Interview with The David Clark Company

When you think of The David Clark Company you might think about their iconic sage green colored headphones that are in use worldwide by both military and civilian pilots. However, The David Clark Company builds a wide range of intercom systems that are used by clients such as the NFL, NASCAR and NASA. Here at gCaptain.com we are interested in their Series 9800 “Go-Fast” and Series 9500 “Workboat” marine intercom systems. We had a chance to speak with Bob Carroll of David Clark about their marine products. Here is what he had to tell us.

What systems do you offer to the maritime community?

David Clark Company offers a number of products to the marine community from headsets and radio adapters for marine VHF radios to complete intercom systems for all types of crafts. We manufacturer headsets and radio adapters for many brands of commercial and marine radios, including some models designated as intrinsically safe. We have a full line of headsets for voice powered systems found in many engine rooms as well as headsets compatible with many shipboard telephone systems.

Our line of intercom systems includes products to interface from one to eight headsets, providing hands free duplex conversation as well as the ability to monitor and speak over an unlimited number of radios. Some of our systems also allow for music input with auto muting during radio conversations and the ability to interface with a cell phone or satellite phone.

What makes your marine products different from your aviation products?

I am not sure anyone knows exactly how many different headsets David Clark Company manufactures. Counting all the “specials” we make for a number of different markets, the number of models could easily approach 200 different headsets. By far most of these products are used in commercial or military markets where exposure to salt water or spray is not a primary concern.

When we began designing our marine product line, one of our main considerations was the significant negative impact of salt and salt water on metal and electronic components. Although our marine headsets may look similar to our line of commercial headsets, the similarity stops at the surface. All of our marine headsets are designed utilizing all stainless steel components right down to the last washer or cap nut. All of the major electronic components including ear elements and microphones are waterproof and even the plugs and connectors are designed specifically for the rugged marine market. All enclosures, such as those utilized for intercom system master stations, are extruded aluminum with a special marine coating ensuring years of dependable service. System connectors and plugs are either locking connectors or break-away connectors depending on the application and all have o-rings installed to ensure a water resistant connection. Our confidence in our marine products ability to withstand the harsh saltwater environment is backed by a five year warranty on all modules and a one year warranty on all headsets, cables and accessories.

Where are your products in use today?

The marine market is actually our newest market. Although David Clark Company has been around since 1935, we had never ventured into the marine market. Instead, we had concentrated on developing products for the military and commercial markets, along the way introducing the first headsets to the NFL, NASCAR and even developing the first space suit for NASA among many other products.

Our venture into the marine market began about 15 years ago with a phone call from U.S. Customs R&D group in Washington, DC. At the time they were struggling with a communications solution for use on their interceptor boats used for drug interdiction. Because of our reputation for developing and building some of the best noise attenuating headsets in the world, we were contacted to develop a communications system to allow four MEO’s (marine enforcement officers) to communicate via intercom and to monitor and talk over three radios all while running at full speed. The model 9500 intercom was a complete success. Today, every U.S. Customs interceptor in their fleet is equipped with the system, along with boats in the U.S Navy, Coast Guard and military and commercial craft all over the world.

Our next generation intercom system, the model 9800, was originally developed for the go-fast market. It allows six headsets to be connected to the intercom system along with music input with auto muting, a cell phone or satellite phone as well as interfacing to two VHF radios. The system has been so successful that most major boat OEM’s now offer the model 9800 as an option or as standard equipment. The system has become extremely popular on craft used in law enforcement, fire boats, work boats, sport fishing and all types of craft including air boats and hovercraft.

We recently developed another product called SOLO which takes all of the features of the model 9800 intercom system, i.e. radio, music and cell phone interface, and inputs into a single headset. This product is excellent for markets such as SeaTow, BoatU.S. or operators of loud craft such as tugs or any environment where attenuating loud noise is critical at the same time requiring communication over multiple devices. Our new M-RIM, Multi-Radio Interface Module, allows up to four additional radios to be connected to a SOLO, 9500 or 9800 intercom system. The M-RIM can be daisy chained, thus allowing an unlimited number of radios to interface with these systems.

Does David Clark have any new products that should be of interest to the marine community?

We are constantly updating and tweaking our entire product line. As I stated earlier, our model 9800, SOLO and M-RIM are our newest products. We are constantly finding new market opportunities for each of these systems. I can tell you that we are working on a new technology that is not quite ready for prime time, but I would appreciate an opportunity to chat with you next year after its release.

If there is one thing our readers should know about David Clark it is?

Actually, I believe there are two answers to that question. First, if you are currently a David Clark customer or know someone that is, the most common response to that question would be our excellent Customer Service organization. Sure, we have a reputation for building some of the toughest, most reliable, darn near bullet-proof products in the world. We are key players in markets ranging from general and commercial aviation, military, commercial communications to a growing marine presence. But should our product ever break, we have hands down the best Customer Service organization anywhere. Our Customer Service Reps take great pride in helping customers when in need and are responsive to inquiries and sharing information. All of our products are proudly designed, manufactured and supported in our factory in Worcester, Massachusetts. Products that come back to our factory for repair leave looking and performing like new.

It’s almost impossible to attend a trade show without having customers drop by our booth to share stories about a great experience they had when their product was sent in for repair or when contacting our factory about assistance. It is a reputation that was earned one day at a time and we do not take it for granted.

Secondly, even if you have never owned one of our products or heard of David Clark Company, there is a good chance you have seen our products. Next time you view a TV show, go to a movie or watch a sports event, look for the green headset with the D/C logo. It is rare to sit through a movie with a flying scene or watch a sporting event and not see our headset. Once you notice it, it becomes one of those things you unconsciously begin to look for.

You can learn more about the full line of David Clark products on their website DavidClark.com