Minelab E Trac metal detector field test
"How to use the minelab e trac, the beginners guide by Garys detecting"

Minelab E Trac Field Test
By Gary's detecting
Minelab E Trac Beginners Guide
At last I finally got my hands on an Minelab E Trac for a review, sadly there was no instruction manual supplied, which in a way was a blessing in disguise as it gave me an idea.


Garys detecting home page

 

My task was to try to gain enough information from the internet and based on the information gained try to learn how to set up this machine successfully.
 It wasn't long before I realised how little information was available to prospective buyers and new owners , so this page is dedicated to you guy's.
When I say information I am talking about basic first stage info, sure there are programs and tweaks available, but these are for advanced users, as I have found in the past programs are only as good as the land they were intended for, your land may be totally different to the person who made the program.
 As a newbie to this machine I wanted to know how the functions operated and how to easily access them via the control panel.
First impressions
 At first I found navigating the menu and saving settings a little hard to understand, as with all new machines time spent at home repetitively running through these settings can save valuable time in the field.
Thankfully I had some good help and advice from members of my metal detecting forum who use the E Trac to great success. Below is a simple to understand diagram of how the e trac control panel is laid out and what to expect from the control's.
beginners guide to the minelab e trac The E Trac control panel
minelab e trac controls
The E Trac build quality
The overall build quality is very good, the control buttons have a nice sharp action when pressed, the balance feels much better than my Explorer II although the E trac still retains some very simlar features and overall appearance including the battery pod, arm cup, control box and stem configuration..
minelab e trac from joan allen minelab e trac arm cup image
The E trac is fitted with the Pro coil as standard, other after market coils designed for the Minelab Explorer range will fit the E Trac.
The stem locking collars work well, there appears to be no traditional Minelab wobble experienced with earlier Explorer models.
Minelab pro coil image minelab cam lock image from garys detecting
Screen information
The detect screen has 3 options, first is the normal discrimination panel showing the FE Ferrous metal / CO conductive metal reading at the top of the screen , shown in the left picture, secondly a dominant FE / CO screen with a small discrimination screen (right picture) and thirdly a quick mask function (not shown) which allows the operator to reject a line from the bottom to top of the screen and a line from left to right, very much like the iron mask feature on earlier models. The logo on the button just below the bottom right of the screen probably explains it better, the dark area's are rejected.

To the right of the screen is the target depth meter, to the left of the screen is the Automatic and Manual sensitivity levels, the suggested Auto level is the lighter of the two, the spinning dots around the plus sign indicates that I am using Automatic at a suggested setting of 19 with a plus offset, more info further in this article.
Top right indicates I am using user mode 1 from my saved programs, the flag indicates my program has been altered but not saved, top left indicates the battery condition.
Fe.Co readings
Personally I would not spend to much time learning what these numbers mean, if I had a choice I would rather they would not be there at all. For inland searching all you need to know is the basics...whether the signal is iron or not. So I would say pay more attention to the audio tones and cursor position in the learning stages of the E Trac.
Screen cursor and target identification
For those who are not familiar with target identification on the E Trac screen : Nails and most iron will show in the bottom right of the screen, Gold and Lead will show in the middle of the screen, High conductive targets such as big Silver and Copper show in the top right, low conductivity targets small Roman foil and Hammered coins show in the left of the screen. as you can see by the picture the black area on the bottom right shows I have rejected nails.
 
minelab e trac cursor screen   minelab e trac detect screen digital  
   
How to use the Menu's
Pressing the menu button ( book symbol ) enters into the menu's, the icons at the top tell you what sub menu you are accessing, the arrow up, down, and sideways keys on the left of the control pad are used to scroll through the settings. User modes are complete programs including filters, audio settings, they can be selected or saved.
If at any point you wish to jump to the top of the menu bar simply press the menu button, if you wish to go back to the detect screen and start detecting press the detect button.

