Minelab X-Terra 50 Instruction manual

Field Test
Minelab X-Terra 50
Des Dunne
Field Application Specialist
Minelab International
It has to be said that Minelab are no
slouches when it comes to making fine
metal detectors. However, it can also be
said that some of the models they have
produced are robust machines but a tad
on the heavy side. All that has changed,
as they have just introduced a brandnew range of truly lightweight models.
These are called the X-Terra, using
brand new technology termed “V-Flex”.
There are two models presently available: the X-Terra 30 and the X-Terra 50
(which has more features and advanced
user functions).
Despite coming rather late into providing lightweight detectors utilising a
single frequency (the Musketeer aside)
it is good that Minelab have listened to
their customers and provided the one
thing that searchers everywhere want –
lightweight detectors.
The performance levels of some
traditional VLF single frequency
machines, especially those with meter
ID systems, can leave a lot to be
desired. With the older VLF system,
one of the drawbacks was accurately
identifying targets at even a modest 4in
in-ground depth. They also lacked lockon with positive and consistent values
on a meter that, due to ground mineralisation, could at times show a
negative value for a positive target and
ultimately cause some confusion in the
Minelab engineers looked at these
problematic areas and went about the
task of improving the existing technology, coming up with a new improved
system that they have called “V-Flex”.
V-Flex Explained
V-Flex uses state of the art digital
and mixed-signal components to
enhance standard single frequency VLF
technology by replacing most of the
analogue circuitry with digital signal
processing. The small amount of analogue circuitry still employed has been
very carefully designed and calibrated
to obtain the outstanding sensitivity,
stability and the repeatability required
to match the performance of the processing in the digital domain. This
radical departure from traditional
approaches to metal detector design
has been made possible by advances in
electronics that power personal digital
devices such as mobile cell phones and
tiny portable audio devices such as the
new I-Pods.
What does this mean for the X-Terra
For the X-Terra owner this precision
means dependable performance and
improved immunity to environmental
conditions, such as ground mineralisation, electromagnetic interference, and
temperature variations.
V-Flex requires search coils that are
hand-built and calibrated to a very high
standard. Each time the detector starts
up a primary microprocessor in the
control box begins the digital signal
processing and a secondary microprocessor inside the search coil
1. The coil type configuration - concentric or DD
2. Coil size
3. Frequency of that coil.
So it is not the detector that operates at a set frequency but the actual
search coil that denotes the frequency
chosen from a very low to a very high
kHz setting. So you have a truly “future
proof ” detector that you can upgrade as
often as you want as more accessory
coils become available for the detector.
It is also very useful that all you have to
do to obtain different results on different soils/sites is to use an alternative
search coil. For example, if you want to
search deeper for larger objects use a
low frequency coil. If you want to
search to a shallow depth and make
very small finds (in stubble rows, for
example) use a higher frequency coil.
By the way, the origin of the new
machine’s name is interesting. It came
about by “Ex = of/out” and “Terra =
land”. So we have, “X-Terra = from the
Instruction Manual
This is a very nice pocket-sized book
of about 60 pages so you can take it
with you in the field. It is very comprehensive and describes the two models X-Terra 30 and X-Terra 50 - in great
detail. It is packed throughout with
illustrations and explanations on all the
controls. There are some major differences between the two models and you
should refer to the manual to check.
For this test I will be discussing my
experiences with the X-Terra 50.
X-Terra Controls
The machine couldn’t be simpler!
Furthermore, there are some really
clever features built into the operation
of the machine that you are bound to
notice - but more on that later. For now
let’s examine the control panel.
Power. This turns the unit on and
off. It also erases patterns and enables
factory preset. Power for the X-Terra is
supplied by four 1.5 volt AA cells that
are held inside the control box via a
hinged door. These should power XTerra for 25 hours (alkaline cells).
Menu Select. Accesses and scrolls
through detecting settings.
