Though it’s really not a beginner level machine, I am reviewing the White’s MX Sport all-terrain metal detector here because it’s the latest one I’m using as I exit what I feel is my rank beginner stage as a metal detectorist. At some point, other beginners will do the same, and may be interested in this machine as a potential new tool for their own use. I want to give them the benefit of my experience with it, because there are things you can understand only through actually using a detector that just aren’t apparent any other way.
Of course, this isn’t any “be-all, end-all” review. It’s just my opinion after nearly two months using it. But I think it’ll add some value for those taking the time to read it.
As of the date of this writing, I’ve only ever done one other metal detector review so far, and I found it daunting to write because there was so much to say. To provide some helpful structure in my approach, I’m going to fall back on the proven journalism “5 Ws formula” (who, what, where, why, when and how). So, here we go:
Who – You, Me, and White’s
Who should use this depends on what they’re looking for in a detecting experience. See the Summary at the end of this review for my overall recommendations about this.
I have been detecting for going on 13 years now. I began the hobby with a machine given me as a Christmas present. It was a Garrett Ace 100, and I was thrilled to get it. Problem was, I knew absolutely NOTHING about the hobby or how to evaluate whether it was a good machine or not. So I read the manual (there was no DVD with it) and took it out in my yard to play around with it and see how it worked. I knew nothing about hand-held pinpointers, so my holes were about the size of trashcan lids. I could locate targets, but the machine was very, very basic — essentially one control, one tone, and not much else. Long story short, it was really what I’d consider a toy, and was more frustrating than anything. It wasn’t until I met some other detectorists who told me what’s what, that I was finally able to make a sound judgment about this tool.
One of those other people is a guy who’s a solid fan of machines from White’s Electronics. I was astounded by the number and quality of targets he was able to find with his MXT Pro and a couple lesser machines he used, and I watched him work. Wanting to give it a try myself, I was much dismayed to find out how bloody heavy they were, and that was it for me. I knew I’d never get a White’s machine, because I’d never have the upper arm strength to sustain a decent-length hunt. Very disappointing.
Fast forward a decade, and White’s came out—finally!—with a line of beginner level machines (at least that’s what they call them. I think they’re more advanced than that). These machines—the Treasure Master and the Treasure Pro—are as light as, if not lighter than, anything I’d previously used. And they are very, very good. I tried the Treasure Master for a month and wrote a review of that, in which I admittedly gushed. I was impressed, to say the least, at the functionality and accuracy of the machine that was well within the high end of beginner range in price.
Based on that, I purchased the next level machine, the Treasure Pro. It’s very similar to the TM, but also has a backlight on the digital readout screen. I love it! Even now, when my primary machine is the Sport, I keep the Treasure Pro with me at all times, just in case something gets blippy with the Sport, or I want to lend it to someone as a hunt buddy.
What and Why – The MX Sport
This general purpose metal detector is waterproof, so you can take it beach hunting, relic hunting, coinshooting, jewelry seeking, and even prospecting. The MX Sport builds on the legendary MXT, with new features and the latest technology.
My friend was committed to the MXT for its reliability, ruggedness, and proven performance. The MX Sport expands on that legacy, with improved performance, more options, and expanded features and functions. Now even he uses a Sport as his primary machine. Let’s take a look at these features:
- 6 Search Modes – All-Metal for areas where you might miss a real gem if you discriminate anything out; Coin and Jewelry, the most user-friendly default mode; Beach, allowing you to hunt on salty, wet sand and black sand without interference (though it works at least as well in freshwater); Prospecting, for the nugget hunter; Relic mode, which targets the most common metals used in valuable historical artifacts except iron; and Hi Trash, which helps you pick good targets out of a myriad of bottle caps, pull tabs, foil and can slaw.
- Pinpoint Mode – On top of the six regular modes, you can push and hold the central button to toggle on and off the pinpointer function, to help you hone in very tightly on the target; or you can give it a quick click (or tap, as the manual calls it) to activate and lock it in, then tap again to unlock. Very handy, and extremely accurate. The accuracy is astounding, once you get used to the modulated squeal it emits, and how it works. By far, one of the most useful features of this machine.
- Backlit Display – This rocks, especially if you are a diehard who just can’t seem to call it quits even when the sun goes down. Or maybe you live down South, where it’s just too bloody hot to hunt in the daytime. Or even if you’re in a deeply wooded area where the display is constantly moving in and out of shade and shadow, the backlight just makes it so much easier to read! Best of all, unlike at least one machine I used to have, the LCD display doesn’t look wonky if you’re wearing polarized sunglasses, so now you don’t have to carry a separate pair just for hunting.
- VDI Numbers – If you’ve only ever used a machine that provides tone indication of the type of target your coil is over, VDIs can be a little daunting at first. Having cut my teeth on Garrett audible tone-only machines, I was used to mostly listening for the discrimination circuitry’s output, formally referred to as tone identification. Generally, this meant high-pitched tones for valuables and low grunts for iron and other junk. VDI numbers on the screen, though approximate, have been a lot more accurate in my experience. VDI stands for Visual Discrimination Indicator. The high/low tones coordinate with the VDI. The numbers are very large and legible, regardless lighting conditions, and I think this is just as important as having them there in the first place.
- Target Identification – This is the word or words that appear beneath the VDI readout on the screen. For instance, a nickel might appear as “18″ with the word “Nickel” below it on the display, or “80 – Quarter.” Again, these are helpful but approximate, and I strongly recommend learning your tones and trusting those more.
