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Nokta Engineering FORS Gold Prospecting Metal Detector
This metal detector review is a first for me in one way. Until to now I have not been very willing to use detectors not made by the well known mainstream manufacturers. The key reason has always been service and parts support concerns plus the ability to easily sell the detector should I ever choose to do so.
Nokta Engineering is a company based in Istanbul, Turkey since 2001. They have been around for over a decade now and so can be considered well established. I was aware they had a new 15 kHz VLF detector out called the FORS Gold but had not tried to acquire one myself. I was a bit surprised when the company contacted me and offered to send me a FORS Gold for evaluation. It turned out members of a popular gold forum had suggested they do so to get a review by somebody relatively well known.
My response was “I would be happy to give the Fors Gold some use in the field and add it to my online list. I must warn you however that I am the sort of person who is honest with my opinions.” To their credit that did not deter the people at Nokta and so a unit was sent to me direct from Turkey. It arrived on my doorstep in short order.
Please note any of the following information may change with time and so check for the latest specifications. The Nokta FORS Gold is currently available in two configurations. The basic package includes the detector with 7” x 11.2” open DD search coil, closed bottom scuff cover, headphones, four AA batteries, instruction manual and DVD. This package currently retails in the U.S. for $999.00.
I was sent the Pro Package which includes the detector with three coils – the standard 7” x 11.2” DD search coil plus a small 4.7” x 5.2” DD coil and large 13.3” x 15.5” DD coil. Each coil comes with a scuff cover installed. The open 7” x 11.2” coil comes with an open scuff cover installed, plus an extra closed bottom scuff cover is also included in the package. A two piece rain cover is included; a clear vinyl cover for the control box, and a separate form fitting neoprene/nylon cover for the handle that has a little vinyl window to match the handle mounted LCD readout.
Instead of alkaline batteries four NiMH rechargeable AA batteries are included with a smart charger. A nice touch is that adapters for 110V, 12V, and even USB are included. There is a set of stereo headphones, a Nokta hat, a treasure or accessory pouch, and of course the operating manual and DVD. This all comes packed in a very professional heavy weave nylon carry bag. The bag is of exceptional design with two large separate pouches in addition to the main compartment, which itself has three internal zipped storage compartments. The bag can be carried suitcase style or work as a backpack with the included shoulder straps. This package currently retails in the U.S. for $1399.00.
View of open case and many of the accessories
The large accessory pockets
The standard package will do the trick if you are on a budget but in my opinion the Pro Package represents an outstanding value for somebody serious about using the FORS Gold to its fullest potential. It is the most well thought out and completely appointed detector package I have ever seen offered by a manufacturer for nugget detecting, or any other detecting for that matter.
With that said let me get the hard part for Nokta over and pick on them a bit. First of all, let’s look at the detector itself. Having seen the pictures before, I was surprised at how small the control box actually is. The online photos are taken from an angle that makes the control box seem much larger than it really is, and so this is good news. The overall quality, fit, and feel are all very good. Still, there are areas that could use improvement.
The main display and controls are, if you are right handed, on the side of the control box next to your leg. The display has lots of great information, but most of it is of little use when in use because you cannot see the display. This is alleviated somewhat by the small handle mounted LCD readout that displays the most essential information. I found the side mount display was just fine for making adjustments to detector settings or checking the battery level, but when I actually used the detector the side display was easy to just forget about and ignore. There is nothing there you have to have per se but on the other hand it really is a well thought out display and it is a shame it is mostly wasted in normal use.
There are two rocker switches on the side below the display for making control adjustments. One toggles through menu selections, and one adjusts the value of the selection. These rockers are bound to collect dirt and water and I was surprised they did not use sealed touch pad style buttons. It is a good idea to use the control box cover included in the Pro Package just to protect these rocker switches from dirty gloves or hands.
View of control panel and rain cover
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Nokta took it a bit too far in making the control box and handle mounting arrangement nearly identical to that made by a certain Australian company. The rear mounted box does balance very well, but assembling the split handle and box onto the rod is just as frustrating with this design whether it is made in Turkey or Australia. Once you get it together you will never want to take it apart, except you must to get it back into that nice carry case, or to put on or take off the control box cover. If nothing else longer mounting bolts would help but a snap on or bayonet mount would be better.
I was notified by a forum member and did confirm the listed 3.9 lb weight with batteries is inaccurate with the actual weight with batteries being 4 lbs 6 ounces or 4.3 lbs.
The headphones are actually pretty good quality Phillips SHP1900 headphones that are comfortable and have good sound quality. They have a 1/8″ jack and come with the 1/4″ adapter. However, I found the straight 6 foot long cable to be a bit much and had to wad the excess up and tie it up. A curly cable would be preferable but this is a very minor quibble given that most people will use their favorite headphones they already have. And the Phillips are better than what often comes with detectors. They have no volume controls but the FORS Gold has its own so that is not a problem.
