This topic is a bit 'old' so I would imagine that the person seeking advice on a good detector has already done some panning etc and likely purchased a detector for hunting relics etc. However as other readers probably will visit this thread looking for similar advice, here is my own recommendation.
First, I agree 100% with Jim Hatt, get a gold pan and see if there IS any gold before buying a detector; also, I agree 100% that for the purposes of hunting RELICS, almost any detector will do because you will be hunting in "all metal" mode, as many relics are made of iron or steel so you won't want to be discriminating, or be working much in highly mineralized (ie black sands) soils. A used detector is usually pretty reasonably priced, and of course try it out before you buy it.
Now for my recommendation - if you want a good all-around metal detector, that is pretty close to the $700 price mark (depending on which dealer or seller you get it from) get a Tesoro Lobo Supertraq
. They have automatic ground balance so you don't have to fool around with tuning it, which can be a major pain in the neck and tough for a newbie to get the hang of, and those many detectors which have manual ground balance are ALL slightly different, even within the same model as to exactly how to adjust it "just right" for the soil conditions. The Tesoro Lobo has three settings - one for normal soils, one for alkali soils, and one for highly mineralized conditions like black sands; when you first turn it on, you raise and lower the head (coil) to the ground a few times and if the sound changes then switch to a different auto-balance; start with "normal" then "alkali" and last "black sands". That is all the tuning you do.
These detectors are designed for gold nuggets and they will pick out the tiny pin-head type of nuggets, and you will find many more of this size than you will ever find of the fist size. Those big nuggets they always show in the sales ads to sell you a detector are so big that almost any detector would have worked to find THOSE - even a toy, but to find those tiny pinhead nuggets it takes a good gold detector like the Tesoro Lobo.
Even though they are designed for gold nuggets, they also work GREAT on coins, jewelry etc; you will be amazed at how well it works, and the discrimination is simplicity itself - just turn it up while you wave the objects you want to tune OUT (pull tabs for instance) and 'presto' it will go silent when you have the discrimination level you desire. To tune out iron nails, wire and similar, try a setting of 3 or 4, for pull tabs usually have to go higher, try 7 or 8.
To hunt relics, just set it on "all metal" and go - and dig up every 'hit' (sound) you get, most of what you find will be junk, but you won't miss things either. Those detectors that supposedly "tell you what is in the ground before you dig" are wrong up to 50% of the time, and I have personally gone over ground that others have just swept with their gee-whiz detectors and color LCD displays, and found silver coins that their detectors said were "bottle caps".
Tesoro Lobos come with a lifetime warranty
, and their service is pretty good (yes I have managed to break my own a couple of times, it happens) though their machines are fairly rugged.
I don't get any kind of 'kickback' for promoting Tesoro Lobo detectors, and have tried quite a few different makes and models over the years including those touted as "top of the line" like Minelabs, which are far too complicated
for a neophyte to master in my opinion. I like to spend my detecting time out DETECTING, not fooling with the danged machine just trying to get it to work, and the Tesoro is (virtually) a "turn-it-on-and-go
I am sure there are plenty of folks who will disagree with me, but this is my own opinion and recommendation
- don't go buying a detector that requires you to learn a whole new set of skills just to use it properly, and DO buy one that comes with a lifetime guarantee. In my book, the Tesoro Lobo Supertraq beats them all around. One more thing too - Tesoros are made in the good old USA!
Read more on Tesoro Lobo
Here is the Lobo owners manual at the Tesoro company website
Some owners reviews,
http://metaldetectorreviews.net/detecto ... rtraq.html
Good luck and good hunting amigos, I hope you find the treasures that you seek.
Roy ~ Oroblanco