by Phil Alexander
(Reprinted with permission from Western & Eastern Treasures magazine January 2001 issue)
Author Phil Alexander especially liked the coil's light weight and ease of pinpointing in discriminate mode.
When the Minelab Explorer was introduced earlier this year, it was an immediate success. In fact, until Minelab caught up on production, it was difficult to find one to buy. The detector comes standard only with the 10" coil, which actually measures 10 1/2". Even though the Explorer has excellent see-through in trash and iron, any large coil is handicapped in trash due to the chance of having dissimilar targets under the coil increase with its size. For this reason there has been a great deal of interest in a smaller coil.
Sun Ray has made aftermarket accessories for Minelab's products, and they are well known for their innovation and quality. They quickly came out with new products for the Explorer, a rain cover to protect the meter face, a stand that also adapts the 1/8" headphone jack to 1/4", and the Stealth X-5 coil for areas of heavy trash. While the X-5 has proved a popular and successful coil, I have always liked the industry standard for most detectors, the 8" coil. Well, Sun Ray again has listened to what customers want, and has built the Stealth X-8, a full 8" wide coil for the Explorer.
At less than 16 oz., it is 6 1/2 oz. lighter than the standard coil's almost 23 oz. Another important change is moving the ears for the rod, from the edge to near the center of the coil, so that it will stay on a level plane much better than the standard coil, which needs a coil support bracket to keep it level. Comparing the two coils in a test garden also revealed other differences between the X-8 and the standard coil.
On my Explorer with the standard coil, I have the gain set at 5, the same level at which the new X-8 was first tried. I could hear the deeper targets such as a quarter at 10" but not very well. This seemed too much difference in depth to give up for better target separation and lighter weight, and turning up the sensitivity didn't help. Although I don't use a lot of gain, as it usually makes hearing the depth of targets difficult, but turning up the gain was obviously the next thing to try.
The result was like magic! Now, with the gain increased, the deep targets were strong and smooth. After trying various levels of gain, I settled on 7 as being the best for my way of hunting - easy to hear, but still able to tell shallow from deep.
For those using the digital screen, I should mention that both coils ran the same numbers on the 10" deep quarter. On the depth readout there was a difference, however. With the X-8, the meter read the quarter as deeper than it did with the standard coil.
The X-8 also seemed to be pinpointing better in discrimination than the standard coil. Was this due to the X-8's size, or was it giving up scan width? I checked the scan width on freshly buried coins in low-mineralized soil, noting where the front edge of the coil first started picking up the signal, and where the front edge of the coil lost it, and measured that distance to determine the scan width.
Test 1: Penny @ 3"
X-8 - 9 3/4"
Standard coil - 10 1/2"
Test 2: Quarter @ 6"
X-8 - 11 3/4"
Standard coil - 12 1/4"
Test 3: Dime @ 8"
X-8 - a little over 5"
Standard coil - 5 1/2"
I found the Test 3 results especially interesting. In this test it was more noticeable that the scan width with the X-8 was centered over the dime, while the standard coil had it more to the back of the coil. This may explain why the X-8 pinpoints better, other than its smaller size. Also, when you get the target out of the ground and are checking the pile of dirt, the X-8 pinpoints it easily. As we all know, sometimes it's more challenging to find the item in that pile of dirt than it was to find in the first place. The X-8 doesn't have the standard coil's "hot" edges, and that means I don't need to use a pointer.
Shortly after I received the coil, heavy rains forced some of the planned testing to be cancelled. Nevertheless, I know the X-8 would have done well in hard-to-hunt relic sites, as the Explorer with the standard coil had already proven by locating a rope-border pewter "USA" button. I can't wait to take the X-8 onto the same iron-rich campsites.
The X-8's lightweight and ability to hunt in trash made it easy to find coins at a schoolyard, but even the deepest ones there were only 6 or 7" - just early clads, no silver. One thing I did learn at the school that day is that you can lay the Explorer down in all-metal mode, and it won't sound off as it does with the standard coil. By the way, the school must not have been searched much, because there were coins everywhere.
The weather did let up a few days, allowing me to do some beach hunting at Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach, North Carolina, and Myrtle Beach South Carolina. The beaches there are long and wide like Daytona Beach, Florida. The sand is clean, with just a small amount of black sand; but they go on forever, and you do a lot of walking and swinging. If your detector is heavy or poorly balanced, you'll quickly find out - and get a sore arm. The Explorer's stock 10 1/2" coil can get heavy when the targets are few and far between. I have been using a Minelab Sovereign, hip mounted, on the beach for nine years. Even though the Explorer can and will outperform it, the Explorer with the Standard coil is a little heavy on a slow day. I put the X-8 on the Explorer, and what a difference - less weight, better balance, and easy swinging.
Testing the X-8 the first time on wet sand, I had the sensitivity set to 20 manual, and the threshold quiet at 6. That is where I normally set it with the standard coil. After walking 30' or so, I stopped to see if my headphones were plugged all the way in. They were OK, but as I walked on I still heard nothing. Knowing that I should have heard some noise from the salt by now, I dropped a penny on the sand just to see if there was a problem, and it sounded off. Then I realized that the X-8 was handling the salt even better than the standard coil, and the sensitivity could be increased to the high 20's and remain stable.
At the beach is where the ability to pinpoint in discrimination really saves time. It didn't matter how deep the target was, I never needed to use the all-metal pinpoint - just hear the signal and dig. And there wasn't a noticeable difference in depth. The Explorer with the X-8 does so well at the beach, I'm thinking of making a change.
No matter how or where you use the X-8, its better balance, light weight, target separation, and overall performance make it a winner. Of course, there will be places where the Stealth X-5 or standard 10 1/2" will be the coil to use, but my guess is the X-8 will be the one used the most. Available from Sun Ray and Sun Ray dealers, the Stealth X-8 (cover included) retails for $199.95.