Aiphone Overview

By Ethan Ace, Published on Apr 29, 2012

Aiphone is one of the biggest names in the intercom industry, used often by integrators on projects of all sizes. However, due to the breadth of their line, not much clear guidance is available to users to help in choosing between their various lines. In this overview, we look at Aiphone's most commonly used series, the AX, JF, LEF, and others, and which applications they best fit.

For background, readers may review our door intercom tutorial, for the fundamentals of door intercom systems, and integrating them with VMS systems.

Overview

The Aiphone line is broad, with dozens of series for different applications, both audio/video, and audio only. With this many products available, there is much overlap, which may easily cause confusion for new users. The following are some of the most commonly used models:

  • LEF/LEM series: The LEF and LEM series are audio-only intercoms, among the lowest-cost products in the Aiphone line. They are used in areas where video is not required or camera coverage exists.
  • JF/JK series: The JF and JK series are best suited small door count facilities, 1-2 doors. 
  • AX series: The AX series is most often used in facilities with larger numbers of doors (4-8 and up), with multiple answering points.
  • IS series: The IS series is best suited for educational facilities, integrating emergency call, classroom intercom and bell scheduling, and door entry in one system. 

These options are covered in more detail below.

The Aiphone line has a major weakness in high-end integrated security systems, as it is not currently integrated with any VMS or access control systems. The Aiphone AX series allows this integration via RS-232, but is not currently supported by any third-party systems. Users at this level will likely seek alternatives such as Commen or Zenitel, which are more widely supported.

LEF/LEM Series

Some of the lowest-cost series in the Aiphone line, the LEF [link no longer available] and LEM intercoms are the only stations among these common lines which lack built-in video. Master stations are available in multiple capacities, from 1-10 door stations. A variety of door stations are available, in ABS plastic, vandal-resistant stainless steel, and other architectural finishes. This image shows a typical single-door master and door station:

The LEF and LEM are used in locations where only audio is required, or which already have camera coverage, typically low door count, as they contain no internal camera. Relay outputs may be connected to IP camera digital inputs to provide video popup upon call, if desired.

These series are some of Aiphone's least expensive. An LEM kit containing one door and one master station is available online for under $100.

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JF/JK Series

The JF and JK series are two of Aiphones most commonly used audio/visual systems. Both have similar door and master station options, with a few differences:

  • Capacity: The JF series is capable of two door and three master stations, while the JK series is only capable of one door station and two masters.
  • Pan/tilt capability: The JF series uses a fixed camera with a 90º field of view. The JK series, however, uses a pan/tilt camera with a 170º range, capable of viewing subjects to the sides of the door.
  • Card reader options: While both series have available door stations with built-in card readers, the JF series offers iCLASS options in addition to HID Prox, while the JK series offers only Prox.

The JF and JK are most appropriate for facilities where only a single entrance is to be covered, such as small schools or commercial buildings. They may also be used internally in facilities with need of multiple secured doors, but without need for each door to be answered elsewhere in the building. This image shows the JK master and door station:

The JF and JK series are offered in kitted packages, with standard master and door stations included, or may be purchased as separate components. A JKS-1ADV JK series kit with one vandal resistant door station and one master station sells for about $400 online. The JF series is more expensive, due to its higher door/master station capability, with a 1:1 kit selling for about $700 online.

AX Series

The AX series [link no longer available], one of Aiphone's more recent product entries, is an audio/visual intercom system which differs from most of the line in two key ways:

  • Centralized architecture:The AX series uses a central exchange inbetween master, slave, and door stations, which controls all functions.

    Most products connect directly between door stations and master stations. This makes the AX more capable of serving facilities with multiple entry points and answering points, up to eight master stations and 120 door stations.

  • UTP cabling: The AX series is cabled entirely with UTP, Cat 5e or 6, unlike most of the Aiphone line, which requires shielded or unshielded twisted pair. This reduces cabling cost, as UTP is less expensive and easier to install, and may follow structured cabling standards where necessary, which may be a concern of some designers.

Due to its architecture, the AX is most suited to facilities with larger quantities of stations, such as corrections, healthcare, education, and parking. It may also be used where multiple independent systems are used, to provide common answering points for all stations. For example, instead of using three separate door/master systems for two entrances and a loading dock, a single AX may be used, so all stations may be answered elsewhere in the building. 

AX exchanges start at about $750 USD online, with master stations an additional $550, and video door stations starting at $250. Various vandal resistant stations, and stations with built-in HID card readers are also available, for $100-200 more.

IS Series

The IS series is Aiphone's newest line, and integrates a number of intercom and emergency call functions usually handled by separate systems:

  • Door entry: IS series door stations are available in multiple form factors, with or without built-in cameras and card readers.
  • Classroom intercom/bell scheduling: The IS series may be used to handle internal classroom communications, via a speaker or handset in each room, as well as in common areas. Class change tones may also be triggered on multiple schedules (normal school day, snow delay, early dismissal, etc.). This functionality is similar to dedicated intercom products, such as the Rauland Telecenter and Bogen Multicom.
  • Emergency call boxes: In addition to standard stations, the IS series also offers stations for use as emergency phones or area of rescue assistance stations, with options for tower or wall-mount form factors with signage and blue indicator lights.

The IS series also introduces Aiphone's first PoE door and master stations. These stations communicate via the with the central exchange, or in a door-to-master configuration, or door-to-PC software master station, requiring no homerun cabling. The IS-IPMV master station is shown here:

IS series intercoms are best suited to educational facilities. A single system may contain up to 160 doors, 160 masters, and 960 classrooms. Up to 32 independent systems may be connected, to function as a whole. This allows for district communication across all buildings, for example, potentially useful in emergency situations, or for general announcements.

The IS series is one of the most expensive in the Aiphone line. An IS-CCU central controller sells online for about $1,300. An IS-MV master station sells for approximately $450, and door stations start at about $200. PoE door stations increase in price by about $400.

Other Series

Though the series above are most common, users should be aware of some of the other offerings in the Aiphone line, which are used in more specialized applications, such as:

  • GT series: The GT series [link no longer available] is an audio/visual system for use in multi-tenant buildings. The entry station provides a tenant directory, and tenant stations allow for remote door release and pan/tilt control of the entry camera.
  • NDRM series: The NDRM series [link no longer available] is specifically tailored for corrections applications, with a greater variety of vandal-resistant stations, and rack-mount master consoles, intended to be built into guard consoles common in correctional facilities.
  • NHX series: The NHX series [link no longer available] is a UL1069-listed nurse call communications sytems, capable of up to 80 patient stations.

Competitive Options

While there are few competitors with Aiphone's breadth of product, both in pricing and feature set, there are options which compete with specific series at the high and low end:

  • Low-end: At the low-end, any number of small or no-name brands carry inexpensive audio and/or video intercom systems, which may be found online or at home improvement stores [link no longer available]. Many of these systems are intended for home use only, however, with few options for multi-door systems or vandal-resistant options. These systems most often compete with the LEF/LEM and JF/JK series.
  • Mid-to-large systems: Versus Aiphone's larger systems, such as the AX and IS, manufacturers such as Commend and Stentofon/Zenitel are most often used. These systems are typically centrally managed, like the AX and IS, with few options for door-to-master configurations. Commend and Stentofon have also been integrated into various command-and-control systems used in high-end security applications. Aiphone provides this capability in the AX/IS, but currently no integrations exist.

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