Metal detecting without headphones can lead to missed targets. You don’t need top of the line, but choosing the best metal detector headphones is pretty easy if you know what to look for.
The best headphones for metal detecting need to provide a quiet audio environment that allows you to hear the faintest signals. This is achieved achieved through a winning combination of soundproofing, electronics, and speakers.
There are also a number of features that enhance those basic design parameters and bring you the best headset for the money. These include how many earcups you want, volume control, wired or wireless, water resistant or waterproof, earcup seals, headband pressure/comfort, ability to clean, and more. Let’s talk about those.
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Number of Earcups:
Metal detector headphones come with one earcup or two. The main advantage of two earcups is more isolation from outside noise and better perception of the signals your detector is giving off. This is useful if you’re near other metal detectors that are in speaker-mode, water falls or beach surf, lawn mowers, etc.
The advantage of one earcup is more awareness of your surroundings. You can still hear the signals (perhaps a little worse than with two earcups) but you can also hear other useful noises and conversations.
This is good, for example, if you’re with a group of detectorists who may need to communicate occasionally. It also allows you to hear noises such as road traffic, animals, or strangers who may approach you while detecting.
Since earcups house the soundproofing and speakers, look for earcups that seal well to keep noise out and provide the best chance of hearing alerts. You’ll really have to try the headphones on to know how well the seals work. Look for material that’s easy to clean (being removeable is a plus.)
Almost every detector uses mono sound. I heard once of a model that could feed one target group in one ear and a different one in another ear, but I have no proof of that. The important difference regarding metal detector headphones is this: If you use a stereo headphone with a mono speaker jack like most detectors have, you’ll only get sound out of one earcup. If you only have a stereo headset, to overcome this you can get a stereo-to-mono converter jack.
Many manufacturers are incorporating wireless headphones now. These enable faster time-to-ear* than older Bluetooth headphones could – about 6 times faster.
Wireless capability can be had in two basic ways:
- Wireless headphones with matched transmitter built into the detector.
- Traditional corded-headphone detector made wireless via a wireless kit (transmitter and receiver), like this one on Amazon.
* why is this important? if the signal takes too much time to get from the detector to your headphones, you are out of sync with where the target is.
Check for fast transmission speed, easy pairing, long battery life, and recharge time. For reference, the one on Amazon above gives you about 30 hours between recharges and takes about 5 hours to recharge.
If it’s raining, you’ll want waterproof headphones, and probably a waterproof detector. They’ll provide you with the best experience since you won’t have to wear a hood to protect the headphones, and the detector’s control box will stay dry inside.
NOTE: If you see the term “water resistant” on the packaging, just note that beyond a certain amount of light splashing or maybe fine mist, that means water can get inside the headphones. This will certainly lead to eventual damage.
The same goes for any headphone connectors. Look for waterproof connectors.
Trying on a headset before you buy is a good idea. Try to wear it for 5 minutes and see if your head hurts and determine how adjustable it is.
(In the end, if you forgot you were wearing it, you have a good one as far as comfort)
Look for a padded headband, adjustable earcups that accommodate your head size and shape and don’t squeeze your head, plus comfortable earpads.
Finally, find a pair that’s not too heavy so you reduce neck strain.
This is important because every hunt brings with it a different external sound profile. Some days are dead quiet, some days have pounding surf. Depending on your ears, different alert tone frequencies may come through louder than others and it’s good to be able to adjust for that.
Additionally, older and/or deeper treasure usually produces a weak signal. Volume control can help greatly with that.
Finally, if you have trouble hearing out of one ear, get a headset with a volume control on both earcups.
If possible, test the headphones before you buy them. Make sure the audio is clean and crisp throughout the alert tone range.
Carrying and Storage:
Metal detectors and accessories are fine pieces of electronics. Protecting them is worth the effort. Many people keep their detectors in travel cases. Headphones are worth protecting as well.
