My Wife's "Ace" in the Hole: Garrett Ace 350 Metal Detector
Jun 23, 2013 (Updated Aug 4, 2013)
Review by Kenny M
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:lightweight, different search modes, made in America
Cons:doesn't do well in mineralized (wet) sand at the beach, fixed ground balancing, one frequency
The Bottom Line: Perfect for a beginner but there are better options. For a beginner it's a 5-star unit but compared to most, it's only a 3-star unit.
Garrett, a Texas-based company, has been making security and personal metal detectors for decades. On the ground detector front, they have three levels of quality... The "Ace" lineup represents the entry or low-end of the scale with the Ace 350 at the top of the entry-level detectors.
Recommend this product?
For my wife's birthday, my step-kids and I decided to buy her a metal detector because, well, she's been saying that she'd like one for a few years now.
I looked at a few other manufacturers like Minelab, Fisher, White's, Cobra and a couple (brands I hadn't heard of) sold at Bass Pro Shops. Bass Pro's offerings were low to average quality and way over-priced. Even with their employee discount (my step daughter works there) the prices were boosted a bit much. White's and Fisher are more high-end, so they were ruled out.
When I saw the (recently released) Minelab CTX3030 - I fell in love - HARD. The detector is sleek, will work up to ten feet under water, has wireless headphone capabilities, can connect to a PC or GPS to log your route and finds, and so on. But I didn't want to spend $2400 on my wife's first detector.
I soon learned that detectors run the gamut from $100 for a bare bones unit all the way up to $22,000 for the state-of-the-art imaging, gps, tablet-driven dream detector - Yes, twenty-two thousand dollars! YIKES! For that price, the gold should come out of the ground and into your treasure bag.
My step-kids and I agreed not to go over $350 for her first detector. Good thing too, because I had already spent about $160 on her accessories - a pin pointer, sand scoops a digger, bags - I even made her a tall sand scoop.
I focused in on a Garrett detector because of their name, reputation and I just felt that would be a great place for her to start. Garrett detectors run the range from $150 to about $1500. Their lower-end "Ace" detectors include the 150, 250 and 350. I eliminated the 150 because it's pretty basic and really geared more for young novices.
Then I compared the Ace 250 and 350. The 250 runs about $200 and the 350 runs about $300 with headphones. But then I found Kellyco (kellycodetectors.com) on the internet and they have even better deals than Ebay or Amazon. They toss in a bunch of free accessories so it sweetens the deals exponentially. They even extend the factory warranty to 5 years if you choose their accessory pack option #2.
WHAT ARE THE CONSIDERATIONS WHEN BUYING A METAL DETECTOR?
There are basically three elements to consider when looking at ground detectors:
1A) Location: Where will you primarily be using the detector? What state do you live? Sand at the beach is mineralized and can throw off some detectors. Will you be searching in grass, the desert, the mountains or all of the above? Different electronics have different capabilities.
1B) Water Resistence: Will you be searching in water too? Will you be searching streams, rivers and beaches? Or will you actually be diving and searching the ocean floor?
2) The Electronics: Does it discern between junk and valuables well? How deep is the effective range? What frequency (or frequencies) does it operate on? Do you need a basic readout or would you prefer an optical display? And so on.
3) The Search Coil: Most ground detectors work on different frequencies - 3kHz, 7.5kHz and 18.75kHz. Some units operate on just one while others operate on two or three frequencies. Every search coil made has a chip inside of it that tells the detector's control box what frequency to operate in. The Garrett 350 operates on only one frequency and it's 8.25kHz, so finding a high-performance after-market coil isn't going to happen. You're relegated to only a couple of other Garrett coils.
When it comes to search coils, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better, but depth is key. When roaming large areas, do you want a larger search coil (like an 8" x 10" or 11" x 14") to cover more area in a single pass? When searching for gold or silver, do you want a smaller 4" round coil to more easily pinpoint a find? Many detectors have the ability to swap search coils, but those can cost anywhere between $80 and $175 extra and you'll need to carry coils in your gear bag and buy covers for them.