Pinpoint/Detect. This has two
functions: (a) assists in locating the
exact position of targets, (b) exit menu
settings and returns to “Detect”.
Plus and Minus. Adjusts settings
and scrolls to the left (-) or right (+)
through the discrimination segments.
Patterns. Scrolls through the different discrimination patterns.
Accept/Reject. Turns on/off individual discrimination segments.
All-Metal. Toggles between the
selected discrimination pattern and the
all metal pattern.
Ground Balance. Activates the
manual adjustment to compensate for
different types of soil. This function
couldn’t be easier and quicker! Just
press, bob the coil up and down a few
centimetres above the ground and using either the plus and minus button
- find where the two tones merge into
one and dip in volume; press Detect
and you are ground balanced. Bear in
mind that this might not be possible
over wet salt beach conditions, but it is
possible to use the X-terra on salt wet
sand by adjusting sensitivity and discrimination accordingly. Similarly, if
there is a difficulty ground balancing on
any soil, reduce sensitivity and try
Keypad Layout
This is very nice indeed with the
most used buttons falling to easy reach
of the thumb or forefinger. An especially nice touch is that the Pin
Point/Detect and All-Metal buttons are
strategically located so you can jump
from one to the other with considerable ease. Also, if “iffy” signals are
heard that might be deep iron or something breaking through a created
discrimination pattern simply press
All-Metal and look at the screen. If a
low tone accompanied by a -9, -6, or -3
number appears the target is probably
ferrous. Re-press All-Metal and it goes
straight back to your created pattern –
no need to touch the Patterns button.
This is one of the clever features
referred to earlier.
Probably the most important button
is the Menu Select. This takes you
through the adjustable functions in the
detector:1. Volume from 1-20
2. Sensitivity from 1-20
3. Noise Cancel of which there are 3
channels: 0 which is Pre Set, +1 and -1.
Meter Layout
The meter is divided into eight different areas of information for your
1. The two discrimination patterns
are icons shown as 1 & 2. (Note there
is also an icon for All-Metal shown onscreen as AM).
2. Ferrous area -3, -6, -9.
3. Non-Ferrous + 3 to + 45
4. Depth indication – five arrows in
a V shape scrolling down (reasonably
accurate on coins to about 20cm).
Note on Discrimination: Where
some discrimination has been selected
a small black block at the bottom of the
meter will be illuminated, typically this
will be ferrous based with -3, -6 and -9
rejected. You can decide what your discrimination pattern will be for a site
you would like to search. For example,
if beach detecting, you decided pulltabs and whole cans were a problem
you could select to reject block number
+ 12 and + 36. Another clever feature
of the X-Terra is that the Overload function can help in identifying shallow
cans. However, on a site that could
reward with hammered coins it would
be best to accept numbers + 3 to + 18
(and possibly lower and higher depending on how worn and/or clipped coins
might be).
5. On the meter there is something
I have never seen before on any detector and that is a visual icon showing
when the headphones are connected.
Seeing this at first I found it rather odd,
until I discovered its real function and
again it is where the clever side of
Minelab design shines through. X-Terra
can remember two different volume
levels one being with headphones and
the other without and it will revert to
either one automatically when you
insert or remove the headphones ingenious! The headphone socket is
quarter inch and is recessed inside the
control box, which has a rubber dustproof cover which should be kept
closed when not in use
6. Battery level indicator icon –
shows two black blocks for a new set.
There is another clever side to the volume output of X-Terra, and that is if
you operate without headphones the
volume level diminishes as the battery
cells become depleted to preserve
usable power so you can detect for
longer than another conventional
7. ID Number Blocks – these are
very large digital numbers, which correspond to the conductivity of detected
targets. The numbers will be positive
when targets are non-ferrous and with
a minus slash for ferrous items if operating in All-Metal. The four tones will
also range from low for ferrous to high
for very conductive.