If your headphones don’t come with a carrying or storage case, you can find something online or in outdoor stores that would do. If it’s for travel only, then look for something rugged and not too large. If it’s for use in the field, make sure the material is sturdy and can be cleaned of mud, etc.
Ruggedized outdoor (low cost) headphone cases are hard to find, but here are two generic models on Amazon may work for you:
Headphones are one of the most useful and important metal detecting accessories you can buy. Keeping them in good working order includes proper cleaning.
If possible, find a pair that has removeable earcups. That will make them easier to clean as well as allow access to the speaker grille area.
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol (70% minimum)
- You may want to test a small area of the headphone to make sure there is no damage, but it’s unlikely
- Cotton balls or Swabs like Q-Tips
- Cleaning cloth (paper towels will do)
Then look for grimy areas and clean away whatever suits you. The cotton ball or swab is used for tighter spaces. The cotton ball or paper towel is good for the headband and earcups. You can even clean the cables if you like.
The alcohol will quickly evaporate and shouldn’t leave any streaks.
Examine the headphones you want to purchase. You can tell by handling them, widening the headband, moving the earcups, and flexing the cord to see if they are cheap or feel sturdy.
Check inside the earcups and see if the grill is clean and free of plastic flashing.
Put them on – if you hear cracking or strange noises, then best to look at another model.
Of course, if you buy online, check the reviews. On Amazon you can even search the Questions by keyword. Search on words like quality, cheap, durable, broke, broken – words that will bring up both the good and the bad.
Amazon Tip: Don’t just look at the 4 and 5 star ratings. Look especially at the 3 star ratings! These hold the opinions of the middle-ground. They were happy, but perhaps had a few grumbles that you should know about.
So many headphones, so many problems. Maybe. Actually, there are some common basics to check before you look for professional help or buy a new pair.
- Turn them on. Yep, many headphones have auto shutoff after some period of time. Turn them on.
- Turn them on and off and on. Kind of like rebooting your computer, many times it helps.
- Check the wireless to see if everything is still paired.
- Check the batteries – replace or recharge.
- Check the volume knob, minor chance you turned it down by accident.
- Gently check any cables between the detector and headset. Bend the cables to see if there’s any damage. Don’t bend too sharply.
- Check the headphones on another detector.
Headphone Jack Size:
Most detectors still use a 1/4″ jack, which is much sturdier than the smaller 3.5 mm jacks on modern electronic equipment. Make sure the headphones you buy match the plug on your model of detector. Check your manual.
Some people use an adapter to bring the 1/4″ plug down to 3.5mm and use earbuds. It’s a solution if you must, but they tangle and get in the way easily, so think about it before you go that route. Also, putting the adapter inline makes for a longer plug with a thin diameter. This is much more of a breakable target than just the 3.5mm jack alone
TIP: Check compatibility! Some metal detectors are built with a more proprietary cord connector on their headsets. If you plan on switching detectors, make sure the headset you bring works with the other model.
What are the best headphones for metal detecting?
If you consider all the factors discussed here, there could be a number of them between wired, wireless, one earcup versus two, etc. I’ve taken a stab at whittling down the contenders to present what I consider to be the best non-specialty headphones for metal detecting. These are good quality brand-name products that can be used on a wide variety of models. You can find them on my Recommended Gear page now.
Best Metal Detector Headphones – Other Considerations:
- Coiled cords are nice because they reduce cord length when close to you. The coiling also provides feedback that it’s stretched near the limit, and keeps you from pulling the cable out of the detector. Finally, a longer coiled cord keeps you from having to take off the headphones when you lay down your detector.
- Wireless headphones are even better for maneuvering your detector in the field (putting down, picking up repeatedly)
- Headphones save detector battery life.
- Using metal detector headphones is good etiquette. People outside the hobby have a hard enough time understanding it, but when it’s a form of noise pollution it hurts the hobby.
- Moisture-resistant speaker cones (made with something like polypropylene) don’t degrade over time like paper ones.
- Choose metal detector headphones that are purpose-built for the hobby. The rigors of use have been baked into the design more than a household pair.