minelab e trac user modes
  Discrimination Menu
Here you can make your own discrimination pattern by using the Edit function or select a pattern from the pre installed Minelab menu, Relic is a good place to start., the combine feature allows you to overlay an extra discrimination pattern to your existing settings. When you select a discrimination pattern do not confuse it with selecting a user mode you are simply selecting a discrimination pattern.
Once you have made a custom discrimination program you can save it to an empty memory slot.


minelab e trac discrimination screen
 
   
The sensitivity Menu
This panel has the least features but is possibly the most important, get the sensitivity adjustment wrong and you machine will fail to perform.
As you can see the operator has 2 choices manual or auto, when manual sensitivity is selected you can adjust the machine's power yourself, Auto sensitivity is where everything is taken care of by the machines on board computer, you can also tell the machine to track a little higher or lower by using the + or - levels in the Auto setting, as you can see my machine is set to Auto and tracking at +3.
While searching the operator can easily switch between auto and manual by pressing the right or left arrow keys and adjust the sensitivity or Auto offset using the up or down keys.

minelab e trac sensitivity settings
  The Audio Menu
Here you can adjust the audio level to suit, you have a vast array of choices some of which are not shown in the picture. Tone choices range from from 1 tone to multi tones, the E Trac also has a choice of 4 different response types, I use either Normal or smooth depending on site conditions.
Other response options are Long and Pitch Hold
The Volume gain allows the operator to adjust the intensity of the target sound, high levels make shallow and deep targets sound the same, lower settings make deep targets sound faint and shallow targets loud.
Other features in the audio menu include, number of tones (1,2,4 or multi tone), Sounds (conductive or Ferrous), Variability and Limits which adjust the highest pitch and the amount of tone variation.

minelab e trac audio settings
 
   
The Expert Menu
Here you can tweak the machine to suit different soil conditions and fine tune the E Trac to suit your requirements, for example FAST gives the machine a fast recovery speed this is ideal for iron contaminated sites as it detects targets close to iron, DEEP can be a good choice when searching pasture or beaches as it enhances faint audio sounds, Deep is ideal when running at low sensitivity levels.
Trash density can be set to high or low depending on site conditions
Ground can be set to Difficult or Neutral, Neutral worked well for my inland sites.
Finally noise cancel (not shown) ranges from 1 to 11 this can be manually adjusted or the machine will choose a clear audio channel by pressing the noise cancel button.

minelab e trac expert settings
  Preferences Menu
The picture is quite self explanatory, at the top is the screen contrast, then the pin point mode, sizing is a popular choice, other features include screen info.... the operator can choose how much info is on the detect screen, as well as visual options. Scrolling down will take you to the "restore factory default" button which is always helpful to know if you mess things up. On the right of the screen you can see the backlight button, below that on both sides of the screen are the side arrow keys which are used to make custom discrimination patterns.



minelab e trac control panel
 
Making custom discrimination patterns
The picture on the left shows the size of cursor ranging from a tiny square to the full screen, once you have chosen a cursor size use the up, down, left, right arrows to put the cursor on the desired screen position then press the accept or reject button, if the area is rejected it will turn black.
The Bar on the right of the screen determines how you want to carry out the operation...starting from the top you have the manual mode, then a detect mode where you can quickly reject or accept a particular target in the field.
 Then accept everything detected, finally reject everything detected. So for example if you wanted to find one type of target, reject the complete screen by scrolling down the left panel to the bottom and press the Accept / Reject button so the screen shows completely black, then go to detect mode (shown in pic), pass the target over the coil and press accept for that one type of target. Don't forget to save it in the custom discrimination slots before you switch off the machine.
Beginners guide to the minelab E trac discrimination how to adjust the Minelab disrimination pattern

Information about tones and custom programs

Having loaded some internet programs, I quickly realised that these settings were to hot for my sites, for example many suggest running the sensitivity at 30 (maximum) this may work for some sites but for me 16 manual was the maximum I could achieve without erratic operation, the E Trac is a very "twitchy" machine, I prefer to keep it stable which lets the tones through better.

