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Garrett AT Gold Review: Is It Right for You?

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Among the most popular metal detectors specifically intended for use by gold prospectors, the Garrett AT Gold is built to perform at its best in all conditions.

Garrett AT Gold displayed in this Garrett AT Gold review

Garrett AT Gold

The Gold is a direct competitor to the Fisher Gold Bug, the Minelab Equinox, and the Nokta Makro Gold Finder 2000.

The Garrett AT (All-Terrain) family includes the Garrett AT Pro, the Garrett AT Max, and the Garrett AT Gold metal detector, and each of these detectors can take an absolute beating!

Continue reading our Garrett AT Gold review to find out all you can about one of the most popular gold metal detectors on the market today!

Garrett Metal Detectors got its start in 1964, and has become a leader in the metal detecting industry, driving several vast technological improvements over time.

Many believe Garrett’s most sensational products are the AT series, which offer high-level performance at a mid-level price! The AT Gold is a star due to its incredible sensitivity, ground balancing features, and incredible durability!

Pros:

  • High sensitivity to find tiny gold nuggets
  • Incredibly tough
  • Waterproof up to 10 feet
  • 2 Year Limited Warranty
  • Tone-Roll Audio

Cons:

  • Not the best choice for saltwater
  • No backlit display

Things to Consider Before Buying an AT Gold Detector

The Garrett AT Gold is an excellent metal detector for anyone who plans to metal detect for gold nuggets, go prospecting, or even look for gold rings in the park.

Since gold is so valuable, even a couple of finds can more than pay off the investment of the AT Gold, making it a great piece of equipment for a potentially lucrative hobby!

With that being said, the ideal buyer of the Garrett AT Gold is a hobbyist who has metal detected before and is looking for a machine optimized to find small gold targets in a wide range of conditions.

For any beginners reading this review, it would be wise to look into some detectors that are specifically designed for beginners. The Garrett ACE 400, the Garrett ACE 200, and the Garrett ACE APEX are all great detectors that are less complex than the AT series.

While this detector is not optimized for beginners, many hobbyists have decided to make the AT Gold their first metal detector, and have loved it.

There is a learning curve to more powerful metal detectors, but you can quickly and easily learn exactly how to use the machine and be well on your way to finding all kinds of gold.

AT Gold Features & Benefits

The features comprising the makeup of the AT Gold are what really provide the benefits of investing in this AT series offering. This review will give a detailed look at each of the features making up this detector.

Operating Frequency

Often an afterthought for many newer detectorists, operating frequency is very important for all treasure hunting applications, but especially for gold prospecting. Gold found in nature is often very small in size with a lower conductivity, often found in tiny gold flakes or a small gold nugget.

In order to find these tiny pieces of metal, a high operating frequency is required. Put simply, the higher the frequency, the more sensitive your metal detector will be at discovering small metal.

To provide this high sensitivity, the AT Gold runs at a frequency of 18kHz, perfect for most gold prospecting applications. It should be noted that increasing frequency increases sensitivity, but it decreases detection depth.

If you are someone who will rarely search specifically for gold, and would rather have greater detection depth, consider looking into the Garrett AT Pro or Garrett AT Max. These metal detectors provide greater detection depth and are less suited to gold-specific applications.

All-Terrain Durability

All-Terrain Durability Shown in the Garrett AT Gold review

All-Terrain Durability

As the name says, the AT Gold is really built to be operated in all environments.

Being waterproof up to 10 feet deep says a lot, as many devoted gold prospectors will go wherever the gold takes them.

Run this machine in the snow, rain, wind, dust, and hail, and it will keep performing just as you would expect it to.

This is a great feature, as accidents happen often when metal detecting, and having a waterproof detector can take a great amount of worry off your mind.

No matter whether you are finding gold nuggets in a swiftly-moving freshwater river or you wandered onto a trail of relics in a swampy area, your AT Gold will be right by your side.

Even better yet, the Gold takes four AA batteries, which last anywhere between 20-40 hours. In addition, Garrett provides a two year warranty out of the box with this metal detector!

Ground Balancing Options

For those who have never heard of ground balance, this may seem like a relatively unimportant feature, but it actually makes the difference between a good detector and a great detector!

At the end of the day, ground balance is a metal detector’s ability to overcome any unsavory ground conditions, such as highly mineralized soil, which can wreak havoc on the signals your metal detector receives and transmits.

