The Technical Research Department at Salem Communications employs
four people full time, myself included, to do research, FCC application
preparation and allocations and acquisition study work. During that
time we have purchased several broadcast study software products.
Mutually exclusive FM application
studies can be done using the Probe’s contour overlap
The Probe II, offered by V-Soft Communications, is a foundational
building block among four or five “must-have” modules for
the engineer working to understand and improve the coverage of an AM or
FM radio station (other essential tools include FMCont, InterDLG and
What it does
The program creates an atlas-style map using several user-selected
backgrounds, features and overlays. Interstates, state highways and
surface streets all have a distinctive appearance that may be
manipulated and enhanced by the user. Feature details change with the
map's scale according to the user's definition so that maps may show as
much or as little as is needed for any particular application.
|Performance at a
- Professional-looking, atlas-style maps
- Wizard based project startup
- Instant population and demographic
- Professional and eye-catching radio coverage
- Click and drag two-dimensional path
- Easy contour overlap area and population
Good documentation and support
Rivers, lakes, terrain and land may be displayed to prepare a
professional-looking map with various colors, line widths and font
types. A valuable tool in the map creation process allows the user to
import a graphic such as a radio station's logo.
The Probe II also plots coverage contours and field strength
predictions once the underlying area map is created. Various
propagation models are available, including Line of Sight, Longley
Rice, Point to Point, the Terrain-Integrated Rough-Earth Model (TIREM),
Okumura/Hata and COST-231-Hata, as are the FCC's curves [F(50,50),
(50,10)]. Any user-defined contour may be created or imported as
A wide variety of signal coverage, overlap and interference plots
can be created with FCC or user-defined criteria. Two-dimensional path
profiles can be created by clicking and dragging map points. Population
maps can be created to show demographics by county, Zip code or housing
information. AM signal contours can be plotted using imported
distance-to-contour (.dtc) files.
How it works
The Windows-based program has a “wizard-style” front
end. Users begin by answering several questions or by selecting
features. With little more than an FM radio station's call letters, a
map can be created. The wizard provides the setup for coverage or
The atlas-style map appears with a cross marker showing the tower
site and the station's call sign. By double-clicking the cross marker
the user can pull up (and if necessary modify) any of the transmitter
properties. Right-clicking the cross marker offers options such as
instantly adding F (50,50) contours and generating population counts.
Once a user-defined or imported contour, such as an AM .dtc file or
circle contour, is shown on the map, population counts and demographic
information are readily available too.
Support and drawbacks
A binder of information is delivered with the product as well as in
a Windows help file within the software. The manual helps the user to
set up the computer subdirectories and folder hierarchy, and in some
cases even test the accessibility of the databases. The only thing
lacking in the documentation is a trouble-shooting section that lists
some of the common error codes that may be displayed when there is a
data error or user mistake.
FCC coverage maps can be made with the
Probe’s terrain backdrop.
Problem areas or shortcomings of the software are hard to find.
Nevertheless, during the software installation process a person should
allow time for an e-mail or call to V-Soft to obtain any missing
Windows drivers or a customer-specific software file.
FCC and program databases are updated through the company's website
as often as desired. Program bug fixes, enhancements and upgrades are
always posted for download.
The Probe II is not cheap and once you purchase this software you
will find databases, add-ons and other tools will become an ongoing
habit to feed. All of the software products offered are hardware key
locked so they cannot be pirated to other computers or users.
There are a couple of misconceptions about purchasing this type of
software. Some believe that if you purchase the software you will
automatically gain an easy knowledge about FCC rules and engineering
practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Time must be spent
with any allocation software to achieve any level of expertise. Another
mistaken notion is that radio evaluation software will eliminate the
need to use broadcast consulting engineers. The fact is that as you
find the potential to improve and upgrade a radio station a consultant
can ensure your success.
Gluck is vice president of technical research for Salem
Communications, Camarillo, CA.