8. Pin Point function – has an outer
solid circle in which another complete
circle will be produced concentrically
when the coil is right over the centre of
the target. The further the coil is from
the target the inner line will drop down
and come fully up the closer you get to
the buried target. Visually this is a treat
and is a delight to use as it provides
some of the best pinpointing I have
come across. It also features an audible
rising crescendo tone, which peaks
when you hover over the target.
Accept/Reject Explained
In your Factory Discrimination Pattern - or one that you will build and use
yourself - there are “Discrimination
Segments” or blocks assigned to all the
numbers, either minus or positive, for
the entire range of targets that X-Terra
can locate.
Each time you locate a target you
will see a numeric value for that target
on the screen. The block assigned to
the conductivity of that value will move
either up or down to, and stop at that
numeric value; it will then flash three
times. If you decide that the target is
undesirable, for example referring
again to the pull-tabs on the beach, you
can “block them out” and not detect
that particular ID value anymore. Simply press the Accept/Reject button and
the icon assigned to that particular target’s value will again flash three times
and will remain illuminated. An X will
show that you have successfully
blocked that number.
If you later decide to “turn it off ”
because you might like to create a different pattern, employ the following
method. Using either the plus or minus
arrows, scroll to the particular number
you have rejected and press the A/R
button again; the discriminated block
will clear to accept that value again. It
couldn’t be any easier! You can “notch
in or out” as many target values as you
like. If you want to beach hunt for just
pound coins scan a sample of that coin
over the search coil to accept that
numeric value only, and then blacken
every remaining block. However, you
need to be aware - and this is particularly true for pull tabs - you may still
locate similar looking targets that do
not correspond to the conductivity of
the values you may have chosen to
reject. If you want to use more discrimination then go ahead. But if you want
to maximize your finds use as little
“discrimination” as you can get away
with and your patience can stand.
Erasing Patterns
In fairness to the Minelab engineers
this procedure couldn’t be any easier.
To my mind they have taken heed of the
customer using the product in the field
and realised that detecting time can be
scarce. Custom patterns are stored
when the X-Terra is turned off. To erase
patterns is simple. While pressing and
holding the Patterns button turn the XTerra back on by pressing the Power
button once. During the start-up
sequence release the Patterns button.
After the start-up sequence the “patterns erased” message will appear as PE
accompanied by a distinct sound.
Beach Testing
When I first received a prototype XTerra for field trials I was extremely
happy to test it but was unhappy with
the mid-summer conditions. Weather
had been very bad and a few early
excursions to the beaches revealed precious little - people were simply not
around to lose anything.
Most fields had crops in them so
that only left pasture and river foreshores. Then, all of a sudden, the sun
shone and it got very hot. Using X-Terra
on a dry sandy beach after a week of
sunshine produced £25 in one early
morning visit. This was repeated over a
few days on other beaches and I netted
about £80 in cash plus many other targets. Using little or no discrimination
and low sensitivity at about 8, I raced
along the beaches picking off the recent
shallow losses. The sheer lightness of
the machine (plus being strapped into
the arm rest with the supplied armstrap) provided the best “drivability” of
any detector of this type I have used
before. It simply went to where it was
pointed, quickly and easily without the
coil rising up.
On a low tide I went into the shallow water and immersed the coil
waiting for a screech to come; but there
was none. A few other coins were
located easily. If there were any false
signals (they were rare enough) backing off the sensitivity eliminated them.
Des Dunne
After becoming more familiar with the
machine I experimented with higher
sensitivities. Set to Sensitivity 18, a
beverage can came up from 20in. Some
small toy cars and other larger items
came up from foot plus depths (Fig.1.).
A river foreshore was next searched.
