Interview Laurie Gagne – Minelab Equinox Advanced Tips
Laurie Gagne educates detectorists using a Minelab Equinox to go beyond their stock settings. A Minelab Detexpert, she has always been a treasure hunter by nature. Laurie swung her first metal detector at 17 when she found it in her father’s basement, trying it but didn’t know how to use it. Then in 2009, she purchased her first detector. Her well-known YouTube channel Relic Dirtyhands has over 11.2K subscribers, where she and her husband do detailed tutorials and share their detecting adventures.
I am excited to interview Laurie and discuss Minelab Equinox 800 advanced tips. See my questions and her answers below.
Minelab Equinox and Gold Jewelry
Detecting for gold jewelry dropped in parks, curbsides, sports fields, and lawns with the Equinox, what are your favorite settings to use?
I have been a ring finder since 2017 and use a few different settings. Many of the locations where we find gold jewelry are locations that consist of more modern trash. I use Park mode because the settings are geared more towards the common trash of today. I often default to Park 2.
When it’s a recent loss, I drop my sensitivity down to 12. This eliminates many targets that are 4 inches or deeper. I can cover twice the amount of ground compared to full sensitivity.
When searching for a long lost ring, the highest sensitivity is important. I have seen a ring lost for 7 years, being 6 inches or deeper.
When I’m searching for small gold items like earrings, I run it as sensitive as possible. The smaller the gold is, the more difficult it is to find. In Park mode, the Equinox can hit hard on small gold but only to a depth of 3 inches. Larger items like rings can be found much deeper.
How about gold chains, any tips on finding chains others miss because they don’t have the right settings or swing?
Thin fine gold chains are difficult to find, it’s a really small tight signal. If you are looking for thin, small, or fine gold jewelry using Mode 2 with an increased sensitivity can really help maximize your chances. Go slow and analyze those small chirps. Mode 2 has the largest target size range and it is geared towards finding smaller and larger items compared to Mode 1.
If I was to use Field mode, I would have to use All Metal or notchback in the identification numbers 1 and 2. The default setting in the Field mode automatically notches out 1 and 2. This helps eliminate the itty bits when relic hunting. Small fine gold can come into the low target ID numbers, so it’s something to remember.
White gold, why does it ring up differently on the Equinox versus yellow gold?
All gold rings up differently depending on its size, placement, and composition. When we see 10K, this means 10 in 24 parts are gold, and 41.67% is gold. White gold can be mixed with other white metals like silver, nickel, or palladium. Some white gold that is mixed with silver may ring in higher than yellow gold mixed with copper. This is why I have found gold ranging from 1 to 20 on the Equinox. When looking for gold, it’s important not to focus on the numbers but on the quality of the tone.
Minelab Equinox and Silver Coins
When park detecting for deep silver coins, do you prefer Park 1, Park 2, or Field 2? Which do you feel is more accurate and why?
When in parks I use Park 2 but in this case, if it has silver coins it would be considered an older park. These types of parks are what I consider a mixed site. Both Park and Field can be used. My default is always Mode 2, the reason is, that I have been detecting the same locations for many years. Park and Field 2 will find the coins on edge vs. Modes 1. Personally, I don’t feel that one mode is more accurate than another. Site conditions can play a huge role. If I come across an area littered with tiny pellets from a pellet gun, I may consider using Mode 1 to avoid them. I can spend my time analyzing all the little bits or cover more ground. If a site is highly mineralized, I may consider mode 1 to reduce noise. What is important for one detectorist may not be for another. There’s a lot to consider before saying one setting is better than another. You must consider the type of contamination you are dealing with and what types of targets you are focusing on.
The characteristics of a deep silver coin changes compared to a coin at 6 inches. As soon as you are dealing with high iron trash and the maximum depth, it gets tricky. Once the Equinox is tone modulated, the deeper coins will sound fainter. If the coin is at a maximum depth, it can become less repeatable, and a slight change in target identification numbers can occur. My depth gauge and tone modulation are my best friends. I can hear if an item is on the surface or much deeper. Sometimes a small item on the surface can sound deeper and vice versa. A big deep item may sound small but will be louder. Looking at the depth gauge and listening can really help determine the size and depth of a target.