In any case, I would suggest buying a search coil cover - if your detector doesn't come with one. This protects the bottom of the coil from scrapes, dents and other damage.
Another accessory I would suggest is a control box cover with a sun shade. This protects the electronics from mist, sand, light rain, scratches, etc... and the sun shade in invaluable when you're hunting on a sunny day. It makes the LCD display much easier to see. Covers are available from metal detector vendors and there are some who make custom ones and sell on Ebay. Besides, I like that the black cover hides the LOUD YELLOW control box on the Ace 350.
COMPARISON: Garrett Ace 250 vs. Garrett Ace 350
Minelabs, Fisher and White's make higher-end units so I thought they'd be more than what my wife needs as a beginner. It should be noted that Garrett also makes higher-end units like the AT, AT pro and the GTI.
Not wanting to spend in the $700 to $1,100 range, I came back to Garrett's Aces. If my wife and I really grab hold of the hobby in the future, we can invest in a higher-end detector and then both of us can use a detector on the same missions. For now, one of us sweeps and the other digs and scoops. And by "one of us" - I usually do the digging.
When all was said and done, I chose the Ace 350. Why? Well, it has a larger search coil (stock) and the electronics are a bit more sensitive than the 250. If your budget won't allow for $300, then you can find vendors who sell the Ace 250 with the optional larger "DD" search coil substituted for a bit more money - basically the difference between the two search coils.
It should be mentioned that the Ace 250 operates on the 6.5kHz frequency while the 350 operates on 8.25kHz.
WHAT WE LIKE:
It does have six search modes including jewelry, relics, coins, zero, custom and pinpointing.
The 350 does distinguish "junk" targets with a different alarm tone so bottle caps, pull tabs and other junk - we won't need to waste time on.
The coil is effective in shallow fresh water. So hunting in shallow lakeshores and streams is fine.
DRAWBACKS of the Ace 350?
Since it operates on a frequency that's outside the "normal" three frequencies, you won't be able to swap in a better after-market search coil. In essence, you're stuck with the factory 8.5"x11" elliptical coil or a couple of other Garret coils.
The Ace 350 does NOT do well in the wet sand at the beach due to the mineralization - though it's just fine in the dry sand above. The reason is that sea salt is an alkaline mineral that "messes" with some detector's technologies. There are other ground detectors that will perform well in these environments and some that are completely submersible too.
Another drawback (or plus - depending on how you look at it) the Ace 350 has fixed ground balancing. It's a "turn it on and go" type of thing. When searching several different types of terrain, you want to be able to manually tune the detector with the ground you're searching. It produces better results. Think of it as you might with photography... auto SLR versus a manual SLR. Sure the auto SLR will get you nice images, but being able to control the camera to your liking will net you better and more consistent high quality images once you get the "hang" of it.
While the sensitivity is adjustable, the ground balancing is fixed. That limits your capabilities.
The armrest and sound level are NOT adjustable.
I call this ground detector "Garrett's high-end of the entry-level detectors." With its drawbacks, it's still a solid performer for a novice detectorist. One can only hope that we find enough "treasure" with this detector to pay for itself and provide years of hobby enjoyment for us.
My wife and I like the balance and that it's lightweight (2.8 pounds) so she doesn't get worn out easily. It adjusts to her frame and mine due to the length adjustment ranging between 42" - 51". It was easy enough for her to learn how to operate it in a short while. So far, a couple of trips to our local park (as training) it has only netted her a few coins, but we'll hit the beach and desert soon enough.
For a beginner and in the $300 price range - I rate this Garrett Ace 350 metal detector 5 stars. The Ace 350 with a deeper search coil would do better in the ratings as well. But compared to other detectors out there, this Ace 350 would rate only 3 stars. It's all a matter of perspective. So for this reason, I'll split the difference and give it 4 stars.
I can only recommend this to a novice detectorist or as a backup detector.
For a complete list of specs on the Ace 350, please visit Garrett garret.com or kellycodetectors.com
UPDATE: We love the hobby so much, I purchased my first ground metal detector a week later! Read my review for the Minelab X-Terra 305 here
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