Finds were not prolific but I was
impressed with the way that X-Terra
rejected iron and remained perfectly
quiet and stable. Some lovely subtle
signals revealed tiny pieces of non-ferrous trapped between rocks and
pebbles, and several inches under the
mud. A French-made machine had been
used here a week earlier but almost
every signal turned out to be iron. The
X-Terra found me a few nice “keepers”
here (see Fig.2.).
and scanning over the spoil the pinpoint sang out loudly over a tiny brown
clod. Picking it up and crumbling the
dirt I saw a long cross, possibly a hammered silver half groat of Edward IV.
Unfortunately, it must have been hit by
the plough as a tiny corner was broken
off; but otherwise it is a beautiful coin
(see Fig.5.).
The woodland search had been an
unplanned event and I was forced into
the woods as two very inquisitive and
lively thoroughbred horses moved in
on me as I was searching some pasture.
A few coppers had come up, one from
11in with a reasonably good signal. A
pigeon ring came up from about 7in
deep with the number “GB87 S15425”
(see Fig.3.). In the middle of locating
another target the horses approached.
I made a hasty retreat as some years
back I had a nasty “equestrian” experience in the same field! I had to leave
the target. Following a woodland path that contained a considerable amount
of trash in the form of foil and ring
pulls - several pre-decimal coins came
up in a row. Silver pre-decimal is always
nice to take home (see Fig.4.).
Another field I had been searching
over the past year gave me the greatest
surprise of all. I’ve used many other
machines here in different weather and
soil conditions. Two hours on a fine dry
day put fifteen “keepers” in my pocket.
Of particular interest is that they were
mostly all tiny and very thin targets,
which had probably been missed due to
the sometimes ploughed condition of
the field.
One find I was particularly pleased
with announced itself with a sharp
“clip-clip” positive two-way signal and
turned out to be a third of a silver
penny from 5in. Whenever I find a half
or cut quarter I always wonder where
the other pieces are. This is the fun of
detecting, always looking to solve mysteries. Three other worn coins were
found making it a total of five hammered for this test of the X-Terra 50.
This machine really suited the flat soil
conditions (see Fig.6.).
As summer drew to a close some of
my old fields were in stubble. They presented a beautiful sight, gold as far as
the eye could see. But would I find
some gold? Not on this occasion, but I
did find more silver. During the afternoon of my third search of a promising
stubble field, the detector gave a really
beautiful sharp clear signal showing 15
on the screen. Three Vs pointed downwards to a possible depth of 6in.
Digging down into the now-soft earth
Going back in my mind to the day
when a tiny brown cardboard box was
delivered to my home I could never
have guessed that something so small
could deliver such a big punch! I guess
it’s true what they say about small
packages. In this case it is certainly true
– the X-Terra for its size, or lack of it to
be more precise, is really good.
A really neat aspect of this detector
is that when you are finished searching
for the day you can break down the
Pasture & Woodland
detector into its three different shaft
parts and also remove the control box
from the stem for safe packing and
transportation home. Detector users
who use public transport or like to take
a detector on holiday will find this feature a great plus as it enables really
easy packing into a small carry bag.
The introduction of this new line of
detectors to the Minelab range,
together with other current models,
offers the potential to keep just about
everyone happy.
This is a fine metal detector indeed
and one that I could live with very easily.
Manufacturer: Minelab
Model: X-Terra 50
Transmission: V-Flex single frequency
Coil: (Standard) 9in concentric,
Visual Display: LCD
Audio: Internal speaker and 0.25in
headphone output
Search Modes: Motion detector,
discrimination, multi-segment notching (accept/reject)
Personal Settings: Customised discrimination patterns
Target Identification: Digital
numeric display plus four tones
Batteries: 4 x AA alkaline or
(Nimh/Nicad accessory rechargeables)
Armrest: padded, four position
adjustable, with stand and arm strap
Length Extended: 56in (1.42m)
Weight (including batteries):
2.9lb (1.3kg)
Optional Accessories: Headphones, coil covers, environmental
cover, coils
Contact Information: Visit your
nearest Minelab dealer or log onto:
www.minelabx-terra.com to order a
free DVD.