When it comes to combating unusual ground mineralization, the Garrett AT Gold comes stock with some important features. The Gold comes stock with both manual and automatic ground balance options.

Many more experienced metal detectorists rely heavily on the manual ground balance option, as they can squeeze a little bit more performance out of the machine.

However, many beginners and intermediate treasure hunters enjoy using the Gold’s easy-to-use automatic option, as it provides a quick and easy way to keep your machine running well.

In addition, this Garrett detector comes with a ground balance window, allowing the operator to “spread” the balancing out over a range of values to provide the optimal settings for every ground type.

Iron Discrimination

A detector with strong iron discrimination features can be a lifesaver in areas that are filled with ferrous metals.

While relic hunters may want to find all kinds of iron targets, there are many detectorists, particularly those looking into this particular AT Gold that would rather hunt for other metals.

To help those looking for gold and other metals, Garrett outfitted this metal detector with 44 levels of high-resolution iron discrimination!

This large amount of discrimination notches provides detectorists with excellent control over exactly what metals they want to dig, saving time and energy.

There are two types of metal detectorists, those who dig every signal, and those who skip many signals until they find a perfect one. There is no right or wrong, and the AT Gold allows you to do either!

A good rule of thumb is to discriminate out items you continually find that are frustrating you, such as nails, pieces of wire, and similar trash targets.

If you want to really just focus on finding gold, silver, and other more valuable metals, you can always crank the notch discrimination way up as well!

Iron Audio

Audio Features Mentioned in this Garrett AT Gold review

The AT Gold’s Audio Features

One of Garrett’s most popular additions to their detector lines has been the Iron Audio feature.

This feature provides a great way to figure out whether or not a target is worth digging before you even put a shovel into the dirt.

Iron Audio enables users to hear any discriminated iron their machine is discriminating against.

This seems like it is defeating the purpose of notch discrimination in the first place, but it allows you to hear every part of an object’s signal, allowing you to tell whether you’ll be digging good targets.

For example, many times a washer or bottle cap will only give a good, non-discriminated signal when the search coil hits a certain point on the object. This gives a “false positive” of sorts.

What Iron Audio does is allow you to hear the discriminated tones as well, so you can almost “see” the entire metal target prior to digging it up. This is a great way to figure out whether or not you are detecting a coin, a washer, a bottle cap, or some other target.

Other Audio Features

In addition to Iron Audio, the AT Gold features Proportional Audio, or Pro Audio. Pro Audio is a constant, rolling target signal, unlike the binary, “on-off” signals used on many metal detectors.

The major benefit to the rolling Pro Audio tones is that you can hear any changes in conductivity, depth, and size as you sweep over each metal target. This allows for a more complete picture of the target before you decide whether to dig it or not.

In addition to Pro Audio, the AT Gold also features an adjustable threshold. An adjustable threshold is the background humming you can hear a metal detector make.

This is an excellent feature to have control over, as having the perfect threshold level can allow you to hear faint signals you may not otherwise be able to hear.

Unlike the newest member of the AT family, the AT Max, the AT Gold does not come compatible with Z-Lynk Wireless Headphones. If this is a big deal to you, there are a variety of different Z-Lynk accessories to get your AT Gold setup to run with wireless headphone capabilities.

Display

Display described in the Garrett AT Gold review

AT Gold’s Display

One of the best features on all three detectors that make up the AT series is their LCD displays.

The displays feature all kinds of information, including digital target ID, notch discrimination modes, search mode settings, target depth indicators, sensitivity adjustment, and battery levels.

The easy-to-read display makes it very simple to check the target identification number and make a best guess as to what metal the target is composed of.

The only downside to the AT Gold’s display is that it does not feature a backlight. The AT Max features a backlit display that is unbeatable for low-light or very bright and sunny conditions.

Search Modes

Since the AT Gold is a purpose-built metal detector intended to be used primarily for gold prospecting applications, it is somewhat lacking in the search modes department. There are three search modes you can choose from.

The first one is an All-Metal Mode, which provides the maximum target detection depth and sensitivity since it allows the machine to run uninhibited.

The other two search modes are custom discrimination modes that can be set up to an individual’s liking. A great way to do this would be to set one custom mode for when you are specifically gold hunting and the other custom mode for when you want to find coins or jewelry.

All three search modes are set up to run with Pro Audio, which is the continuous target tone that allows you to hear each target’s signal in its entirety.

Comfort/Ergonomics

One of the primary ways to determine how comfortable a metal detector will be for many people is how much the machine weighs. The AT Gold weighs 2.8 pounds, which is a very comfortable and manageable weight for the vast majority of metal detectorists.