 Running in 2 tone Ferrous is a very popular audio setting for most people, it is a simple dig or don't dig way of using the machine and I quite enjoyed using it...However being recently spoilt by the CTX 3030 audio clarity I found 2 tone ferrous to be lacking vital target information and made me suspicious about missing some very low conductivity targets near to iron especially when running a minimal discrimination pattern, the low to high tone cross over point is fixed, it would have been nice to have the option to adjust the low and high tone range as targets in air can give a different tone to targets in the ground...especially near to iron.

4 tone conductive worked well for me on my iron contaminated site, a low tone for low conductive targets,  middle tones for lead etc and a high tone for high conductive targets.
I found using the machine in Conductive made it easier to identify low conductive targets, which is better for worked out sites, Ferrous may be better for coin shooting and hunting high conductive targets.
Having said that, these are just my initial thoughts based on the early days with the E Trac, when I test the machine on more varied site conditions I will keep you informed.
Tone settings explained
Below are 3 examples of how the tone settings work, imagine these are overlays on to your detect screen...Nails and most iron fall to the bottom right, high conductors big silver, copper etc, top right, Gold coins and Lead hover around the middle, low conductivity targets like small ancient coins and foil fall to the left of the screen...however if these small coins are next to iron they quite often fall in the bottom left corner.
 

2 Tone ferrous
As you can see a simple yes or no audio set up with fixed parameters.
Note : Small targets that fall in the bottom left will give a low tone and can be mistaken for iron unless iron is completely rejected from the discrimination
Minelab 2 tone ferrous settings

4 Tone conductive
This set up is a little more "musical" but offers more information, again with fixed parameters.
Note : Unless rejected iron can be mistaken for big silver and other high conductors as it falls within the vertical band.
Minelab 4 tone conductive settings

Multi tone conductive
This is a very active audio with multiple tones on a sliding scale from high to low (right to left), I find this good for hunting out very small targets.
Note : Can be over complicated on an iron contaminated site
Minelab multi tone settings

In the field
The site in question had moderate to high iron contamination, it took me a while to finally settle on a program I was comfortable with, but when things fell into place I could appreciate the great potential this machine has. I dug a wide variety of targets all with clear and precise audio tones, some at reasonable depths. The program I used was  4 tone Conductive and a smooth response which made the targets virtually impossible to miss due to it's wide signature, pin pointing was a little tricky on shallow targets buy easily sorted by lifting the coil. I found the draw back method was the most accurate way of pin pointing in smooth response.
Balance
 Personally I didn't have any issues with the weight or balance, I thought it had a nice chunky feel, providing the stem is not set to long and you use the arm strap the E Trac should be fine for most able bodied detectorists.
 

minelab e trac image from garys detecting

Here is an easy to use program to get you started, I found it ideal for general searching on average soil conditions and also sites with moderate iron contamination, these settings make the machine bias towards low conductivity targets and will find small Roman and Hammered coins with ease. As you become more confident with the E Trac you can then start lowering the discrimination range and running the machine a little hotter if site conditions allow.
Note :  If there is a lot of iron present switch Deep off and Fast on, then turn trash density to high.
E trac discrimination pattern
Make a discrimination pattern simlar to this, the settings below are the main adjustments, anything not mentioned is personal preference.
Sensitivity : Auto
Volume gain : 26
Response : Smooth
Number of tones : 4
Sounds : Conduct
Variability : 30
Limits : 30
Recovery : Deep on, Fast off
Trash Density : low
Ground ; Neutral
Noise Cancel : 10
Note : The audio choice is smooth so be aware targets sound wide, this enhances the chances of hitting small targets, the pin point feature may be required to locate the target exactly until you get confident with the machine. If smooth is to difficult to learn switch audio to Normal, this will be a shorter sound very much like a conventional detector.
Thanks for reading I hope this helps
Gary

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