One last little issue. The included scuff covers are paper thin. If not pried off very carefully they are very easy to split on the edge, as I found out taking one off to clean sand out. Something a little thicker or tougher would be good as these will wear through very quickly.
OK, now to the good stuff! Frankly, the Nokta FORS Gold is one of the better VLF nugget detectors I have ever used, and even better it is a very capable detector for just about any type of detecting. It appears to just be a variation on another Nokta model, the FORS CoRe (Coin Relic) and shares nearly all the same features. The CoRe features slightly different discrimination options plus a dedicated beach mode, whereas the Gold focuses more on nugget detecting features, but from what I am seeing both detectors can do just about anything very well.
The FORS Gold default settings are almost perfect for somebody with little or no detecting experience. It boots up in Boost Mode, which is a two tone mode with ferrous items giving a low tone and non-ferrous a high tone. Simply turn the detector on, hold the ground balance button on the end of the handle down, bounce the coil up and down for a few seconds, and go nugget detecting! It really can be that easy with the FORS Gold, and for that reason along it is now one of my top choices not only for professional VLF operators but also novices.
I did some testing initially in a park and I found the Boost Mode to have very good target separation, something highly valued when hunting areas thick with trash items. The optional three tone discrimination mode made for easy coin detecting in park type settings, with all modes augmented by target display information in the LCD screen on the end of the handle. While pinpointing, this displays depth (in centimeters) and while ground balancing you see the ground balance numbers.
I also took the FORS Gold to a beach for a day, and found it to be a very capable beach detector with exceptional depth and sensitivity to small items. The only area where it would be a lackluster performer would be on wet salt sand or in salt water, because all single frequency VLF detectors suffer in that area. Still, it will get you by.
The bottom line is I really do think the FORS Gold is a detector suitable for many detecting tasks, and I think it will see great acceptance with relic hunters or jewelry hunters in particular.
Accessory Large 13.3” x 15.5” DD coil and small 4.7” x 5.2” DD coil
Where the Nokta FORS Gold shines however is in its main use for nugget detecting. I have to admit I have been pretty much a pulse induction sort of guy in recent years, but I have been reminded once again recently that very good nugget finds may very possibly be best looked for in the trashiest of locations. People using PI detectors tend to shy away from heavy trash, yet mining camps and work areas were often right in the middle of the best gold bearing ground. There still is a serious need for detectors with exceptional trash handling capability, and that means VLF detectors. Yet those detectors also need to be able to handle the worst mineralized ground and hot rocks, an area where VLF detectors are weak.
The FORS Gold has a relatively straight forward all metal mode, which they label as the General Mode. There are some features however not offered by most of the competition all at the same time in a single detector. First, while in all metal mode the visual discrimination feature is still engaged via the LCD display on the end of the handle. This offers the ability to identify items while still in the powerful all metal mode. Better yet, the FORS Gold also offers up an optional automatic ground tracking mode in addition to the manual ground balance. Some detectors offer one or the other of these features but very few offer both the ability to visually identify targets while in all metal mode plus both manual and automatic ground tracking.
The FORS Gold can be ground balanced by simply pushing the button on the handle and bouncing the coil. But you can also override the setting obtained by doing so with the plus and minus rocker switch. In other words, full manual ground balance. The third method, full automatic ground tracking, is engaged with a rocker switch on the front of the control box, and so can always be set as on or off before even turning the detector on.
I and many others tend to recommend always using manual ground balance. However, if possible I always prefer having automatic ground tracking as an option that can be enabled or disabled. You see, I want all options at my disposal, even those I may use but rarely. Just by chance, a very good reason came up while I was out nugget detecting with the FORS Gold.
I ran into an area with some really pesky hot rocks. There are several ways of dealing with this. In a pure manual mode machine you try and find a compromise ground balance setting and probably lower gain or sensitivity levels. Then you just try and discern sharper nugget sounds from softer hot rock sounds. Obviously, this can require some extra expertise and a trained ear. Severe hot rocks can be trying for the best of detectorists.
When hot rocks and ground conditions get severe, automatic ground tracking may help. In some cases, it can be almost magical. So it was with an area I ran into. In all metal General Mode the threshold was all over the place as I ran across lots of small hot rocks. I switched to automatic ground tracking, and they basically disappeared. The machine went from being a bucking bronco to a mild mannered pony with the push of a button. In theory ground tracking can track out faint signals, but this can be minimized with proper coil control. Wide continuous sweeps. It certainly is no worse than the nuggets that will get missed thinking they are hot rocks, and in my opinion in this type of scenario automatic ground balance can be critical to continued operation in conditions that would cause most people to quit in frustration.