If I can get a faint deep partial tone, it doesn’t have to repeat. I will walk around the plug to see if I can isolate it. If it doesn’t float around slightly like a falsifying nail, I know it’s possibly a masked deep coin and I’ll dig it, no matter the target identification number I get!
4 kHz versus Multi-Frequency, which is better for deep silver coins?
That’s a hard question but can be answered! I would sometimes rather use multi and a large coil, if possible over 4 kHz. The cons of using this single frequency are it tends to put low conductors like gold, lead, and tombac into the negatives. It struggles with the smaller items. This frequency also sees some trash targets as a good target. For example, steel bottle caps can come in much higher at 4 kHz, similar to silver. My understanding of 4 kHz is that it was introduced to find large deep hoards. In some situations, when focusing on only silver coins, it can be used, but I rarely only focus on silver.
If you are dealing with a lot of low conductors like foil or iron, 4 and 5 kHz quiets it down a lot, therefore, allowing you to focus more time on those high silvers. When I tested the single frequencies, I noticed they were not as repeatable as multi. I found that multi was the most accurate at identifying all metals. This is why I would either go over the area with a large coil or, if possible, a lower recovery speed to get maximum depth.
I do have to admit; I did enjoy using it because it’s so much quieter. It just didn’t suit what I focus on at my sites. Most of my sites are mixed sites and I like digging for gold as much as I do silver, or for small lead and tombac when relic hunting. After testing the single frequencies and knowing what they struggle with, I have a hard time using anything but multi.
Field 2 is said to be better for finding silver coins on the edge however, they also say you should lower the sensitivity. Some say this sounds counterintuitive. Do you do this? If so, what recovery speed do you use?
Both Park and Field 2 are better at finding coins on edge. I will only lower my sensitivity if I am dealing with EMI or falsifying nails. The sensitivity works as an amplifier. It helps hear the faint small targets better, and it also amplifies falsifying targets. If you run a high sensitivity in an area with a lot of iron, you will hear a lot of falsifying signals that can distract you from the silver. A slight reduction in sensitivity will reduce the falsifying tones. This way you can focus on true silver tones. If I am detecting a low iron area, I will use the highest stable sensitivity I can. A higher sensitivity will amplify those deep faint silver coins on edge. Without iron, there is no reason for me to reduce it. The key to sensitivity is finding the sweet spot, as sensitive as you can without the distractions or falsifying signals.
When I used to run a high sensitivity in iron, I would train myself that it was just falsifying nails. However, in reality, they were not all nails. Only once I slowed down did I start finding small silvers in nail beds. A reduced sensitivity and I was no longer wasting all my time trying to analyze every small chirp. This is where a reduced sensitivity is not counterintuitive but productive.
Recovery speed is a setting I am often adjusting. As I approach a highly contaminated area, I want maximum separation. I use a high recovery speed to squeeze something out of high trash areas. Because a lot of my sites have been used for hundreds of years, maximum depth is just as important. I can hear when my recovery speed is too low, I find it will give me choppier signals that are difficult to repeat. Having clear clean separation in high trash is most important for me. I will reduce my recovery speed as targets become more spaced out to gain the maximum depth. I set my recovery for maximum performance for the site conditions.
There are times when a low recovery in high trash can help. For example, in the case where you are unable to swing the coil close to the ground. This will be a give and take situation. With a fast recovery, you will now have less depth on top of the few inches above the ground due to obstacles. When targets are at the max depth they react differently and can become unrecognizable. Using a lower recovery will help make those targets more identifiable. You will miss items close together, but at least it will make some targets recognizable again. This is the only time I use a low recovery in high trash.
Other Minelab Equinox Settings
When do you find it important to do manual ground balance versus auto ground balance?
