Released in 2017, the Garrett AT Max is the successor of the Garrett AT Pro and adds both quality-of-life features and a few changes. Designed for detectorists ready to graduate from entry-level models and looking for an easy-to-operate device, the AT MAX aimed to strike a balance between advanced features and user-friendliness while building on the versatility of the Garrett AT Pro.
Is a new Garrett AT MAX metal detector worth your investment in 2023? Boasting a variety of features and settings, it might seem like an ideal choice for those seeking higher performance but since its release technology has advanced. So, should you be considering the Garrett AT Max? Let’s explore.
Initial thoughts on the Garrett AT MAX
True to its predecessor and the Garrett brand, the AT Max is an easy-to-operate, versatile, multi-terrain metal detector that properly represents Garrett’s product quality. It’s a durable metal detector that is relatively easy to use, and even with its technical shortcomings, it remains on the fringe of my top 20 metal detector rankings just above the Garrett AT Pro.
The first thing to understand about the AT Max is that it is more of a quality-of-life improvement over the AT Pro rather than a performance upgrade. While it does come with Garrett’s ground balance window technology and an improved True All Metal Mode, additions like z-link wireless audio, a backlit screen, and volume adjustments cover most of the major changes.
While I think these are all welcome additions, the AT Max faces the same critical issue that the AT Pro encounters. As a single-frequency metal detector with an MSRP of $894 at the time of writing, it’s far too expensive when compared to other options. At that price, you actually could save money buying The Legend from Nokta, an Equinox 600 or 700, or even a Garrett ACE Apex. All of these come equipped with simultaneous multi-frequency which I would prefer to have for their increased target separation and coverage.
You can even find cheaper VLF metal detectors that should stack up with their performance, like the new Minelab xTerra Pro or Nokta’s Simplex series which have a similar feature set while coming in under half the price at MSRP.
That being said, without considering its current value proposition at retail pricing, the metal detector is reliable and capable in any terrain and waterproof up to depths of 10 ft. It also highlights Garrett’s quality and well-known durability that have appealed to novice metal detectorists over the decades. While it might not present the separation capabilities of more modern devices, it’s going to find targets in any terrain at decent depths.
Pros of the Garrett AT MAX Metal Detector
- Z-Lynk wireless technology
- True All-Metal Mode
- Backlit LCD display
- Waterproof design
- Adjustable ground balance
- Garrett’s Ground Balance Window
Cons of the Garrett AT MAX Metal Detector
- Slightly heavier than entry-level models
- Less suitable for saltwater environments
- High MSRP for a VLF metal detector in 2023
Notable Features of the Garrett AT Max
Z-Lynk Wireless Technology
The AT MAX is equipped with Z-Lynk wireless technology, offering a more comfortable detecting experience by eliminating the need for wired headphones. Garrett states that this technology significantly reduces audio delay, providing faster target response and audio synchronization. With a 6 times faster response time compared to Bluetooth devices, Z-Lynk ensures you won’t miss any vital audio cues. The AT MAX is compatible with the Garrett MS-3 Z-Lynk Wireless Headphones, further enhancing your wireless audio experience.
True All-Metal Mode
One of the standout features of the AT MAX is its True All-Metal Mode, which is absent in the AT Pro. In this mode, the detector offers maximum detection depth and increased sensitivity for small targets. This feature is particularly useful when hunting for relics and gold nuggets, as it allows you to detect valuable items at greater depths. True All-Metal Mode also provides a continuous audio response, allowing you to hear subtle variations in the audio signal and make better decisions on whether to dig or move on to the next target.
Backlit LCD Display
The AT MAX also features a backlit LCD display, another feature absent on the AT Pro, ensuring easy readability in low light conditions. The display shows important information, such as battery life, target ID, sensitivity level, and ground balance settings. This user-friendly interface allows you to quickly adjust settings on the go, keeping you focused on detecting valuable targets.
One of the key selling points of the AT MAX is its waterproof design. The detector is submersible up to 10 feet, allowing you to explore a wide range of environments, including rivers, creeks, and shallow water areas. This feature sets the AT MAX apart from many other detectors in its class, as it enables you to extend your treasure-hunting adventures into previously inaccessible areas. Combined with Garrett’s well-known durability you should be in good hands even when getting wet.
Adjustable Ground Balance
The adjustable ground balance feature is essential for achieving optimal performance across various ground conditions. Ground balance allows you to compensate for mineralization in the soil, which can interfere with the detector’s ability to accurately locate targets. By adjusting the ground balance settings, you can minimize false signals and improve target detection. The AT MAX offers both manual and automatic ground balance options, giving you the flexibility to fine-tune the detector’s performance to suit your specific environment.
The AT MAX incorporates Garrett’s exclusive Iron Audio feature, which allows you to hear discriminated iron targets. This advanced feature helps you to accurately identify trash items, such as nails and bottle caps, and avoid digging unnecessary holes. By providing an adjustable mid-tone response for iron signals, Iron Audio enables you to focus on more valuable targets and improve your overall detecting efficiency while preserving precious stamina on longer hunts.
The depth indicator feature on the AT MAX provides a visual representation of target depth, helping you determine how deep you need to dig to retrieve a detected object. Displayed on the LCD screen, the depth indicator shows target depth in 2-inch increments up to a maximum of 10 inches. This feature is particularly useful in minimizing ground disturbance and speeding up target recovery.
