If you're new to the hobby and looking for an entry level machine (under $300), you cannot go wrong with any of the offerings in the Minelab GoFind series of machines, the 22, 44, and 66. They're all easy to use, super affordable, quite capable, and fold up very small. They're also great to keep all the time in your car for an impromptu hunt, or as a backup should something go wrong with your main machine. Their size and weight make them perfect to throw in a backpack for a hike as well.
The F22 from Fisher labs is another capable machine that you won't soon outgrow if you stick with the hobby.
The Garrett Ace 200 is another good machine for the beginner that you would be able to use unless or until you become quite serious about the hobby.
There are other good entry-level machines out there but without personal experience with them, or recommendations from people I know and trust well, I just can't recommend.
All recommendations are from my personal experience or from people in the hobby I know well and whose opinions I trust enough to make purchases for myself based on them.
We do not receive anything from any manufacturer for our reviews however, we do have an affiliation with Kellyco and if you use the provided links, it does provide a financial incentive to keep this section as current as possible.
Mid level machines really are the sweet spot for detectors in my opinion. For this review, we'll consider machines up to the $600 range.
While top of the line machines can and do perform better for the most experienced detectorists, the increase in price is rarely matched by a corresponding increase in performance. You are the most important part of the equation and the better you know your machine, the better it will perform.
For the money, you simply cannot beat the Nokta | Marko Simplex. It's the baby Equinox the way I see it. It is fully waterproof, has four search modes (all metal, field, park, beach), and a backlit screen. For the money, you probably can't buy a better machine. And while it is under $300, it's performance is beyond that of an entry level machine.
The Garrett Ace 400 is typically $399 for just the machine but if you hunt around you may do a little better. It lacks the ability to get submerged like the Simplex but it is a very capable machine that a number of really good detectorists I know find no need to upgrade from.
The Garrett ATPro comes in around $585 with a set of wireless headphones and is a phenomenally popular and capable machine. It is fully waterproof, is great at iron discrimination. I know several people who have them, love them, and swear by them. A few have gone back to their ATPro after buying more expensive machines they found were not as good.
Again, there are plenty of other machines out there that are excellent, but without a good reference point, I can't recommend them.
If you stay in the hobby long enough and or get good enough, you'll find that a top-of-the-line machine just may help you eek out a few more targets that separate the really good detectorists from the really successful detectorists.
First and foremost is the Equinox 800, because I have one. It's usually called the Nox800 and it is a monster of a machine. Coming in at $999 retail, It's fully submersible, fully customizable, light, and has a lightning fast processor which allows it to separate even the closest of targets. The amount of customization possible is too much to get into here but rest assured, you can make this machine a custom set up just the way you like it. It's also has blue tooth and a three-level backlit screen for night hunting. It's four search modes (beach, park, field, gold) can cover any scenario you may find with just the factory settings. There really isn't any need to customize it, just turn it on, select a factory mode and go.
If I had it to do all over, I would probably go with the Nox600 for $699. The only thing you give up is losing the gold mode which isn't a big deal if you're not in Australia or the Southwestern U.S. There are also slightly fewer customization features but for a savings of $300 it's well worth it.
The unique thing about both Deus models is that they're fully wireless. There is no wire connecting the coil to the control box. The coil communicates with the computer wirelessly, and the computer communicates wirelessly to the headphones, and the pin pointer connects wirelessly to the headphones as well. The one downside I see here is that you not only have to charge the headphones and the control box, but the coil(s) as well.
Putting that aside, from what I've seen, both the Deus and the Deus II just may separate targets better than any machine out there, operating on up to thirty-five different frequencies makes that a reality. A buddy of mine has used the Deus and now the Deus II to pull an amazing amount of Civil War relics out of Confederate camps heavily infested with iron.
They very well may be deeper than any machine out there as well, and if you're a diver, the Deus is good to a depth of 20 meters! But it's a lot of money.
If you're new to the hobby, you absolutely need a pinpointer. The amount of time it saves you in finding your target in a plug or in the hole is worth far more than the cost of a pinpointer. The pinpointer allows you to quickly find your target and get on to the next one. In actuality, it helps you find more targets in every hunt.
I've tried a few different pinpointers over the years and can fully recommend three of them.