I haven’t come across a time I have had to ground balance yet. My soil is not all that neutral, we have a lot of iron ore present which causes a lot of black sand. I found myself ground balancing often with other detectors. The difference is that using multiple frequencies is extremely stable in most soils.
Without having real-life experience with auto and manual ground balance, it’s difficult for me to answer this. I understand that auto will find the best suitable setting, but sometimes they need to be adjusted. This is when manual ground balance is useful and can be tweaked for better performance. I understand saltwater detectorists and gold prospectors use ground balance a lot more than myself.
Do you Notch? If you do, when do you Notch and why?
I never notch any targets out. When I first started metal detecting, I joined a forum that had many veteran detectorists. Early on they taught me All Metal with zero discrimination is always best. They taught me it was better to dig and learn than cherry-pick your way through. I can see why this is beneficial to anyone learning the hobby or the Equinox.
I remember being at a picnic grove thinking this one tone was always a bottle cap. After not listening and cherry picking the good tones out I went back. I started digging lower tones and iffy targets. To my surprise, all those bottle cap sounding targets were actually large cents and Victorian jewelry! My cherry picking days ended right there.
The Equinox has 50 target identification numbers, some target identification numbers are used more than once. Let’s look at a rusty steel cap that has a target identification number of 10. Many other targets can be found at that number. You can find some flat buttons, small bits of silver, gold jewelry, lead, and small bits of copper or brass. The size of the target relates often to the target identification number. The smaller the item is, the lower the number can become. For example, a three cent silver or a half dime can ring in as low as 15/16/17 and a large silver 50 cent coin will ring in as high as 33/34/35. When you start notching out a target identification number you are reducing the possibility of finding those non-trash items. I noticed a bottle cap doesn’t sound as good as something made from a more desirable metal. I’d rather be the one to discriminate and walk away from that target after I analyze it myself.
FE and F2 Iron Bias, where do you feel each should be used and why?
FE is the original iron bias. This iron bias was to help more with chunky iron, in my opinion. F2 was added later as an update to help with difficult steel bottle caps. FE for iron F2 for steel bottle caps.
I use iron bias sparingly, again it’s because I hunt a lot of my locations for years. I have found times where both FE and F2 were great options to have, in extreme iron locations, cellar holes, or farm fields where old homes used to stand. In these situations, it is common to find a lot of chunky iron that rings up as a 15/16/17. In all metal, you can hear the double simultaneous iron low and mid-tone. Usually, it’s not as clean of a signal. In extreme trash, it can be difficult to tell the difference between chunky iron and a relic. Analyzing each one can become time consuming. By increasing my iron bias, they become more obvious as iron and the relics stand out. By increasing my iron bias, I have less analyzing to do myself. 90 percent of the time I use zero iron bias, but if I find myself with a pouch full of chunky iron and completely discouraged, I will use the FE iron bias. I find that 4 on the 800 is enough to make a difference without overdoing it. The higher it is set, the more chances it can misidentify a target as iron.
F2 is a fun iron bias for those bottle cap parks or beaches. I had already mentioned that I can often hear the difference between a bottle cap and a more desirable target. It does take some time analyzing and some really deep listening. If you are using zero and you’re tired of digging the bottle caps, an increased F2 will ugly up the bottle cap signal. The higher it is set, the worse the signal sounds. This way it will allow you to cover more ground, dig fewer bottle caps, and allow those repeatable signals to shine through.
The Equinox is an incredible machine that is extremely versatile. A good understanding of the settings will allow you to breeze through all site conditions and challenges. That’s why I find it’s so important to focus on the quality of sound, tone modulation, and tone subtleties to be able to adjust the machine’s settings for the best performance.
I would like to thank Laurie Gagne for her educational answers. If you are struggling with the settings on your Minelab Equinox, I would recommend looking at Laurie’s YouTube Channel Relic Dirtyhands, where she posts excellent easy-to-follow tutorials.
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.