Minelab CTX 3030 field test
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Minelab CTX 3030 field test
I knew testing the Minelab CTX 3030 was going to be a challenge, and at some points I was not sure who or what was being tested me or the machine, with nearly two months under my belt with the CTX I feel it is time to air my views and answer some questions you have been asking.
This review is a little different, I have written it on a Q & A basis as you can see below there are other CTX information pages on my site
Minelab CTX Workshop Minelab CTX Information Minelab CTX Advanced Features Minelab CTX Field Test

Minelab CTX full machine image
Minelab CTX 3030 independent review
A machine with this price tag needs to be perfect in every way, so I decided right from the start to pull no punches here, and tell it like it is, why we are on the subject of price I agree 2000 is a lot of money, also in the 2 grand price bracket was my son's fishing kit and my brothers mountain bike, so I guess top quality hobby gear all comes at a price, one final thing worth considering is re-sale value, I think the CTX will hold it's money better than any other machine out there.

Minelab CTX 3030 how good is the build quality
 The build quality is second to none, much to my wife's amusement I quite often found myself sitting in a chair with the machine on my lap just staring at it in a state of hypnosis, the CTX is simply a work of art, I find it really hard to pick fault with the build quality. The Carbon Fibre stem is strong and light, the overall balance is just unbelievable, on several occasions I searched all day with no signs fatigue, I would recommend using the arm cup strap to keep things steady.
Minelab CTX field test screen image
How easy is the CTX to use ?
When I first looked at the CTX I found accessing the features a little confusing, I still feel the software is the only thing that lets the CTX down, it's not a problem to use but you feel that the programming was written by an electronics engineer rather than a detectorist, for example you can not rename a programme in the field, it has to be done via a PC, also if you try a different tone profile it will overwrite your existing settings, again you need a PC to restore the original. Perhaps future updates will iron out these little quirks, but don't hold your breath !

 Going back to the original question is the CTX easy to use ?...The CTX is extremely easy to use, in fact some may say the features are rather limited for a machine of this calibre. The simple features can and probably will work to Minelabs advantage...the less features, the less you can get wrong, take our good friend the Whites V3i for example, literally a sack full of settings but did you ever know if you had it right for the site you were on ?....Based on my own experiences I would say quite often not !
Minelab full picture

How would you compare the CTX to the E Trac ?
Not being a massive E Trac user it will be unfair for me to make comparisons between the two machines head to head in the field, my dedicated Minelab is the Explorer II, and the two machines are worlds apart. In the past I have found great pleasure in abusing the Explorers limits to get every last drop of performance out of it, so far during my testing I have found the CTX requires a different approach.
Will it be any deeper than an E Trac ?...Using the same coil sizes I would say probably not deeper but have a more selective discrimination.
What I will say there are some big differences, to start with the CTX has far superior tone adjustments combined with a cleaner audio pick up makes the CTX really sensitive to small targets even amongst iron. The screen info is better on the 3030 not to mention better looking, better balanced, enhanced GPS and totally waterproof.

We all expect more depth when we upgrade but in reality we are restricted by coil sizes and ground conditions, I believe what Minelab have done here is designed the CTX 3030 to be more adaptable for a wider range of search scenarios, and to be honest for me it's almost the detector I have been dreaming about. I say almost, I would love a meeting with the Minelab engineers, with one or two small software tweaks this machine could be worth it's weight in Gold.

 Metal detector image minelab ctx 3030

How did you find the CTX in the field?
So far I have found the key to optimum performance is having the correct sensitivity setting, the CTX can not take the sensitivity abuse like the Explorer II, they are totally different machines.
My early outings with the CTX led to a lot of false signals simply due to operator error... I refused to allow the machine to do it's own thing.
Auto Vs manual sensitivity
 I was detecting on a pasture site using manual sensitivity set at 24, the machine was suggesting 16, my mind was telling me 16 was far to low I would not get any depth at this level so I stubbornly soldiered on listening to pops and squeaks, resulting in very little finds, at the point my nerves could take no more I decided to take some good advice "from the machine" and put the sensitivity into auto, the machine was as smooth as silk, no false signals, I got a signal which turned out to be a Crotal bell at 12" deep and soon after a really nice fob seal, so I would advise new users to let the CTX take control of the sensitivity until you really understand the machine.
 I am sure on some sites the user to will have the ability to push the CTX beyond it's comfortable working platform but during my testing I never found it possible.
Medieval fob seal Minelab CTX finds medieval artefact
Don't be frightened to use this machine with discrimination, the CTX doesn't appear to suffer from masking problems like the Explorers, that's why we always ran an open screen.
 Each CTX program has the choice of 2 discrimination patterns, you can easily toggle between the two and compare targets simply by pressing the detect button, for searching farmland I always run 1 pattern with an open discrimination and pattern 2 to reject most iron.
For new users here is a link to my favourite program for easy searching, it is called the "Coin Harvest Program" and will find you everything you need when searching average soil.

What tone ID profile is the best ?
Tone ID patterns are not to be confused with discrimination patterns, discrimination rejects targets, the tone ID is literally a screen overlay and assigns a tone to a particular screen region of your choice, so for example you can run no discrimination but still assign an iron tone to the lower part of the screen.
I found the best performer is the 50 tone conductive but you need to get used to it for a while, the most pleasant to use is the Combined mode here you can customise your own tone settings, there would have been one small change I would have made. I would like to see the bottom left to right segment have the ability to be split in two so targets falling in the bottom left of the screen could be assigned a different tone from the iron.
50 tone CO, the high and low tone parameters can be adjusted by the user

Minelab metal detector screen
Iron falls bottom right of screen Roman coins on edge in bad soil may fall bottom left

Custom settings for minelab metal detector

Is the CTX 3030 a good investment
I would say it depends on your financial position and what you want from a machine.
If you were going to miss mortgage payments or place yourself in debt to buy the CTX common sense would say think very carefully.
If it is simply a case of selling some finds or a couple of machines I would say what are you waiting for get down to Joan Allen and grab one, this machine is without doubt a metal detecting move in the right direction.

How does the CTX work on an ancient site with iron contamination ?
I have had some very good experiences with the CTX, the more I use it the better it becomes. I have found it can be used with high discrimination levels without compromising performance which is unlike most other detectors. I now use my "Coin Harvest" program for most sites that have iron contamination, here are some finds I made during an organised dig on a Roman / Celtic site recently.
As you can see the size of targets range from Minims to Sestersis
CTX roman finds1 CTX Celtic finds
CTX Celtic brooch

The picture below shows 2 coins that I found, note the coin on the right had a clump of iron attached to it...impressive !

CTX roman coins Minelab CTX finds roman coin

How would you sum up the CTX ?
In one word....Addictive !
The Minelab CTX 3030 is a true work of art, I love it to bits ! I know some of my observations may appear to be a little hard but without people like me making observations these little niggles would quite possibly never get sorted.
It took me a little time converting from my Explorer II bad habits, but I can honestly say hand on heart the CTX has really impressed me, not just performance but the complete package.
 So far I have managed to tweak it to work well on all of my sites which is really saying something, perhaps it's luck but the CTX has made me some very nice finds in a very short space of time...the CTX has been very good to me already.....trust me when I say it loves Roman coins.

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