By Andy Sabisch
XP Metal Detectors is a relative newcomer to the metal detecting industry; however, since their first detector rolled off the assembly line in 2000, they have continually looked at ways to improve the performance of their products where it counts – in the field. The company has always worked to build quality into everything that bears their name and the reputation they have earned reflects that philosophy.
XP’s flagship metal detector – the DEUS – has quickly established itself as a premier detector among both novice and experienced treasure hunters in the United States since it was officially introduced here in early 2012 much the way it did throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and Asia when it was released in 2009. Not simply repackaging existing technology and marketing it as something new, Alain Loubert and his team set out to infuse new technology and designs into their line of metal detectors and the digital platform of the DEUS allowed them to start designing with a “blank slate” so to speak.
Without going into everything that sets the DEUS apart from other detectors currently available, this product review will focus on one aspect of the DEUS’s design that reflects the fact that many of the XP staff members are active detectorists themselves. This feature is its wireless design which eliminates all of the cords typically found on metal detectors. Being able to hunt in the densest of underbrush without having headphone or coil cables getting snagged or not pulling your headphones off because you had inadvertently stepped on the cord when recovering a target is something that one can really get used to in short order. Unfortunately, with the exception of one manufacturer along with XP, no other manufacturer has opted to put forth the R&D to develop a truly wireless set of headphones that will hold up to the demands treasure hunters place upon their equipment.
The DEUS has had wireless headphones since it was first introduced and they have used what is known as the backphone design. Rather than the conventional over-the-head design seen on other metal detector headphones, the WS4 backphones fit around the back of one’s head. They are extremely comfortable and lightweight, especially in warmer weather. Having used my WS4’s in a wide range of detecting including relic hunting in some areas so overgrown that fellow hunters using corded phones were forced to move to more open areas as well as ocean beaches with waves sweeping into shore, I found them to be effective and more importantly, a pleasure to use. As the weather started to drop into the 20’s and below however, I did wish that there was an option that would keep my ears warm and while I could always revert back to a set of corded phones, I felt it defeated the advantages of the DEUS’s wireless design.
Well, XP’s team of engineers worked on developing a set of over-the-head phones that would incorporate the controls found on the WS4 backphones as well as be rugged, lighter than similar styles of headphones and have a larger screen to make adjustments easier to see in the field. The result is the recently unveiled WS5 headphones.
When I received the box containing the new WS5 headphones, it showed the customary care and attention to detail that XP has become known for. The headphones were well-packaged in the typical black box with the XP logo and an insert to ensure they arrive in the same condition in which they left the factory.
The design is such that the ear cups can be folded onto themselves with the entire assembly forming a compact package that can be stowed into a backpack, carry-on bag or even in a larger jacket pocket. They are easily adjustable and feature multiple ridges on the headband strap that hold the ear cups in the desired position. The padding used on the cups is very comfortable yet does a nice job of blocking out external noise (as well as cold winds). Another example that shows that the XP team actually uses what they design is the ability to remove and replace the padded cups on the WS5. The plate that holds the cups in-place can be popped off and a new set installed in under a minute. I know I have found myself with a set of headphones on other detectors that after a few months of use in hot Georgia summers were just a tad “gamy” and shredded but there was no way to replace just the padded cups, however, with the WS5, that issue has been addressed.
Pairing the WS5 headphones with the search coil and remote control unit of my DEUS was a snap and the larger display was a notable improvement over the WS4 backphones. I scrolled through the options by pressing the MENU touchpad and the same functionality provided by the WS4 backphones was provided on the WS5 headphones. A trick that I have used with the WS4’s that allows you to make adjustments without having to remove them from your head is to listen to the tones when you press the center MENU touchpad. As each consecutive option scrolls by, the tone will be slightly lower than the preceding option. You can either tune your ear to listen for a certain tone indicating the function you want to adjust has been selected or count the number of “clicks” from the starting tone. Once the function has been selected with the MENU touchpad, you can adjust it with the <+> and <-> touchpads. Remember, this also works with the WS4 backphones so if you have not discovered this trick yet, give it a try next time you head out to the field.
I had the opportunity to try the WS5 headphones out at several sites including one that was extremely overgrown and located near a main thoroughfare which made it both a noisy and difficult site to search. In all cases, the WS5 headphones did a great job in blocking out external noise and the colder temperatures. The audio response of the speakers in the WS5 closely mimicked that of the WS4 backphones which I had become accustomed to so there was no relearning tones or target responses when switching from one set to the other. The battery strength indication was still showing more than half-full after more than a dozen hours of use and it took just under an hour on the charger to bring it back to 100%. Since the WS5 uses a lithium-polymer battery like the other DEUS components, there is no problem recharging them after each hunt or using the car charger to top off all of the components on the way to the hunt site.
People may question the sticker price of the WS5 headphones; however, there are really several groups of DEUS owners and the WS5 was not intended to appeal to all groups equally. The first group encompasses those that are purchasing their DEUS and have the choice between the WS4 backphones or the WS5 headphones. If you live in warmer climates and are not routinely hunting in high-noise areas, the WS4 may be the pair you prefer but otherwise the WS5 provides the typical headphone feel in the field. The other group that the WS5 will appeal to are those that have a DEUS with two or more search coils. Remember that the brain of the DEUS is in the coil so by picking up a spare shaft assembly, you in essence have two DEUS detectors. Rather than having to run a set of corded headphones to the control unit’s jack while the other person uses the backphones, buying a set of WS5’s will give you two completely wireless detectors. The final group includes those that have a DEUS with the WS4 backphones and are satisfied with their
setup . . . they might not see the need to buy a second set of headphones. If a member of the final group ever needs to replace their backphones, the WS5 will be an option to consider. Personally I find that being able to assemble two detectors for little more than the cost of an extra coil and a pair of headphones is pretty amazing and shows just how unique the XP line is in today’s marketplace.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the build quality of the WS5 headphones. There have been some concerns voiced over the groves in each cup causing issues from wind noise but that was not the case . . . . they were added to enhance the sound and do not communicate with the outside. Overall, the WS5 headphones are another first-rate accessory for the DEUS and offer a factory-option to owners not previously available. Check with your XP dealer for availability and stop by to see how they feel.- I’m pretty certain you will be as impressed with the build quality and audio response as I was.