Minelab Etrac Review - First Impressions

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Minelab Etrac Review - First Impressions

Post by Blackadder43 » Wed Sep 22, 2010 9:24 pm

This will be my "ongoing" Review of the Minelab Etrac....
I will update this thread as i learn what the Etrac can and cannot do......And get to grips with all its little quirks.......
First some observations.......
If you choose the Etrac as your first ever detector be warned......you are in for a very steep learning curve.
If you are going to use the Etrac on pasture land, especialy clay soil then you will 100% need a pinpointer probe....The Etrac is a very deep machine...
Also the pinpoint mode on the machine takes a bit of getting used to.....mine at present is slightly off centre....which can leave targets in the wall of your hole, again making the need for a probe quite important.......

Arrived today and its pretty simple to assemble, feels quite sturdy...
Was'nt over keen on the length of the coil cable.......It starts off straight and then goes to a short curly length.....
It is thread up through the stem, it only justs reaches the fitting when the machine is at its shortest, as you lengthen the stem to suit, you pull the cable tight and it starts stretching the curly bit...
Obviously its fine as there are hundreds already in use, its just i wasnt to keen on it.....

Lengthening the stem Fantastic idea here...just put the stems to the length required and snap shut the fittings....simples....

Weight The Etrac is slightly heavier than my Fisher CZ3D, but it does seem to be more balanced, making it slightly more comfortable on long sessions.

So, i flipped through the various screens and sub screens....Bit overwhelming to start but you soon remember where stuff is.......Dont expect to learn the menus and what it does on the first day, you will overload your brain.....

Headphones With my Etrac i have the Koss phones....not overly impressed with these....They seem to slip around my shiny head a bit and the cable is far to short.....will definately be taking my Philips (£90 but paid a tenner for) headphones next time with the extra long cable and comfortable head fittings...

First trip out
I deliberately chose a spot that i have hunted many times before, as far as my Fisher was concerned i had already taken the good targets out, it was a patch approx 100feet x 100feet.
I have taken quite a few coins, buckles and buttons here, the oldest coin being a 1604 hammered, but mainly coins from the 1800's.

Again i deliberately chose 1 of the 4 "factory programs"
I chose the Relic pattern.
Because this is an American machine the "Relic" pattern is almost an open screen with only a few segments of the iron taken out.
I didnt want to tweak anything until i understood what the machine can do on its own....In this mode it will let a lot of iron targets through, but with the help of the screen and the numbers you soon start to learn which these are.....
This is definately one machine where you should pay attention to the screen aswel as the sounds

Well i am used to 3 simple tones on my Fisher, straight forward grunt/burp for iron, a mid tone for foil, silver gold etc and the hightone for cracking finds or shotgun cartridge ends...
So the Etrac's warbling, flute like sounds did take some getting used to...

Again i deliberately dug pretty much everything the Etrac signalled, just so i could learn how it reacts and sounds to whats underneath it...
I dug a lot of nails, and damn deep nails at that.....The Etrac is similar to any other machine here, with an open screen such as Relic mode you will hear the grunt, followed by the hightone....But the difference with the Etrac is the screen which shows you where on its ferrous/conductivity scale the target is and also it gives you the numbers that they would be found on that scale...
These will take some learning.....But i did guess correctly on 90% of them...
And once you have learnt the numbers then you can start to devise your own programs to get rid of these, or at least limit them....

So apart from the nails i also found 2 buttons and 1 x 18something Halfpenny (at approx 9") and a couple of buckles....
All this from a small area that as far as i was concerned i had hunted out of the good finds...
And this was all done on the Etracs own relic mode pattern with no tweaks....

All in all i am well pleased with it and am looking forward to learning and tweaking this machine to get the best out of it...

Cheers Blackadder
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Re: Minelab Etrac Review - First Impressions

Post by Blackadder43 » Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:45 pm

Ongoing Review:

As some of you know i am having some problems with my Etrac, its an erratic and random problem which is causing frustration more than anything else.
The machine is usable but needs to be sorted.
I have phoned the guys at Minelab International Limited in Ireland and i have to say they are top guys, excellent customer service and they know their onions.
Just waiting for my slot and will be sending the machine to them for repair.
Live and learn folks.

Coil Cover
Ok, one thing i forgot to mention on the initial review is the coil cover...absolutely spot on....snap it on and snap it off again, all in a matter of seconds.
My Fisher machine takes about half an hour to get the coil cover off.

Screen Menu
At first this is extremely daunting navigating through the menus and sub menus, especialy when you are used to a machine with just knobs to twiddle.
But after only a few hours it begins to slot into place.
Now, what each setting does thats going to take the time to learn.

Loading your own patterns
Once you have a basic understanding of the ferrous content and conductivity of your targets then it becomes quite easy to know how much (if any) discrimination you will need on a particular site.
Its quite easy to do.
Put the machine in all metal and save the fully open white screen.
Then go to "discrimination" and click "Edit", this allows you to discriminate (or black out) the segments you want the machine to ignore..
To practice this i downloaded the "Etrac Emulator"
Basicaly its an Etrac on your PC.....its great for navigating around the screens and getting to know them.
There are also a couple of programs available for the emulator with a selction of targets, this allows you to change the settings on the emulator and then see how and where the target comes in on the screen..
For anyone thinking of getting this machine then i recommend playing around with the emulator...it will give you an idea of the sounds and settings to help you make your mind up.
The performance speaks for itself.

