one, PAY ATTENTION HERE: This detector does NOT come with a power source. You get a USB charging cable, but you supply your own USB power source. Minelab recommends a 5V 2Amp charger. Charge time is directly based on the power supply. The recommended power supply will take 4 hours to charge the battery from flat to full. My initial charge took almost that long. Lower rated power supplies, such as a computer USB plug or phone charger may require much longer to charge. You can download the full PDF user manual from Minelab’s website to read their recommendations and warnings.
Balance is the key
The lower shaft appears to be plastic core but wrapped with carbon fiber. It’s extremely light. The upper shaft is made from aluminum, and the twist locks hold tight and are very smooth. The arm cuff can be adjusted forward or back without needing any tools. Ergonomics can be the “make or break” of a detector. If you don’t set this one right, it can get a bit tiring. Because this detector is so light, most of the weight winds up being in the coil and that can make the whole setup feel “nose heavy”. First, the lower rod can be extended a long way for someone who is tall but if you try to hunt that way then you probably won’t be happy.
Best practice is to shorten the shaft so the coil is right in front of your feet. Ergonomically, the closer you can get to your natural stance with your arm hanging loose at your side, the better off you will be in general. Most people run coils out too far, which contributes to a detector being more nose heavy. Adding a little weight under or behind the cuff is a thought and it’s something I might play with to help with balancing. To Minelab’s credit, slots are made into the footrest to make it easy to strap external batteries, counterweights, or both combined.
True wireless headphones
Minelab’s WM-10 wireless module that is part of the CTX package was a God-send for me. That was the first time in 30 years of metal detecting that I wasn’t physically tied to my detector. I could set it down and move around without the need of removing my “tether”. The Equinox comes with a new version of the same technology, called the WM-08, however it also can connect to any Bluetooth Low Latency headphones. The stock wireless phones are what I have been using so far.
The wireless headphones sound good to my hearing, but they are a little small for my ears. I do start to notice them after a few hours of continual hunt time. So far it hasn’t been anything bad, but further use and testing will determine if they stay or go. You can connect them to the detector or the WM-08 with a cable if the battery dies but so far the battery life hasn’t been an issue.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Equinox uses only 1/8 inch (3.5mm) headphone connectors. If you have an older set of phones that you absolutely love and want to use with this, you will need a 1/4 female to 1/8 male adapter.
About that first hunt…. Whenever people ask me for advice when starting out with any new detector, I always tell them to start out easy, don’t hunt trashy sites. Even better to start in a tot-lot to learn tones, responses, pinpointing, etc. Jumping head-first into a trash filled site is never a good way to start. It’s a solid, smart bit of advice aimed to prevent frustration.
What did I do? I went straight to a previous hunt site, one that is extremely trashed out. The non-stop barrage of tones left me feeling like “what the heck have I gotten into? Is this thing any good? Am I even going to like listening to this?” The best way I can describe the sounds from that first spot was a grade-school band doing a pre-concert warmup. Well, I changed sites and it got much better. The biggest obstacle to learning language of the EQX is that it is so sensitive and fast that trashy sites will lead to sensory overload. I suggest you learn from my mistake and start in the “bunny slope” type areas and work your way up to hunting the expert level hills.
Easier ground = easier learning
Once I got onto a cleaner place, it was much easier. I began learning to differentiate target sounds and the responses of deeper coins. I started digging old wheat-cents and then I dug my first silver dime (a Mercury dime) next to a chunk of iron, in a place I have previously hunted with the CTX, the E-Trac and my old hunting partner Evan hunted with a DEUS. My next hunt was at an old park where I never found anything old. My previous hunts only produced clad. First hunt there with the EQX800 gave me a Barber dime, my first for the year. In these first trial runs, I learned a little bit! The depth meter is not as inaccurate as it seemed to be at the start; I think the detector gets “confused” in trash. The VCO pinpoint really helps give you a clue on the depth.
Getting into the swing of things
My third hunt, I took it to a site that has been pounded hard by other detectorists. This site is public, it’s old, it’s been hunted for decades. I dug 13 silvers from there in one day with my CTX (after which, other local hunters pounded it AGAIN). With the Equinox I pulled more deep, on-edge wheaties. I dug my first Indian Head from this site (and first for the year), I dug 2 Buffalo nickels and then I hit GOLD! A tiny, old, deep, gold pin with a 1929 date inscription. It was a measured 6 inches deep and still gave a solid nickel response.
After that, I knew this detector was a game changer for me. For the foreseeable future, my CTX is going to be for target comparison testing and a backup. The EQX800 will be my primary stick, and I’ve barely learned how to use it. It’s only going to get better from here and I can’t wait to get it over some of my old GOOD grounds!
Learn to be adjustable, like the Equinox
Adjustments I have played with so far are the iron bias, recovery speed, and sensitivity. I run sensitivity as high as EMI will allow, I adjust recovery speed based on amount of trash present, but have not gotten “extreme” yet (not running minimum OR maximum at this point), and the same with iron bias; up and down based on amount of iron present, but not “max” or “min” used in the field yet. Generally a setting of 2 at the low end, and maybe 5 or so at the high end.
I have MUCH more testing and experience needed, before I can say what works “best” in my own soil. One concept that has been shared with me, and I need more time to verify this, but I am wondering if at least some of the “this mode is deeper” stuff that you can read all over the detecting forums might be tied to the pre-set iron bias and recovery speed differences in the different modes. That said, I do believe in the idea that the different frequency weightings might allow more depth in some soils, more “iron see through,” etc.
A couple tips
1. Listen for “short” signals — quick ramp up from nothing to a good tone, and then a very quick ramp back down to nothing. That’s how a good target behaves. It’s a TAD more of a “drawn-out” tone, a TAD more, on a deep coin; the “edges” of the tone fade to nothing a TAD BIT slower than on a shallow target. But any longer drawn-out tone without a clear beginning and end is garbage. A good coin at shallower to moderate depth is a much shorter type of tone. I think of the word “pop” in my head, that’s how a good tone sounds, and that really stands out, intermingled with all the other more drawn-out audio the machine is presenting. It’s a clear “wait, what was that…” that makes you stop to check it out.
2. When you hear a high tone intermingled with iron sounds (I like to run with my all-metal mode aka “horseshoe” button pushed, to allow me to hear the iron. The ferrous sounds are muted and very “unobtrusive” on this machine) Anyway, when you hear a high tone amongst iron tones, DON’T discount it. Start investigating, use pinpoint if you need to, or just little choppy wiggles of the coil to try and “isolate” the high tone. If the EQ is giving you a reason to think you have two targets, you better be digging it. I think you will find very quickly, after digging very few number of targets like that, that sense of “wow, there WAS a non-ferrous target down there…”
How would I summarize the first few days of using the Equinox? Simple, “We have a winner!” Every detector has its niche, but the Equinox seems to be a very, very large niche in this hobby. Whether your first detector, or your next, I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this as a strong choice to consider.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting