Photo of a man metal detecting on a beach

The performance and effectiveness of metal detectors are largely influenced by the frequencies at which they operate. Different frequencies will affect the detection depth, sensitivity, and target identification capabilities of your metal detector.

Understanding the role of frequencies in metal detection can help you make informed decisions when selecting a metal detector for specific applications or environments.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the various frequencies used in metal detectors. We will be exploring their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their applications in different ground types or soil mineralization levels

Additionally, this article will explore how different operating frequencies can impact target identification and take a look at new innovations in the field of metal detection.

The Role of Frequencies in Metal Detection

A Quick Reminder of How Metal Detectors Work

Metal detectors operate based on the principles of electromagnetism. A metal detector typically consists of a control box, a search coil, and a shaft connecting the two. The search coil, when energized by the control box, generates an electromagnetic field around itself. 

When a metallic object is within the range of this electromagnetic field, it induces eddy currents in the object, which in turn creates a secondary magnetic field. This secondary magnetic field is detected by the search coil, and the control box processes the received signal, alerting the user to the presence of a metal object.

The Importance of Frequencies in Detection Depth and Sensitivity

The frequency of a metal detector refers to the number of times the electromagnetic field oscillates per second, measured in kilohertz (kHz). Frequencies play a crucial role in determining the detection depth and sensitivity of metal detectors, as well as their ability to discriminate between different types of metal targets.

Detection Depth 

The detection depth is the maximum distance at which a metal detector can identify a metallic object. Lower-frequency metal detectors generally offer greater detection depth, as their electromagnetic fields penetrate deeper into the ground. This makes them suitable for finding larger, deeper targets. On the other hand, higher-frequency metal detectors have a more limited detection depth but are more sensitive to smaller, shallow targets.


Sensitivity refers to a metal detector’s ability to detect metal objects of varying sizes and compositions. Higher-frequency metal detectors are more sensitive to smaller targets and low-conductive metals, such as gold nuggets and small jewelry items.

Conversely, lower-frequency metal detectors are less sensitive to small targets but are more effective in detecting larger, high-conductive metals, such as silver coins and large relics.

How Frequency Impacts Target Identification

Target identification helps users distinguish between various types of metallic objects. The frequency of a metal detector affects the device’s ability to differentiate between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as to identify specific types of coins, relics, and jewelry.

Distinguishing between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals are those that contain significant amounts of iron and are typically magnetic, such as steel or cast iron. Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, do not contain significant amounts of iron and are non-magnetic, such as gold, silver, copper, and aluminum. 

Lower-frequency metal detectors are more sensitive to high-conductive metals and can easily distinguish between ferrous and non-ferrous targets. However, they may struggle to accurately identify targets with low conductivity, such as gold or small jewelry items. 

Higher-frequency metal detectors excel at detecting low-conductive metals and small targets. As a trade-off, these frequencies may be less effective in discriminating between ferrous and non-ferrous metals due to their increased sensitivity to iron content.

Identifying Specific Types of Coins, Relics, and Jewelry

The frequency of a metal detector also impacts its ability to identify specific types of coins, relics, and jewelry. Higher frequency metal detectors are more sensitive to small targets and can provide a higher resolution signal, making it easier to identify specific types of objects based on their size, shape, and metal composition.

For example, a high-frequency metal detector might be able to distinguish between a gold coin and a small gold nugget based on their unique conductive properties and target signatures. Conversely, lower-frequency metal detectors may struggle to provide the same level of detail in target identification, making it more difficult to differentiate between similar targets.

Common Frequency Technologies in Metal Detectors

Metal detectors operate using a variety of frequencies, each with its unique advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific application and environmental conditions. There are three common types of metal detector technologies that utilize different frequencies: Very Low Frequency (VLF), Pulse Induction (PI), and Beat Frequency Oscillation (BFO).

Very Low Frequency (VLF)

VLF technology is the most commonly used in modern metal detectors and operates at frequencies ranging from 3 to 45 kHz. VLF metal detectors use two coils, one for transmitting and another for receiving, which are usually incorporated into a single search coil. 

The advantages of VLF detectors include their ability to discriminate between various metals and their suitability for use in different soil types. They are also generally more affordable than other types of detectors. However, they can be affected by mineralization in the soil, which may require ground balancing adjustments to maintain optimal performance.

Pulse Induction (PI)

PI metal detectors operate at lower frequencies, usually between 100 Hz and 3 kHz, and use a single coil for both transmitting and receiving. PI detectors transmit short, powerful pulses of electromagnetic energy and measure the decay time of the induced eddy currents in metallic objects. 

Pulse Induction metal detectors are less affected by ground mineralization and provide excellent detection depth. That makes them ideal for highly mineralized soils and saltwater environments.

The main disadvantage of PI detectors is their limited ability to discriminate between different types of metals. This can result in more false signals and unwanted targets, such as iron trash. PI detectors are also often more expensive than VLF detectors, making them less accessible to casual hobbyists.

Beat Frequency Oscillation (BFO)

BFO metal detectors are considered the simplest, operating at frequencies between 3 and 30 kHz. BFO detectors use two separate oscillators, one in the search coil and another in the control box. The interaction between the two oscillators produces a beat frequency, which changes when a metallic object is detected.

Although BFO detectors are easy to use they have several clear limitations, including poor detection depth, limited sensitivity to small targets, and a lack of discrimination capabilities.

With the development and advancements in VLF technology and its reduction in cost over the years, modern BFO metal detectors are a rarity. They can, however, be found easily through online marketplaces, thrift stores, and peddlers’ malls.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Frequency Levels

Each frequency level used in metal detectors offers unique advantages and disadvantages, affecting their performance in terms of detection depth, sensitivity, and target identification. This section will discuss the pros and cons of low, medium, and high frequencies.

Low Frequencies (1-15 kHz)


Greater detection depth

Low frequencies can penetrate deeper into the ground, making them suitable for finding larger, deeper targets.

Better performance in mineralized soils

Low frequencies are less affected by ground mineralization, which can lead to fewer false signals in highly mineralized environments.

Easier discrimination of high-conductive metals

Low frequencies can effectively distinguish between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, especially those with high conductivity, such as silver and copper.


Lower sensitivity to small targets

Low frequencies are less sensitive to small, low-conductive targets, such as gold nuggets and small jewelry items.

Slower recovery speed

The recovery speed, or the ability to identify multiple targets in close proximity, can be slower with low frequencies compared to higher frequencies.

Medium Frequencies (15-30 kHz)


Balanced performance

Medium frequencies strike a balance between detection depth and sensitivity, making them suitable for a wide range of applications and target types.

Good discrimination capabilities

These frequencies can effectively discriminate between different metals, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Faster recovery speed

Medium frequencies generally have a faster recovery speed than low frequencies, allowing them to detect multiple targets in close proximity more efficiently.


Moderate sensitivity to small, low-conductive targets

Although medium frequencies perform better than low frequencies for small targets, their sensitivity is still lower than that of high frequencies.

Can be affected by mineralization

While medium frequencies handle mineralization better than high frequencies, they are more affected by it than low frequencies.

High Frequencies (30+ kHz)


Excellent sensitivity to small targets

High frequencies are highly sensitive to small, low-conductive targets, such as gold nuggets, small jewelry, and thin coins.

Improved target identification

The high-resolution signal of high frequencies allows for better identification of specific types of coins, relics, and jewelry.

Faster recovery speed

High frequencies have a faster recovery speed, enabling them to efficiently detect multiple targets in close proximity.


Limited detection depth

High frequencies have a more limited detection depth compared to low and medium frequencies, making them less suitable for detecting larger, deeper targets.

More affected by mineralization

High frequencies are more susceptible to false signals caused by ground mineralization, which may require frequent ground balancing adjustments to maintain optimal performance.

Applications of Different Frequencies in Various Ground Types and Soil Mineralization Levels

The effectiveness of a metal detector’s frequency depends on the ground type and soil mineralization levels. This section will discuss the optimal applications of low, medium, and high frequencies in various ground types and mineralization levels.

Low Frequencies (1-15 kHz)

Optimal applications for low frequencies include:

Highly mineralized soils

Low frequencies are less affected by ground mineralization, making them suitable for use in mineralized environments such as black sand beaches, goldfields, or areas with high iron content.

Deep relic hunting

The increased detection depth provided by low frequencies is advantageous when searching for large, deep targets such as relics and caches.

Coin shooting in older sites

For detecting high-conductive, deep coins in older sites, low frequencies are beneficial, as they offer a greater detection depth.

Medium Frequencies (15-30 kHz)

Optimal applications for medium frequencies include:

General-purpose treasure hunting

Medium frequencies offer a balanced performance, making them versatile and suitable for various types of targets, from coins to jewelry and relics.

Moderately mineralized soils

In environments with moderate mineralization, medium frequencies can provide a good balance between detection depth, sensitivity, and discrimination.

