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Metal Detecting – Understanding Ground Balance
Soils in different areas contain varying levels of metallic minerals which can affect metal detection depth. That means that if you don’t know the composition of the ground that you are searching, you could be missing valuable finds. One way to minimized the effects that ground minerals cause is by using ground balancing, as it allows your detector to limit signals from ground minerals.
Ground balance is important because it’s possible that in areas where ground mineralization is concentrated, you may get signals that tell you there is a target, when there really isn’t. The feedback from mineralization can also hide good targets, and negatively affect depth detection. A ground balance setting on your detector will help minimize the loss of depth and the false signals.
A variable setting, ground balance increases your machines detection depth in mineralized soil. The soil may contain fine iron particles, in areas with red earth, or salts, found in beach sand. These types of minerals cause your detector to react in the same way that it does when it is over a target. That means that the effect of mineralization can mask smaller items. When the ground balance is corrected, is removes the responding mineralization signals so that you are able to hear target signals clearly.
Ground Balance Configurations
Most “starter” metal detectors (ones that have fewer adjustable settings and are aimed at beginners) have a ground balance setting that is set at the factory and cannot be adjusted by the user. These are good starter machines and they will do well in mild soils, but they will likely struggle in soils that have higher levels of mineralization.
Aside from fixed ground balance, there are three main types:
- Manual Ground Balance – This allows you to adjust the ground balance to minimize the amount of ground signal that’s heard.
- Automatic Ground Balance – Your detector will automatically determine the best ground balance setting. This type is much more accurate than manually setting ground balance and it’s quicker and easier.
- Tracking Ground Balance – Your detector will continuously adjust the ground balance setting as you are detecting.
A detector that has manual ground balance will have buttons or knobs that allow you to lower or raise the ground balance based on the type of soil you are searching. Once you set the ground balance, it will not change until you adjust it again. Having the ability to tweak the ground balance and operate it a little high or a little low can be beneficial sometimes. A detector that offers you the option to switch between manual and automatic ground balance is really the way to go.
Final Thoughts on Ground Balance and Mineralization
It is worth doing research to see what kind of metal detector is best for the area and type of targets you plan on hunting. Metal detecting forums, Facebook groups, and metal detecting clubs are all great places to start. They can tell you if you should be looking at a specialized detector for the beach or gold fields, or if a quality all-purpose detector would be better.
Keep in mind that ground mineralization can be inconsistent. In some areas, you may find a dramatic difference in the ground mineralization within just a couple of feet. That means that you may find that you have to adjust your ground balance setting often in order to not lose any depth while you’re hunting.