- Selectable Tone Identification – After you’ve hunted with it for a while, you’ll come to know your machine’s tones without even looking at the screen, and you’ll know which specific types of targets tend to read wonky in the ground around you. This is affected by soil conditions, and the syndrome happens everywhere. But generally, this Tone ID is pretty accurate. You can choose between several different numbers of tones, depending how sensitive your ears are to differentiations.
- Frequency Control – If you’re hunting around other machines that are making yours chatter, or there are stray electrical impulses present, such as those from Extra Low Frequency (ELF) waves, making your machine constantly emit “falsing,” or confused signals, you can just switch your machine over to another of four frequencies to make that annoyance stop.
- Depth Indicator – As with all other machines I’ve used from any maker, take this feature’s indicator with a grain of salt. I find the shallow targets read far shallower than they are, the medium-depth ones read quite a bit deeper than they are, and the really deep ones can fool you in any direction. I do think you can get a better handle on this if you use headphones to hear some of the more subtle modulations of the tone, which can tell you a lot about depth.
- Automatic or Manual Ground Balance – Set it to automatic until you get the hang of how to manually keep your machine from reacting to highly mineralized soil. And read the manual to really understand the manual process.
- Salt-tracking – I have used this feature so far only in the brackish (partial saltwater/part freshwater) tidal waters toward the mouth of the Delaware River, and it worked great to eliminate any chatter, static or interference caused by its salt content. Not sure how it would be right on the beach or in the ocean, but I’ve heard good things from other users. This is one feature you’ll definitely want to read more about in your manual before attempting to use it.
- Self-Adjusting Threshold (SAT) – You’ll want to dial this in to deal with any harsh ground minerals, of which there are an abundance in our Pennsylvania soil. This setting only influences the All Metal, Relic and Prospecting modes, so you’ll only see it as an option when you’re using one of those programs. It makes these programs require motion to detect metal targets, and it’s a bit tricky to use, so consult the manual for this one, too. Frankly, I’m not sure how valuable this feature is, given the touchy nature of how the operator can inadvertently reset the machine using it. I find the regular Threshold setting more than adequate.
- Voltage-Controlled Oscillator (VCO) – VCO increases the beep pitch as your coil nears a target. This only works in the above-listed programs and Pinpointing. It essentially makes a regular swing sound like it’s pinpointing. I haven‘t found a need to use this yet, but I imagine it would be great for very small targets, especially in trashy areas.
- Iron Grunt – Also only works in the All Metal modes listed above. The strong grunt noise assigned to intense iron signals simply makes it obvious when a target is iron. This works very similarly to the Garrett AT Pro’s Iron Audio, so if you like it on that machine, you’ll like it here. I find it a bit obnoxious, especially in the old farming areas I hunt that are just full of iron trash, so I use it sparingly. When I’ve honed in on a specific target and really want to know if it’s iron, I’ll switch it on just for that, then turn it off again. Fortunately, the control panel makes that quick and easy.
Though the MX Sport is fully submersible up to 10 feet deep, I haven’t had the chance to use mine that way yet. I will make sure to fully follow the steps to prepare for safe underwater operation in the manual before I do. I am aware that early production line models of this machine have had significant issues with housing leakage, requiring them to be returned to the manufacturer, but I got mine in October 2016 and haven’t had any issues myself or heard recently of anyone else continuing to have issues, so I believe White’s has gotten this one under control. I guess I’ll find out next spring when I take it in the river for the first time!
There are several swappable search coils available for the Sport, making it a versatile machine for just about any application. One thing I want to point out is that it’s a sturdy, well-built, durable unit, which adds some weight. Check out the drop test and other trials in this video.
At 4.2 lbs., it’s easily the heaviest machine I’ve ever used, but far lighter than any other White’s higher-end model. It was that weight of their older machines that kept me away from using them for so long, so I’m really thankful they’ve found a compromise in the design process. I believe one thing that makes the weight livable for me is the incredibly well-balanced distribution of the weight over the machine. I can usually hunt with it for about 15 minutes straight before I need to switch hands for a rest, and if I can do a little toning over the winter, I think I’ll have that up to a half-hour by spring. But I have now taken this baby on day-long hunts without discomfort.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the White’s MX Sport as a general-use machine and one of the lower-priced but high-performing options for those needing a fully submersible machine. The fact that it operates on regular AA batteries and is so easy to learn makes it a strong intermediate machine but due to its many features, I would not recommend it for beginners. It would simply be overkill added to overwhelm, and wouldn’t be fair to the machine or a new user.
For anyone using it, I strongly recommend revisiting the manual several times, and really paying attention while you practice with it. You won’t learn this in a day or even a week, but your time will be well spent, because the many functions allow you to deeply personalize your detecting experience to the way you like it. The White’s MX Sport is a solid mid-range choice for those emerging from newbie-hood into intermediate user status, and it wouldn’t be anything to scoff at for the veteran user on a budget, either.
Update – June, 2017
I just have to add here that I recently added the Detech 13″ Ultimate DD Coil to my MX Sport accessories, and all I can say is WOW! This puppy is so powerful and deep-seeking that it has turned spots I (and quite a few of my digging buddies) have pounded hard for ten years back into productive sites! Areas that we thought we’d cleaned out because they’d gone silent have come back to life, with signals we never heard before! One particular area that we have hunted for a decade, a documented drilling ground for a local militia during the War of 1812, recently gave up a US box plate (yes, really!) from an area that has easily had coils pass over it a hundred times or more. It does add more weight to the machine, but I don’t find it a problem. When my arm gets tired, I just switch hands for a bit, then change back, and that works fine. So it’s a great way to extend the already formidable detecting power of an MS Sport!