The Garrett Pro-Pointer II is a really good pinpointer and easy to use. It is on or off, that's it. It is water resistant, has a lost alarm (it makes noise if turned on and left alone for several minutes), a light, is pretty tough and comes in at $110 retail.
The Garrett Pro-Pointer AT, the so-called "Garrett Carrot" is my pinpointer of choice. At $128 you get everything the Pro-Pointer II offers plus three levels of sensitivity, a highly visible orange body, and it's fully waterproof. To me it's a no-brainer.
I had an earlier version of the Vibraprobe that I like a lot. it has been replaced by the Vibraprobe 585 that retails at $140. It's fully waterproof and silent, the vibration let's you know when you're on your target. What's unique about it is that there is no on/off button. You simply point the tip straight up, and the probe turns on. When you put it back in your holster and no metal is detected, it shuts off. You don't have to worry about button failure or killing you battery by forgetting to turn it off.
Most recently, I have had the opportunity to try out the $159 XP MI-6 pinpointer from XP Metal Detectors and really like it. It's functionality is similar to the Garrett pinpointers in that it has three levels of sensitivity with and without sound. Where it outperforms the Garrett is in a few small areas. It has an internal, rechargeable battery so you never have to buy 9-volt batteries, the holder is better designed as a clip on holder, it comes standard with a leash, and the biggest difference is that it's range of vibration is greater than the Garrett. By this I mean the vibration is minimal at the edge of detection, and increases dramatically when the pointer is in contact with the target. If the extra $30 doesn't make a difference to you, the improvement in function over the Garrett will put a smile on your face. If I didn't already own three pinpointers, I'd get this one.
Again, there are several other good pinpointers out there but not knowing them well, or someone who does, I can't make a recommendation.
For digging, you can literally use anything you likely already have from a garden trowel to a spade if you're hunting a farm field, woods, or the beach. There are some tools that are better than others though.
For hand-held diggers you'll never go wrong with a Lesche at $45. I've been using the same one for over fifteen years and it's likely a little shorter than it was originally but it's just as tough and I've never heard of anyone breaking one. It will quite literally outlive you.
For larger diggers the Lesche T-Handle ($90) is a good one and strong enough for most people. It's not indestructible, and I have managed to bend one but that was from digging in frozen ground and using my full body weight on it. If you're not digging in what is essentially concrete, the T-Handle will serve you for a long time.
If you're going to be detecting in the woods where cutting through roots will be a common need, you can't go wrong with any of the digging tools from Grave Digger. Their double-sided serrated shovels are sharp, strong, and do a great job of cutting through roots. You won't be disappointed with them.
If you're just starting out, any set of headphones will be fine, seriously.
If you're looking to get an inexpensive pair of over-the-ear headphones then the Garrett MS-2 ($25) is a model to consider. I find the Garrett headphones to be the most comfortable I've tried and these are good, economical headphones.
If you stay in the hobby for a while, you'll want to get a pair of wireless headphones and I can't say enough good things about the Garrett MS-3 Z-Lynk Headphones for $108. They are all day comfortable, provide great sound, and work with any detector, not just Garrett machines. I greatly prefer them over the OEM headphones that match to my Equinox. Just buy them, you won't be disappointed.
If have a few extra dollars to spend, there is a nice bundle where you get the Garrett Pro Pointer AT linked the MS3-Z-Lynk headphones so that the sound of the pin pointer comes through the headphones for $268
And yes, there are plenty of great headphones out there but I've not tried them all and can personally vouch for both of these models. I can tell you that people absolutely love the Gray Ghost from DetectorPro, but I have no personal experience with them.
There are plenty of other products you may come to want or need if you stay with the hobby from beach scoops, to pouches, shafts, radios and more.
If you're looking for a good quality beach scoop and or carbon fiber shaft that won't break the bank, CKG makes good products at reasonable prices. I don't do a lot of in the water detecting, but when I do, it's with a scoop and shaft from CKG.
The only after market coils (Non OEM) I have used are NEL cols and I have found them to be superior to the OEM coils.
The one complaint I have with them is in regards to my Minelab Safari which has the coil wire run through the middle of the shaft. The NEL coil wires are much thicker than OEM and it's a bit challenging to get them inside the shaft. That being the case, the increased performance is worth it.