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Article: Whites DFX vs Minelab Explorer SE

The title of this article is a bit misleading. I don't necessarily consider one machine to be better than the other. Each machine does outperform the other in certain situations, however. As I am new to the SE, this is not an in-depth comparison. Basically, this is a first impressions report on the SE using the DFX as a known reference. I am not going into details, just the most notable differences. When I am more proficient with the SE I can provide a more informed perspective.

Whites DFX with Sunray DX-1 probe

Look and Feel
The DFX is a good looking machine - it looks like a detector should look. The SE is a sleek looking unit. The SE has no visible cables and the shiny black upper shaft, the carbon fiber lower rod, the locking cams, control box and black labelled battery compartment make for a sophisticated looking machine. Both are sturdy and do not wobble. I consider the DFX, with the DX-1 probe and standard coil, to be a fairly heavy machine, but not too heavy. I can swing it for long periods of time without a problem. The weight can become an issue when hunting in rough terrain, or when a lot of hiking is involved. The SE (3 lb 7 oz without batteries) is comparable in weight to the DFX (4 lb with batteries). The balance of both machines is excellent.

When using the DFX I tend to rely on Tone ID more than the display, but I always check the display before digging a target. The DFX has a one-dimensional display with 190 possible VDI values. It ranges from -95 (ferrous) to 95 (conductive). The DFX display is two-dimensional if you take the signal strength bars into account, but we will disregard this feature for the sake of clarity. The SE has a two-dimensional display with 1024 possible values. The horizontal axis (0 to 31) represents the ferrous content of the target and the vertical axis (0 to 31) represents the conductivity of the target. With the DFX I can pretty much tell what is in the ground. The SE, for a newbie, is difficult because there are so many places a target can show up on the display. A one-dimensional representation is easier for the mind to interpret than a two-dimensional representation. I think this is the source of the Explorer learning curve people talk about...the rest of the machine is easy to master. I do believe the SE's two-dimensional display offers tremendous potential for an experienced user. I just cannot deduce the target as easily as I can with the DFX...yet.

According to the manuals, the DFX sweep speed is about two seconds and the SE's is about four seconds. This is a big difference. As a dual frequency detector the DFX doesn't have as much data to process compared to the 28 frequency SE. For me, this is an important factor to consider when choosing a machine to use for a certain environment. If you want to cover a lot of ground and cherry pick targets the DFX will be a better choice. If you have a site you really want to concentrate on and take your time, the SE is the better choice. More on this below.

Minelab Explorer SE with Sunray X-1 probe

Depth and Stability
I think these two topics are related because they are dependent upon a machine's ability to send, receive and process clean signals. The DFX, in general, is very stable and has great depth, but it is susceptible to EMI and struggles in salt water. Don't get me wrong, the DFX can hunt the wet sand as well or better than most land detectors, but falsing in the waves and reduction in depth are things I have experienced first hand. The SE has no problems with EMI. I hunted directly under the main lines by the RR tracks in Memorial and had absolutely no interference. I have never used a machine that goes as deep as the SE in wet salt sand, or normal ground for that matter. I assume the same could be said of highly mineralized ground, but I haven't used either machine in such an environment.

Which One?
I would hate to have to make that choice. Luckily, I have both machines and can use the best one for the job at hand. I really love the DFX and would not want to be without it. I have a lot to learn about the SE but it has already proven its worth at the beach and elsewhere. Here is a list of environmental situations and the machine I would choose for each:

  • Large Area - DFX
  • EMI - SE
  • Wet Salt Sand - SE

I do not want to get any more specific than that at the moment. Since each machine can use specialized coils, there is a lot of overlap concerning their respective capabilities. I have often thought that if I wanted to really clean out a place I may hunt it with the DFX, then take the SE and hunt it again...slowly.

Other Considerations
There are many other worthy topics for discussion concerning these two units, but I'll save them for another time. Discrimination, programming, detailed display characteristics, tones, etc. are important things to consider when choosing a machine. I will close with a thought we should all keep in mind: There are many detectorists out there with low-end machines that can out-hunt other detectorists with high-end machines. It is crucial that, whichever machine you have, you learn it and dig, dig, dig. The machine is important but not nearly as important as the user, their knowledge, their experience and their unhesitating willingness to dig.

This article was posted on DetectorBase.com

Happy Hunting!
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