Sunday, November 14, 2004

Chapter 4: The Wrong Way to Use the IRON MASK Mode (Update 8-03-2005)

As we tweak our explorers even more, let us address something that is possibly taking depth away from us.

IRON MASK is a very useful tool. However, there is a tendency for people to abuse it thinking that they are solving one problem but actually creating another.

The problem I am talking about is the tendency for people to eliminate the drumming (in FERROUS, pinging in CONDUCT) of signals that I have previously discussed by mixing in IRON MASK discrimination.

Unless somebody turned over a bucket of nails at the site your hunting, that constant drumming in your ears is actually soil mineralization and you are hunting way too HOT on the sensitivity. Users of the Explorer have a tendency to hunt with sensitivity too high as this amazing machine can still deliver despite the HOT settings.

The Explorer is an automatic ground balancing metal detector. Set the sensitivity too high and the ground balancing software stops discriminating some of the soil mineralization and starts identifying them as targets. Soil mineralization being iron oxides and such, it will sound off as low tones in FERROUS and high tones in CONDUCT. These are commonly called false signals or falsing. At this juncture, some users mix in IRON MASK slowly to discriminate out the signals coming in from soil mineralization. It will work but you are loosing on two fronts here:

First, you are not hearing the nulls and the falsing anymore and are therefore not able to properly set your sensitivity for maximum depth and smoothness of operation. Take note that HOT sensitivity settings can cause greater target averaging effects which makes it more likely that a deep target will land in a different place on the SMART FIND screen or give off altered DIGITAL ID readings which can land it in the iron masked area.

Second, you are discriminating the good with the bad. IRON MASK is similar to the old discrimination knob of detectors from yore with one major difference. It adjusts on the FERROUS scale instead of the CONDUCT. Why is this important? Because when that 12 inch deep 250 year old large cent is averaged and lands on the left side of the screen which IRON MASK has blacked out, that large cent wont be yours.

Furthermore, all discrimination reduces depth and using discrimination unnecessarily is a waste of your detector's most valuable resource.

Having a detector that provides so much information about its target makes a strong case for reducing or completely abandoning discrimination. All discrimination reduces depth by some measure. If you want every fraction of an inch that your detector is capable off, you must use the least amount of discrimination necessary.

In years gone by, discrimination's main purpose was to avoid digging junk. If the detector is able to let you know its junk, don’t dig it. The ability of the explorer to run in FERROUS tones makes this way of hunting even more viable as it allows you to avoid most of those pesky rusted nails that try to pass themselves off as silver under CONDUCT. The exception to the rule would be if somebody did turnover a bucket of nails on your site :)

I suspect that my opinions on IRON MASK will be a bit controversial. It is a fact that the Minelab Explorer will hunt effectively even with different settings and people will find great stuff using their own techniques. I qualify that the opinions stated here are my own. They were largely formed by reading books like “Taking a closer look at metal detector discrimination” by Robert C. Brocket and reading stuff on the net.

In summary, set the sensitivity right and don’t use IRON MASK as a crutch to create stability.

ADDENDUM: Pre-programmed discrimination patterns as well as LEARNED patterns can have the same effect as IRON MASK in blotting out signs of a hot SENS setting. I emphasize, it "CAN" but will not always do. It all depends what section of the DISC screen is blacked out.

Chapter 3: When and How to Use AUDIO 1

Now that you have learned to adjust your sensitivity properly and set up your explorer for maximum depth you probably want what every other detectorist wants, MORE DEPTH.

If you have followed the preceding guides, youre already hearing more deep signals than before. Targets that are deep enough to hit the bottom of the depth gauge. Often times, these faint and deep signals can become intermittent making a digital ID and a digging decision difficult. NORMAL response expresses a signal with a short beep. The deeper a target the shorted and fainter the beep. In my mind, these deep signals come really high and sometime are just barely a "tinkle". Really deep target are also sometimes beyond the reach of the explorer’s pinpoint mode.

To ID and pinpoint better, switch the RESPONSE from NORMAL to AUDIO 1. To the uninitiated, AUDIO 1 can be confusing with co-located targets but the signal does change from one target to another. They are just "connected". There will be no gap in between. nor will there be a recovery to threshold. Again, THERE WILL BE NO RECOVERY TO THE THRESHOLD FOR CO-LOCATED TARGETS. With intermittent deepies, AUDIO 1 amplifies and extends the tone enough to confirm to the user the existence of the target and makes for better locking target ID. You'll also notice that an iron target pretending to be silver will not produce a good tone in AUDIO 1.

You can hunt with AUDIO 1 full time if you can hack it. For me, I find it easier to keep switching between NORMAL and AUDIO 1 as the ground, and my brain, allows and as I move from one corner of the site to another. In an imperfect world, a tweaker makes for a better hunter.

HOT TIP: when you are on one spot and struggling to develop a target signal from a deepie, you can ramp up the sensitivity a few clicks, or even MAX it, to lock in that deepie. As you wiggle the coil over the target, the detector's processor has to work (ground balancing etc..) quite a bit less as you are actually taking the same soil matrix sample over and over again. The ability to hunt deeper with this trick is limited as interference and target averaging take their toll. Be sure to set your sensitivity back to your previous setting as you move on.