Necessity–The Father of Innovation

by Stage Directions

Eartec is the reliable, user-friendly choice for communications

When you think of a headset getting a lot of abuse, you probably picture an irate football coach throwing his on the ground protesting a referee’s call. When the football coach has hand-built the headset, there is far less throwing. That’s exactly how Eartec began with the invention of the Porta Phone, designed specifically for, and by, a football coach.

“Back in the early ‘60s my dad was a college football coach and he made himself the very first portable communication system, so he could talk to someone up in the press box,” explains John Hooper, Jr., current president of Eartec/Porta Phone. “He made the Porta Phone just for himself; there wasn’t anything like it anywhere. Other coaches started asking where he got it, so he started making Porta Phones for them. It went from being a hobby into a small business where he sold them nationwide. We grew into theatres because the drama teachers at the schools started borrowing them from the football coaches! It was a real family business, we all soldered in the basement of our home, unless we were fishing. My dad, me, and my brother Paul were a three-man team.” The small company that started in the Hooper basement in 1961 has now grown to 30 employees in its Narragansett, RI headquarters and ships comms systems all over the world for sports, corporate events, broadcasts, films, and all levels of theatre.

When customers try Eartec they often also become advocates of Eartec, just like the football coaches who lent them to the drama teachers. The company’s philosophy of keep it simple has led to some innovations that are also extremely practical and affordable. Hooper explains, “I would like people to know that there are alternatives out there for communications. We provide a professional-grade communications system, at a price point that’s designed specifically for theatres, with equipment that’s designed from their feedback. We keep our features very practical. We make a simple to use product; our instruction manual is only two pages; our competition’s is 36-pages. Open our box and you can have your comms systems running in minutes. That doesn’t mean you give up anything in quality or features, just that we are always asking ourselves, ‘how do we simplify this?’ Like our newest wireless headset, the UltraLITE. It’s a full duplex wireless headset that doesn’t have a belt pack; everything is built right into the earcup. Most wireless, and even wired systems, have a rack-mounted base that the headsets are connected to, but ours work point-to-point without a base station, so they’re totally portable. If you need to expand, there’s a wearable belt pack hub that connects six headsets, all in full duplex, wirelessly. The other tweak that we’ve added which users love is our AutoMute Boom, by swinging the mic boom up, it mutes the headset with no button to find and hit. Because, like football coaches, we’ve learned that theatre technicians are passionate about what they do and they don’t need to be hunting for the mute button at key moments.”