Preset Search Modes
The AT MAX offers four preset search modes, allowing you to optimize the detector’s performance for specific types of targets and environments. These search modes include:
- All Metal – Provides maximum depth and sensitivity for detecting all types of metal targets.
- Coins – Designed for detecting coins in areas with moderate trash levels.
- Jewelry – Optimized for detecting jewelry items, such as rings and bracelets, in areas with moderate trash levels.
- Custom – Allows you to save your preferred settings for a personalized detecting experience.
Each search mode offers a unique set of discrimination patterns and settings, helping you to quickly adjust the detector’s performance to suit your needs.
The AT MAX operates at a frequency of 13.6 kHz, which offers excellent sensitivity to a wide range of targets, including larger natural gold targets, coins, and jewelry. However, in areas with high electromagnetic interference, such as near power lines or other detectors, the detector’s performance may be affected. To combat this issue, the AT MAX features a frequency shift function that allows you to slightly adjust the operating frequency, reducing interference and improving overall performance.
Comparing the Garrett AT MAX to the Garrett AT Pro
The Garrett AT MAX and the AT Pro are both durable metal detectors designed for all-terrain use and catering to different skill levels, including beginners. However, there are several key differences between the two models that can help you decide which one is better suited to your needs.
- Z-Lynk Wireless Technology: One of the standout features of the AT MAX is its built-in Z-Lynk wireless technology, which allows you to use wireless headphones for a more convenient and comfortable detecting experience. The AT Pro, on the other hand, does not have this feature and requires wired headphones.
- True All-Metal Mode: The AT MAX offers a true all-metal mode, providing greater depth and sensitivity for detecting targets. The AT Pro does not have this mode, although it does offer a Zero mode with no discrimination. This can be an advantage for users seeking maximum depth and detection capabilities.
- Operating Frequency: The AT MAX operates at a frequency of 13.6 kHz, while the AT Pro operates at 15 kHz. Although the difference may not be significant for most users, the AT MAX’s slightly lower frequency can potentially lead to better target separation and detection in certain situations.
- Backlit Display: The AT MAX features a backlit display, making it easier to read in low-light conditions. This can be a major advantage for those who frequently detect in dimly lit environments or during dawn and dusk. The AT Pro does not have a backlit display.
- Fewer Search Modes: The AT MAX has two fewer search modes compared to the AT Pro, but it still allows users to customize their detecting experience with a custom mode. While both models have Zero, Custom, and Coins modes, the AT MAX also provides an additional Iron Audio mode that enhances the detector’s ability to filter out unwanted iron targets.
- Price: The AT MAX is priced higher than the AT Pro, with an MSRP of $894.06 on garrett.com at the time of writing compared to the AT Pro’s MSRP of $685.82.
In summary, the Garrett AT MAX is a slightly more advanced metal detector than the AT Pro that has added several features that have become more standard on modern devices. However, the AT Pro remains a reliable and capable metal detector that offers solid performance and versatility. When deciding between the two, you should really decide if the wireless audio and True All Metal Mode are worth the increased price as I view those as the major differences.
Is the Garrett AT MAX waterproof?
Yes, the Garrett AT MAX is waterproof up to 10 feet, allowing you to explore a variety of environments, including shallow water.
How does the AT MAX perform on beaches?
While the AT MAX performs well on dry sand, it may struggle in saltwater environments. For saltwater detecting, consider a multi-frequency VLF or a pulse induction detector to better combat the high level of ground mineralization caused by the salt.
How much does the Garrett AT MAX weigh?
The AT MAX weighs 3.03 lbs, just slightly heavier than entry-level models but still comfortable for extended detecting sessions.
What is the warranty for the Garrett AT MAX?
The Garrett AT MAX comes with a 2-year limited parts and labor warranty from the date of purchase.
Final thoughts on the Garrett AT MAX
The Garrett AT MAX is a versatile and reliable metal detector, ideal for detectorists looking for durability and general-purpose use across multiple environments. While I think this series of devices has fallen behind the market for new single-frequency VLF devices, the Z-Lynk wireless technology, true All-Metal mode, and adjustable ground balance are all welcome additions that help it compete with the likes of the newer Nokta and Minelab single-frequency VLF devices.
Having experienced the AT MAX in action, it’s no surprise that it has garnered a decent reputation in the metal-detecting community. It builds upon the foundation of the AT Pro and AT Gold detectors while providing an enhanced detecting experience.
I can’t say I recommend the Garrett AT MAX for those looking to upgrade from an entry-level detector, but not because of issues with the device itself. The cost of the device at MSRP is just too high when you compare it to other metal detectors on the market. For $800 I would rather buy a new The Legend from Nokta of a New Equinox 700 which would come equipped with simultaneous multifrequency and similar advanced features like ground balance. It’s really the market that has moved forward which causes me to look elsewhere than anything Garrett did with the design of this device.
That being said, just like the AT Pro, if you happen to get a good price on an AT Max you should be happy with your purchase. It can be used anywhere, can take a good beating, and it is a great “dig all targets” metal detector with its True All Metal mode and Iron Audio.