Rank 2: Minelab Equinox 700/900
At first, I was puzzled as to why the Equinox 700 and 900 were released IMMEDIATELY after the release of the Manticore. Yes! I am biased! The Equinox 600/800 is the detector that changed metal detecting. Bruce Candy's masterpiece created modern target separation in metal detectors. What was once clustered together or masked by iron became a new signal that could be deciphered. Look at videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok from 2018 until early 2022. The vast majority of users used an Equinox. The 600 and 800 are masterpieces, but they had flaws. The 600 and 800 had well documented leaking issues, a shaft that would fuse together over time (not be able to move) and coil ear problems (the connection point of the coil and the shaft). Minelab was great with fixing and replacing detectors when they failed, but think of the cost that goes in to repair and replacement. All issues have been resolved, but at a new and increased price point. I feel that this price point still brings a solid value. If money was not an issue, I would still take an Equinox 600 at 600 dollars (with no wireless headphones) over a Legend at 600 dollars with wireless headphones. But I can't say that it is a better value.
Depth: Exquisite; dime sized objects at 9-10 inches in New York soil (and up to 11 inches with a threshold skip) with the stock coil and dime sized objects at 13-14 inches with the 15 inch coil.
Separation: Exquisite. A user can somehow change angles on a coil and get different understandings of targets. What amazes me is how the detector can make clear distinctions of targets even if they are practically on top of each other. It would take defying physics for another competitor to improve on this.
Sound Inference: After using the Equinox for more than 2 years, I can partially predict what the target will be due to its audio response. The Equinox is a third to the XP Deus 1 and 2 and the Manticore in this realm.
Target ID (Visual) Inference: This is one of the improvement areas for the Equinox 700/900. The scale of the target ID has been stretched to 99 and those who swear by Target ID (which Merrill thinks is a big mistake) get a more spread out Target ID scale which can be helpful in identifying modern clad coins.
Ergonomics: The original 600/800 models weighed 1.3 KG and the 700/900 weigh 1.2 KG. Deus models are still the benchmark for ergonomics.
Build Durability: This is another improvement area. The old shaft fused together and the coil ears snapped. There is a new system for locking the coil and the shaft is now carbon fiber. Big improvement.
Battery Life: Supposedly you get 12 hours of battery life. I would estimate that that is a conservative estimate. It is not clear if the 700/900 have a different and more powerful internal rechargeable battery. I suspect that the battery is identical.
Swag (Add On's): You get a lot of add on options for the Minelab Equinox. The 5 inch Smart Coil is a game changer. The 15 inch Smart Coil is a game changer. You get the option to use Coiltek Coils (which I didn't like as much but many people swear by).
Pinpoint Quality: I love the pinpoint of the Equinox. Expert users can trace out their target to deep depths. Also, deep non ferrous targets have an extremely localized pinpoint that differentiates it from iron.
Navigation: I have so much experience with this detector that I might have a bias here. There are some hidden items such as Iron Bias, F2 and Tone Breaks, but for the most part, everything is easy to access.
Handles EMI: The Equinox seems affected by its surroundings. Electromagnetic interference can be a problem on the Equinox. It has channels that you can change, The 600 has to do this through AI, the 800 gives the user the choice (as well as AI). But the bottom line is that EMI is not always perfectly mitigated.
Utility In Water: Major improvement. The Equinox 600/800 had well documented flooding issues. I have not heard of any issues with flooding with the 700/900. The detector performs well in the water.
Saltwater Beach: It is the industry standard right now on the beach. The 15 inch coil and the Equinox are extremely formidable but the Deus 2 is right on its tail and is perhaps superior. More time will tell.
Trashy Park: There is nothing like an Equinox to CARVE UP a trashy park. I have seen signals almost one on top of another clearly separated and differentiated. If you want to attempt micro surgery, put on the 6 inch smart coil and you can get to 7 inches down on a dime signal and all the spacing you could ever dream of, even in bottle cap land!
Handles Iron: I admit that I am Mr. Iron with the Equinox. I run my iron bias low because I believed that it maximized depth (that remains to be seen) and iron has tricked me. Having that said I PREFER to dig the toss up signals! Could it be deep silver or could it be iron. I would rather dig everything up to be sure. Having all of this said, a more restrictive iron setting would have me dig less iron.
Relative Value: The Equinox was the gold standard for the market in early 2022, so its price point can and will affect other detector's price points. The Nokta Legend is priced at $599 dollars and you get wireless headphones, a flashlight, a clock on a detector that is similar in capabilities to the 800 (which costs $899). The Legend has matched signals with the Equinox successfully on 99% of targets in varied settings.The Equinox might be more capable than the Legend (that remains to be seen) but the value goes to the Legend. A very difficult question for me to answer is do I prefer a Equinox 700 at $699 to a Legend at $599. I still would lean Legend for value purposes even though you get a slightly more capable detector with the Equinox 700.