This is a very lightweight detector for the number of features it provides, and this lightweight allows for a much longer time in the field with less fatigue setting in.

In addition to the light weight, the grip and foam pad on the armrest round out the excellent fit and feel of the AT Gold, making it a delight to use in virtually every condition possible.

Search Coils

Search Coils described in this Garrett AT Gold Review

The Garrett AT Gold Search Coil

When it comes to a gold-specific metal detector, picking out the right search coil is vital. If you miss out on the proper search coil, you could be passing up on some small pieces of gold!

To prevent this, the AT Gold comes stock with a 5″x8″ DD Proformance Search Coil.

This smaller DD coil is vital to search for gold, as smaller coils allow for more precise sensitivity, as well as better target separation.

For example, many times gold is found in areas where there may be many other metal targets present, such as near an old farmstead or mining camp. When you have a smaller search coil, you can pinpoint and separate good signals from bad signals with ease.

However, if you want to purchase additional search coils, there are many that are compatible with the AT Gold, providing you with all kinds of options for whatever detecting need you may have.

Alternatives

For the gold prospector that lives in each of us, the AT Gold is an excellent metal detector, but if you are looking for something else out of a metal detector, consider the following alternative options.

Garrett AT Max

Garrett AT Max promoted in this Garrett AT Gold Review

Garrett AT Max

The newest offering in the AT lineup, the Garrett AT Max provides excellent multi-purpose detecting capabilities, in addition to some updated features.

It differentiates itself from the AT Gold in that it provides Z-Lynk wireless headphone technology, a backlit LCD display, and a less gold-oriented design intent.

The Max offers four search modes and a lower operating frequency (for increased detection depth). With this increased technology comes an increased price, however.

AT Gold vs. AT Max

  • Operating Frequency: 18 kHz vs. 13.6 kHz
  • Price: $600-$700 vs. $700-$800
  • Non-backlit display vs. backlit display
  • Gold-focused vs. All-purpose

If you want a metal detector that is not specifically designed to find gold, consider looking into the AT Max.

Nokta Makro Gold Finder 2000

Nokta Makro Gold Finder 2000 promoted in this Garrett AT Gold Review

Nokta Makro Gold Finder 2000

The Nokta Makro lineup has become renowned for its excellent performance at an excellent price.

The Makro Gold Finder 2000 has become synonymous with “turn on and go” metal detecting, as it provides one of the simplest and quick setups out of any gold metal detectors on the market.

The target ID is different than the Garrett AT Gold, but it still provides an easy way to estimate the composition of the target.

One big difference is that the operating frequency runs at 61 kHz, providing a very sensitive machine! In addition, the Makro comes with a backlit LCD display, but an increase in price.

AT Gold vs. Gold Finder 2000

  • Operating Frequency: 18 kHz vs. 61 kHz
  • Price: $600-$700 vs. $700-$800
  • Non-backlit display vs. backlit display
  • Both gold-focused detectors

Fisher Gold Bug

Fisher Gold Bug promoted in this Garrett AT Gold Review

Fisher Gold Bug

The Fisher Gold Bug is an old standby that has been used for years by detectorists of all experience and age levels.

This metal detector provides mid-level performance at a low price, making it a great introductory gold detector.

The Gold Bug runs at a frequency of 19 kHz, has a very small coil that allows it to cut down on mineralized ground interference, and is sensitive enough to find the smallest pieces of gold.

In addition, the Gold Bug weighs in at 2.5 pounds and offers a 5 Year Warranty!

AT Gold vs. Fisher Gold Bug

  • Operating Frequency: 18 kHz vs. 19 kHz
  • Price: $600-$700 vs. $400-$500
  • Both non-backlit display
  • Both gold-focused detectors

Conclusion

No matter whether you are new to gold prospecting or have been at it for years, the Garrett AT Gold is one of the finest gold detectors on the market.

It fits a unique price point, providing enough performance for serious detectorists while remaining a great value to new and intermediate detectorists alike.

We hope you have enjoyed our Garrett AT Gold review, seeing how it provides excellent sensitivity and performance due to its high operating frequency, all-terrain durability, and excellent audio features.

Click here to see the AT Gold and all of its features!

About The Author
John Matuszak
John, a zealous treasure hunter, knew his life was over the moment he watched The Goonies for the first time and realized he had the same name as the actor who played Sloth.