Metal Detector Operating Frequency

The Power of Frequencies: Unlock the Full Potential of Your Metal Detector
Written By: Marc McDermott
Last Updated:

Metal detector operating frequency plays a crucial role in the performance and success of your metal detecting adventures. As a popular hobby, metal detecting can unearth exciting discoveries such as lost coins, relics, gold nuggets, and valuable jewelry. To fully optimize your metal detecting experience, gaining a solid understanding of the impact of operating frequencies on your detector’s capabilities is essential.

This beginner-friendly guide will explain the basics of metal detector operating frequencies, their benefits and drawbacks, and how to choose the right frequency for your detecting needs.

What Is Operating Frequency for Metal Detectors

Operating frequency refers to the number of times per second a metal detector’s search coil sends and receives electromagnetic signals. These frequencies are measured in kilohertz (kHz) and can vary depending on the specific metal detector model and its intended use.

How operating frequencies affect metal detection

The operating frequency impacts the detector’s sensitivity, depth penetration, and ability to discriminate between different types of metals. A higher frequency increases sensitivity to small targets, such as gold nuggets, while a lower frequency provides better depth penetration and is suitable for detecting larger, deeper objects.

Hobbyist metal detectors typically operate within the following frequency ranges:

  • Low frequency: under 10 kHz
  • Medium frequency: 10-30 kHz
  • High frequency: over 30 kHz

Note that sometimes medium-frequency metal detectors will compensate for the loss of depth penetration by using a larger search coil. This allows the detector to cover more ground and reach deeper targets.

Low-Frequency Metal Detectors

Low-frequency metal detectors operate at frequencies below 10 kHz, making them suitable for detecting average coin size and deep objects.


  • Better depth penetration: Low-frequency detectors can reach deeper targets, making them ideal for finding buried coins, relics, and other treasures.
  • Good for detecting average size and deep objects: These detectors are well-suited for detecting a variety of objects, including coins, relics, and larger artifacts.
  • Reliable in mineralized soils: Low-frequency detectors perform well in challenging soil conditions, such as those with high mineral content.
  • Better suited for targets with higher conductivity such as silver coins.


  • Less sensitivity to small targets: Low-frequency detectors may struggle to detect smaller items, such as gold nuggets or tiny jewelry pieces.
  • Slower response time: These detectors can have a slower response time, which may make it more difficult to pinpoint and identify targets quickly.

Medium-Frequency Metal Detectors

Medium-frequency metal detectors operate within the 10-30 kHz range, offering a balanced performance for various target sizes and detecting scenarios.


  • Balanced performance for various target sizes: These detectors provide a good balance between depth penetration and sensitivity, making them suitable for detecting a wide range of objects.
  • Suitable for general-purpose detecting: Medium-frequency detectors are versatile and can be used for various detecting purposes, including coin hunting, relic hunting, and even gold prospecting.
  • Moderate depth penetration: While not as deep-reaching as low-frequency detectors, medium-frequency detectors still offer decent depth penetration for most hobbyist applications.


  • Compromises on depth and sensitivity for some targets: Medium-frequency detectors may not excel in either depth penetration or sensitivity for specific targets, leading to potential missed discoveries.
  • Often leads to heavier detectors if the manufacturer wants to compensate for the loss of depth with a larger coil size.
  • May struggle in heavily mineralized soils: These detectors can sometimes have difficulty in highly mineralized soil conditions, reducing their effectiveness in certain environments.

High-Frequency Metal Detectors

High-frequency metal detectors operate at frequencies above 30 kHz, making them ideal for detecting small targets, such as gold nuggets.


  • Excellent sensitivity to small targets like gold nuggets: High-frequency detectors excel in detecting small items due to their increased sensitivity, making them perfect for gold prospecting.
  • Ideal for gold prospecting and small jewelry: These detectors are well-suited for finding small gold nuggets, gold flakes, and delicate jewelry pieces.
  • Faster response time: High-frequency detectors typically have a faster response time, allowing users to identify and pinpoint targets more quickly.


  • Reduced depth penetration: High-frequency detectors do not penetrate as deeply as low-frequency detectors, making them less effective for larger, deep targets.

Multi-Frequency Metal Detectors

Multi-frequency metal detectors utilize simultaneous frequencies to offer a versatile and adaptable detecting experience. By operating at multiple frequencies at once, these detectors can achieve both depth and sensitivity, depending on the target and soil conditions.


  • Versatile and adaptable to various situations: Multi-frequency detectors can be used in a variety of detecting scenarios, providing the benefits of both low- and high-frequency detectors.
  • Can achieve both depth and sensitivity: These detectors can detect small targets with high sensitivity while still maintaining decent depth penetration for larger objects.


  • Often more expensive: Multi-frequency detectors tend to be more costly than single-frequency models due to their advanced technology.
  • Can be more complex for beginners: The additional features and settings of multi-frequency detectors may be overwhelming for novice users.

Choosing the Right Operating Frequency

Consider your main detecting objectives when choosing a metal detector:

  • Coins and relics: Low-frequency detectors may be ideal for detecting coins and relics due to their better depth penetration and performance in mineralized soils.
  • Gold prospecting: High-frequency detectors are excellent for gold prospecting, as they offer increased sensitivity to small gold nuggets and flakes.
  • Beach and underwater detecting: Multi-frequency detectors can be advantageous for beach and underwater detecting, as they provide versatility and adaptability to various situations and target types.

Take into account the mineral content and soil conditions of the areas where you plan to detect. Low-frequency detectors are more reliable in mineralized soils, while high-frequency detectors may struggle in such environments.

Determine whether depth penetration or sensitivity to small targets is more important for your detecting needs. Choose a metal detector that offers the right balance of depth and sensitivity based on your goals and local conditions.

Final thoughts

Understanding metal detector operating frequencies is crucial for maximizing your detecting success. By considering your primary detecting goals, local soil conditions, and the balance between depth and sensitivity, you can choose the right operating frequency for your individual needs.

Experiment with different frequencies and detectors to find the perfect match for your metal detecting adventures. Happy hunting!