Andrew P Watson

Web Developer

Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector - Real world, non-technical review

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 19:59

I've always had an interest in local history, and growing up working on a very old (300+yrs), and very historic New England farm just fueled that interest. I would talk to the old-timers all the time about what the farm looked like 300 years ago, and heard some pretty amazing stories. Silversmiths, bootleggers, traders, ship building, soldiers, everything you can imagine. Since the property was private, and had been since inception, I knew that no one had ever hunted there, and there had to be tons of awesome artifacts all over the place. I just needed to find a way to locate them!

Enter the Garrett AT Pro...

I've had "toy" metal detectors as a kid, but never anything worth its weight in all the nails and bottle caps I'd find. I decided that once I was able, I was going to buy a real machine. Nothing crazy or extreme, just a genuine and respectable detector. I decided on the Garrett AT Pro after looking through tons of discussion boards and reading tons of reviews. It was the AT Pro or the Garrett AT Gold. From what I understand the Garrett AT Gold is pretty much the same machine, but adds a different frequency configuration. For the money, the AT Pro seemed fine.

I've been out with it dozens of times, and wanted to write up a quick post about my experiences - in hopes it may help someone else looking to get into detecting.

Comfort

Its super light, almost feeling like it actually needs a little more sustenance to validate its cost. Of course the lack of weight is a welcome feature after swinging it for hours. I never feel like my arm gets tired from the weight, more from the motion of swinging the coil and trying to keep it level with the ground. You need to do this awkward shoulder thing in order to keep it level. You'll get used to it, and I assume it’s the same no matter what detector you run.

Interface & Controls

When I first looked at the front panel, I must admit I was little disappointed. It's sort of like an old, early 80's hand-held game, not a $500+ piece of modern technology. I just expected something a little more advanced.

It's a little hard to read in low light or full sun, and the buttons can be a little hard to accurately hit when wearing gloves. It's just unimpressive. User interface improvements would make this thing killer, but right now it's just meh...

Now let's be fair here. After using the machine for the past summer, the control panel has grown on me a (very) little. It's simple, and basic. But I still feel strongly that some simple color indicators or screen readout updates would be a very welcome update.

Output: Tones and Feedback

Some basic features of the detector include:

Different pitches, based on target conductivity. Higher tones are usually good (silver), and lower tones are usually junk (iron). Mid tones are up for grabs, as gold can come in sounding like a pull tab or bottle cap. You just need to learn the sounds by digging a lot of targets. I found it useful to try and guess what the target is before you dig it. You'll find that your ears will start to distinguish the tones better, and you'll be correct more often.

Ability to "hide" different target signals, on a very granular level. Each time a tone is produced, a number is displayed on the front panel: 1 -> 99. 1 being the low tones (iron) and 99 being the highest tones (silver or better). If you are hunting an area with a lot of nails for example, you only need to read what number each nail is displaying and "notch" that number out. Then it won't be included, and thus silenced. Super helpful, and allows you to "cherry pick" an area by notching out anything below, say, 70. Then only higher tones are produced and you know your target is more likely to be better (if that's what you are looking for).

Iron audio feature produces a custom sound for "notched out" targets. This is great because you can still hear targets you are trying to avoid, but the tone is very different. That way you can tell if a target is surrounded by junk, or if the ground is full of junk. Play with it, you'll understand.

There are also two main "modes" the AT Pro can run in: sndd

Standard Mode:

This produces the typical on/off tone, common with cheaper entry level machines. In simple terms, if a target is detected it beeps. No change in volume. No subtle chirps or burps to help distinguishing targets. Just a simple "beep."

Pro Mode:

Here is where the Garrett AT Pro shines. The real power of Pro mode is the speed of which the tone is produced, and the fact that the tone's strength can vary based on the depth, shape, or orientation of a target. For example you can actually "hear" if a coin is on its side or lying flat.

But there is a catch: It can be a little overwhelming when trying to decipher the tones being fed to you if detecting in trashy areas. I compare it to trying to read the signal produced from a telephone modem. But don't think for a second that this is a problem. Once you get past the learning curve, you can literally distinguish a coin signal even if it's sitting in a pile of nails. Not only can you hear it, the pitch of the tone will also tell you pretty accurately what kind of coin it is, and the strength of the signal tells you the approximate depth. Take some time to figure it out, it's simply amazing how accurate the signals are. You start "seeing" into the ground as you scan over it and read the tones.

Also the Pro mode is crazy sensitive when producing tones. Even a bottle cap, which can sound like a coin to an untrained ear, will produce very subtle crackles and distortions. Take some time and focus on learning this, it’s literally what makes the AT Pro so powerful. The better you get at listening to the signals, the less junk you will dig. You’ll just know that it’s a bad target, even though it sounds “mostly” good.

Garrett Support

My machine came with a bad coil. I was getting constant phantom signals. If I shook it even a tiny bit, or brushed a stick it went off. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty frustrating. After looking up the issue online, I read all over that it's probably a bad coil. So I reached out to Garrett directly. After explaining my issue, an incredibly friendly technician mailed me a new coil - no questions asked. It was awesome. The new part came fast, and once put on it instantly corrected my problems. The tech followed up a week or so later, asking if I was all set if there was something else we could try. I seriously give Garrett an A+ for support. Top notch!

Summary

The Garrett AT Pro is nothing short of extrodinary. Though it lacks a little bit of the bells and whistles I would have expected, the performance is outstanding. At first it seems like nothing special, but once your ears become trained on what to listen for you will be amazed at how accurately you can tell what you are hearing before you even start to dig. I know you can spend many times more on fancier machines, but why would you!? Buy the Garrett AT Pro today, you won't regret it. Mine's paid for itself in the first season!

Treasure!

Here is a few things I pulled out of the ground with my rock-solid Garrett AT Pro. There's way more to come, this is just a sampling:

Incredible War of 1812 Light Artillereary First Regiment Button

Incredible War of 1812 Light Artillery First Regiment Button

 

Amazing 18th century trade weight with markings from all over the world

18th century trade weight marked William and Mary

 

Stunning Beranger-style percussion cap boot pistol. Unreal!

Beranger-style percussion cap boot pistol.

 

Multiple fine early US silver coins. Barber half dollar, stading liberty quarter, mercury dime(s).

1908 Silver half dollar barber.

1928 Barber quarter & 1937 Mercury Dime

 

Way more to come, I just need pictures. I have four or five coins from the 1700s and 1600s. Crazy finds!

Comments

If I wanted a good, but not $500 starter detector, would you reverse-extrapolate a lesser model Garrett to be a safe buy? Such as the ACE 350? Or have you had a $200 - $300 detector you loved for the price?
andrew's picture

I don't have a lot of experience with the ACE model. However I have read tons of great reviews on them. For a novice, or someone just wanting to tinker with the hobby, I don't think you can go wrong. The AT Pro is amazing, but can almost be too sensitive at times. You really need to learn to decipher the constant audio feedback. I've used it for two years, and I'm still getting used to it. Regardless - buy one and get out there. You will be absolutely amazed by the buried objects all around us. I've found hundred-fifty year old coins on a walking path used every day. It's all about being able to hear the junk, and focusing on that one "clean" tone. You'll hear it.

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