This is a toughy and probably going to be the hardest thing for me to adjust to...
There are a few combinations and they are like chalk and cheese....i will get back to you once i have settled on something that suits my ears.......

I always thought i was ok with sensitivity and understanding it on my Fisher, but the Etrac is different.
In manual mode it could do your ears in if you dont know what to do with it...
For now i am running in Auto +3 as mrix has mentioned.
Not because i understand that setting to be the best but because its the most stable and the most sensible for me at this time.
Basicaly Auto sensitivity automaticaly scans the ground constantly, changing the sensitivity to suit what it senses beneath it, the +3 i "think" just adds 3 more clicks of sensitivity to its auto numbers.

More to follow.....Minelab Ireland have sent me out on a test mission tomorrow to try and do things to recreate my machines problem more consistently to pin it down......Thats what ive told the wife anyways =))
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Re: Minelab Etrac Review - First Impressions

Post by Blackadder43 » Sat Oct 09, 2010 1:05 am

Fingers crossed i have sorted out the problems i was having....
With the help of Minelab Ireland and some general fault finding we narrowed it down to 2 possibiltys...
The machine in its previous life had gotten wet and the owner hadnt dryed the machine out properly
If you use your machine in the rain or moist environment then when you get home, take the batterys out and place in a warm area with the speaker grill facing upwards.....This will allow the moisture to evaporate and your machine should be good to go...
The other possibilty was the rechargeable battery pod being up the swanny, so now i use "Sanyo Eneloop" rechargeables in the standard pod (Great batterys that come fully charged and will keep 80% of their charge for up to 3 years)

Ok, so i went to a farm on wednesday that has 1 field left that i could never detect on with my previous machine....The chatter and noise was unbearable no matter what i did....
Took the Etrac there and away we went with no problems at all with chatter and falsing noises...........And it found a Barbarous Radiate, Spinks 749A. Circa 270-273 AD,.....in very poor condition at approx 8" down....First Roman for this Farm.....the Farmer was well chuffed

Noise cancel
This is an excellent and underrated feature of this machine.
It should be performed when you get to your site, or when you change fields, or when other people are using detectors on the same site as you....

Basicaly all detectors are affected by power lines, phone masts, other machines etc etc..

Noise cancel can be done in Auto mode, or manual mode :
Auto Mode
You hold the coil (you need to keep the coil very still for this) about 30cm's above the ground..
The machine scans through 11 channels and chooses the channel with the least amount of noise and interference on it........
Auto is good until you learn the machine, then you should realy do it manualy....

Heres why in my experience:
A week ago i was on a field and did the "auto noise cancel", the machine chose "channel 6"
I hit my first target and put the machine down to dig......the machine started chirping and spluttering like a canary on speed....picked the machine up and it stopped...(2 fields away are 3 phone masts)
So i manualy chose a lower quieter channel (4)
The machine was perfect and didnt bleat when i put it down....
So in manual you basicaly scan through the channels until you find a quiet one....

This is a tough one....
You have 2 options, auto (with + or - options for 3 extra clicks)
Or manual...
If you are new to detecting or new to the art of "iron falsing" i would suggest your first few hunts are done in just "Auto" mode.
If you are comfortable with the Etrac or you have experience of telling which is iron falsing and which is good targets i would suggest using manual

Auto mode
Go to the "sensitivity " screen and make sure the sensitivity is set to 30.
Then click the setting to "Auto"
Start detecting.....
The number you see on the left side of the screen is the sensitivity level that the machine is running at.....(it constantly scans the ground, changing as you hunt)
When you are more comfortable with the machine you can then run at what quite a few people use which is "Auto +3"
Basicaly this is the setting that the machine senses and then it adds 3 more clicks.....
You want the sensitivity to be as high as possible (max is 30) without it chattering and falsing everywhere.
You realy want to be in the high 20's to get as much depth as you can in the field....25 to 28 is very good......30 is probably impossible on your ears....

Manual sensitivity
This setting allows you to run the machine as hot as you can stand.....and also allows you to overide what the machine wants to run at in auto...
One field i went to is a low level field, often flooded and spent a lot of its life under water, and is very close to the coast.....
In Auto +3 sensitivity i could only get it to run at 19 (16 machine setting + my added 3)
So i switched to Manual and managed to get the machine stable at 25.....This added depth to the machine but the trade off is "iron falsing"
But once you are comfortable with iron falsing and can understand when its happening its good (I had plenty of practice with iron falsing with my old machine, used to run it very hot and dug a lot of those signals to work out what they were and how the machine acted....)

Sorry if i have bored you all to tears buts becoming like a blog for me at the moment...

If anyone wants to comment on this or just ask questions then feel free to start a new thread in the minelab machine forum......
I am by no means an expert with this machine yet, but i do have a thirst to learn about everything its capable of doing....
Thanks for reading guys......and gals :-*
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