Nokta FORS Gold in the field
With the FORS Gold you can also go to the Boost Mode, where many hot rocks will just read low tone as ferrous items. Boost also offers an adjustable iron mask feature that can be increased until the offending hot rocks do not signal at all. As always, there are tradeoffs in the form of possible missed gold, but it is very important to always concentrate on getting the most found gold possible, even if that means compromises to some degree to get it to happen. Nobody gets all the gold, the idea is to maximize the amount of gold you do get to the greatest degree possible given whatever tools you have at your disposal.
The visual target id feature can even be employed to deal with certain high reading hot rocks that refuse to yield to other solutions. The rocks may cluster around a certain target number, which can then be ignored. Again, not perfect, but another possible option to be used if need be.
Look at all the other gold nugget detectors out there and ask if they can run in all metal mode while simultaneously displaying target id numbers on screen, and if they offer ground grab, manual ground balance, and automatic ground tracking. The surprising answer will be no. No other nugget detector offers all these options in a single unit. Only a few top end expensive coin detectors do so but they lack the nugget detecting power of the FORS Gold. This alone makes the Nokta FORS Gold a unique and valuable addition to the VLF nugget detecting world and one worth serious consideration
There are of course the normal settings such as threshold level, volume level, and gain or sensitivity level. There is also a frequency offset to deal with potential electrical interference or possibly even another FORS detector operating nearby. Very nice touches are adjustable audio tones to customize the sounds produced for people who suffer hearing loss at certain frequencies. This should be standard but is all too rare on nugget detectors. There is an adjustable backlight for the main screen and handle mounted LCD.
Then, just like the ads “but wait, there’s more!” The FORS Gold has a small LED flashlight built into the handle to illuminate the work area in low light conditions or to just use as a flashlight when you get back to your vehicle in the dark. And in a nugget detecting first, there is an adjustable vibration mode built into the handle that operates in conjunction with or independently of the audio. This feature alone can be a real benefit to people with hearing loss and in theory will allow somebody who is totally deaf to go metal detecting effectively! Now that is some real cool out of box thinking and the reason we need more companies like Nokta in the business. Even people with good hearing can benefit as most of us have run into high wind or other situations where hearing the detector is difficult at best. Anyone who has ever used the new pinpointers already knows how this works.
You even get the option of ten different languages for the operating menu system. These guys and gals are thinking of everything.
Don’t forget the optional coils. There is a hot small coil for working bedrock pockets and crevices sensitive down into the grain range, and a large coil perfect for pulling large gold out of tailing piles. I only used both coils briefly because the stock coil serves as the best all around solution, but somebody going all in with Nokta will find both these coils valuable additions to the toolbox.
Does it seem like I am gushing? Perhaps I am, and that is probably because my expectations were pretty low. I have simply seen too many detectors over the years, so much so that many just seem like rehashes of the same old same old. Nokta has managed to not only build a detector that is very easy to run right out of the box, but with enough advanced features to wow even a jaded detectorist like myself.
Well, come on Steve, what about some gold?! It is hard not to like a detector when I take it someplace with nasty hot rocks, and it handles them with relative ease. It gets even better when I put it into Boost Mode and wander into a trashy location getting lots of low tones, and then dig a few nuggets right in the midst of the trash. I went where I never would have went with my PI and the FORS Gold found gold when in all honesty I was expecting to write this report telling you about the bullets I found. It is not easy to go find gold, and so I was really just expecting to find bullets and shell fragments and I was keeping them to show you what the FORS Gold could do for this report. I was going to explain how bullets read like gold and there you go. Seriously folks, I really just got lucky but the FORS Gold gets the credit.
My first nugget found with the FORS Gold – and yes, those are rain drops on the rain cover!
After three nice nuggets I was as happy as I could be, when I get another signal and dig up what I thought was some crumpled up foil. Then I realized I was looking at gold, and an exceptional 2 gram nugget revealed itself to closer inspection. I did something I almost never do and wrapped it in tissue to protect it until I could get it home and properly clean it. The Nokta FORS Gold helped me find one of the most delicate gold specimens I have ever found. I ended up with 3.3 grams total and enough information to finally file this review.
2 grams fresh out of the ground
3.3 grams gold found with Nokta FORS Gold
I went into this basically just wanting to see if Nokta, as a relatively unknown player in the U.S. market, was a company that was not selling junk. Sorry, but I have seen horror stories about some overseas companies and I had no idea where Nokta ranked in all these new names showing up on our shores. The fact is Nokta has well exceeded all my expectations and then some, and they seem very eager to do whatever it takes to back up their product. I am going to go out on a limb here and recommend the company and at least the two FORS detectors without reservation. If what I am seeing is any indication Nokta is going places. I look forward to seeing what they do in the future, but for now they have a very formidable and competitive offering well worth serious consideration by those looking for a VLF gold nugget detector.
My thanks to AzViper for stirring the pot at TreasureNet to get the ball rolling on this, and to Dilek Gonulay and the other fine people at Nokta for affording me the opportunity to try out the Nokta FORS Gold.
Closeup of 2 gram specimen found with FORS Gold