Parks and urban areas

For detecting a wide range of targets in parks and urban areas where multiple target types and sizes are present, medium frequencies are ideal due to their balanced performance and faster recovery speed.

High Frequencies (30+ kHz)

Optimal applications for high frequencies include:

Gold Prospecting

High frequencies excel at detecting small gold nuggets and low-conductive metals, making them ideal for gold prospecting in areas with low to moderate mineralization.

Jewelry hunting

The high sensitivity to small targets offered by high frequencies makes them suitable for detecting small jewelry items, such as earrings and thin chains.

Coin shooting in trashy areas

In areas with a high concentration of trash and iron contamination, high frequencies can help identify small, valuable targets among the unwanted items due to their improved target identification and faster recovery speed.

New Frequency Technologies in Metal Detection

The field of metal detection has experienced significant advancements in recent years, particularly in technologies related to frequencies. This section will explore some of these innovations, including multi-frequency detectors, and the development of smart algorithms for frequency optimization and ground balancing.

Multi-Frequency Detectors

Multi-frequency detectors operate on multiple frequencies simultaneously, allowing users to benefit from the advantages of different frequency levels without having to switch between them manually. 

This technology provides enhanced depth, sensitivity, and discrimination capabilities, making it suitable for various applications, including gold prospecting, relic hunting, and coin shooting.

Some of the benefits of multi-frequency detectors include:

Improved performance in mineralized soils

Multi-frequency detectors can automatically adjust to varying ground mineralization levels, reducing false signals and improving detection performance.

Better target identification

By analyzing target signals across multiple frequencies, these detectors can more accurately identify and discriminate between different types of metals.

Increased versatility

The ability to operate on multiple frequencies simultaneously makes these detectors suitable for a wide range of applications and ground conditions.

Smart Algorithms for Frequency Optimization

The integration of smart algorithms in metal detectors has led to improved frequency optimization, enabling detectors to automatically select the most suitable frequency for a given environment or target type. 

Along with its user experience improvements, Smart algorithms increase the efficiency and precision of your detector along with its user experience improvements. Since these algorithms analyze target signals and ground conditions in real-time, they adjust the frequency to peak detection depth, sensitivity, and target identification maximizing the coverage of each swing.

Incorporation of AI in Metal Detecting

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in metal detecting has further revolutionized the capabilities and performance of modern detectors. AI-based algorithms can analyze target signals, ground conditions, and other factors more effectively than traditional methods, providing users with enhanced detection capabilities and more accurate identification of targets.

Some of the benefits and applications of AI in metal detecting include:

Adaptive frequency selection

AI algorithms can intelligently select the most appropriate frequency based on the detected target and ground conditions, optimizing the detector’s performance for improved sensitivity and depth.

Enhanced target identification and discrimination

AI-powered metal detectors can more accurately identify and discriminate between various types of metals, even in challenging environments with high levels of trash and iron contamination. This enables users to focus on valuable targets and reduce the time spent digging up unwanted items.

Dynamic ground balancing

AI-driven ground balancing techniques can quickly and accurately adapt to changing ground conditions, maintaining optimal detector performance in diverse environments with varying mineralization levels.

Improved noise reduction and filtering

AI algorithms can analyze and filter out sources of noise and interference, such as electrical and radio signals, which may affect the performance of metal detectors. This results in a more stable and precise detecting experience.

Advanced Ground Balancing Techniques

Ground balancing is a crucial aspect of metal detection, as it allows the detector to account for varying ground mineralization levels and reduce false signals. New technologies have led to the development of advanced ground balancing techniques that not only improve the accuracy and speed of ground balancing but also adapt to changes in ground conditions dynamically. 

Some detectors now use multiple frequency ranges to perform ground balancing, providing a more accurate and stable balance in highly mineralized environments.

Final Thoughts on Metal Detector Frequencies

Understanding various frequencies and their impact on metal detector performance is crucial for both beginners and experienced detectorists. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there aren’t many controllable factors we have at our disposal while we are on a hunt. By learning the various technology options and frequency ranges, you will be able to select the most suitable frequency for their specific detecting environment and target types,

As metal detecting technology continues to advance, it is expected that further innovations and improvements will emerge, offering even greater depth, sensitivity, and target identification capabilities for detectorists. Along with these improvements, advanced metal detectors will begin to automatically adjust and control which frequency is most suitable in real-time. Further improving the experience and performance of beginners and experienced detectorists alike.