When you’re looking at purchasing a metal detector, you’re going to notice right off the bat that you need to decide between a pulse induction metal detector and a very low frequency, or VLF, metal detector.
What’s the difference? And how do you know which one you should choose?
Advantages of a VLF Detector
VLF detectors are the preferred choice for most hobbyist detectorists. They are extremely versatile and they have great discrimination capabilities.
Let’s look at some of the biggest benefits of using VLF detectors and which locations they really shine in.
- Freshwater hunts: If you want to use your metal detector to check out a nearby lake, stream, pond, or river, you need a VLF. You’ll be able to use your machine’s discrimination setting to get rid of all the trashy signals. There is nothing more frustrating that pulling up piece after piece of junk when you’re detecting in water – and rivers and lakes are full of trashy metals.
- Lighter: VLF detectors are generally lighter than PI detectors. That can make for a much more comfortable day of digging. And you’ll feel better the next day because your arms won’t feel like you just put in a hard day of weightlifting at the gym.
- The cost: These machines are way cheaper than PI detectors are.
Advantages of a Pulse Induction Detector
PI detectors aren’t as popular as VLFs, but they definitely have a purpose to serve. Here are the instances where you’ll want a PI detector by your side.
- Saltwater hunts: Although, as we covered in the last section, PI detectors can’t distinguish between one type of metal or another, they are really useful in saltwater hunts. That’s because VLF detectors perform so poorly in saltwater.
Even the ones that can be submerged and have ground balancing features are still often tricked by all the minerals in the saltwater and on the ground of the ocean or beach. You’ll get a lot of false signals that will be off-the-charts frustrating for you. Although you’ll still dig a lot of junk with PI detectors, at least they’ll give you true signals.
- They go deep: You can find really deep targets with a PI detector. It can target things deeper than you might want to dig.
They pick up gold well: If you’re a prospector, you might want to add a PI detector to your arsenal just because of how well they do with gold.
What Are Some of the Drawbacks of a PI Detector?
There are quite a few reasons PI detectors aren’t as popular as VLF.
- No discrimination: If a detectorist were to dig every signal he got without any clues or indicators as to what type of metal he might pull out of the ground, most of the retrieved targets would be junk. That would make for a very frustrating hobby. That’s what you get with PI detectors, unlike VLF, which are actually quite good at eliminating junk.
- They burn through batteries: They use more battery power than VLF detectors do. That means you’re going to be replacing batteries or recharging them like crazy.
What Are Some of the Drawbacks of a VLF Detector?
VLF detectors are affordable and a joy to operate, but they do have drawbacks.
- Mineralization is tricky: Detecting in areas with a lot of mineralization in your soil is difficult with a VLF detector. Having manual and automatic ground balancing features will help, but it won’t fully do the trick. You’re still going to end up with false positives at times.
- They don’t go as deep: For coins, you’re not going to find them more than a foot down with a VLF detector and sometimes you’ll get a depth of less than that.
If you’re new to the hobby, you’ll want to go for a VLF detector, and if your budget allows it later, you can purchase a PI detector as well. They’re both fun to use and you may be able to find the treasure of your dreams with either one.