IP Vs Analog Intercoms

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 20, 2016

Intercoms, even within physical security, are a niche.

But Axis' acquisition of intercom manufacturer 2N represents a significant investment into this market segment.

Indeed, Axis is emphasizing the value of IP intercoms both for doing the deal and in focusing future efforts.

But what really is the difference between IP and analog intercoms? Is there something like a 'MP' intercom? Where is each type better or worse?

In this guide, we answer these questions.

Key Comparisons

While performance of intercoms and intercom systems may be basic, there are some some big gaps between the two major intercom technology types. The notable differences:

  • Pricing for Intercoms
  • Hub and Spoke vs Mesh
  • No Central Exchanges Needed With IP
  • System Integrations Easier with IP
  • IP Based Video Quality Better

We examine these points in detail below.

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Key ***********

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Hub *** *****

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System ***********

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What ** ***?

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System ***** ********

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Video *******

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Market ************

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Comments (19)

The Aiphone LEF series analog intercom does not require extra equipment to enable selective call or all call, at a very reasonable price.

By selective call do you mean the master can select the sub, or a sub can select a sub?

If it's the former then it doesn't need any extra hardware because there is no routing, no?

A master can call any sub or any master. A sub can only ring (initiate a tone on all masters). A master must then initiate a call, which allows hands-free conversation between master and sub. Masters can also monitor subs. They sell subs with and without a privacy button.

ok, thanks, that helps.

Assuming a ten station all-master system, can there be 5 seperate conversations going on concurrently?

"The LEF Series is a selective calling open voice, audio only system with the capacity of up to 11 total stations."

So as long as it is a smaller, audio-only, non integrated system this could be a good option. Looks like pricing is ~$275 for most station types.

Thank for bringing it up!

So selective call means?

Using that system, selective call means 'mesh' or station-to-station calling is supported. The LEF is one example of a small analog system that supports this, although there are others. 'Small' systems generally mean less than 12 - 16 units and typically are audio only.

I'll add a short section above to clarify this.

Station to station, meaning master station to master station, I'm assuming. If you just get the door stations, they only go to the master, I believe.

For the all call option, it sounds like an extra box is required.

Correct me if I'm wrong please - The LEF does not require additional equipment, but its wiring for a selective/all2all configuration, is a 20 wire (per station) $@# mesh...
If you add this to the single talkpath, non-integration and non-expansion limitations - it is obvious that Axis strives to introduce a <$200 intercom station in the near future.

This is a good point, and while LEF series is not a 20 wire system in all configurations, the bottom line is you need to pull and install many wires, to a degree that a single bundle of UTP Cat 5/5e/6/6a is simple in contrast.

The exact wire config varies depending on mix of station types, but consider this example setup that requires 10 wires connecting stations together:

Even when these exact stations aren't used (other LEF series stations might be), the wiring requirements are heavy:

For an 11 station system, at least 15 wires are needed, even more if standard things like strike releases are installed.

The bottom line: while central exchangeless analog systems are available, the cost of additional wire runs and connections can be substantial.

Great article, Brian. A subject that needed touching on for awhile. Surprises me there is still so many little integration with ACS and VMS (I know there's some, I'm saying more). But it seems like one of those things that should just be a logical extension. With the advent of SIP, there is really no excuse why more ACS and VMS systems should not be able to integrate with intercom devices.

I wonder when will the different substations, by different vendors/manufacturers, shown in the picture, be able to "converse" among themselves across the network, based on an open/standard integration platform...

Axis releases anther intercom station.

AXIS A8105-E Network Video Door Station

Interesting, it's essentially a mullion mount-width intercom at <2" wide.

Long distances are also an advantage of analog systems. Analog systems can handle distances longer than 400m easily, while IP systems are limited to 100m (without fiber or switches). Depending on the type of installation, this can make a big difference in cabling costs and infrastructures needed.

Yes, but you need dedicated cabling instead of unified (catX) cabling, and you will probably need a separate power supply for units 400 m away. I believe most of us prefer the notion of "intelligent infrastructure", which can be extended, expanded and monitored easily, while providing both centralized and distributed capabilities.

Commend digital stations (2 wire) can go 1500m. If wire needs to be retained a pair is all that is needed without compromise of audio quality, 16kHz, full hands free open duplex, full supervision, scream alarm technology with units and modules for every environment.

This is a seriously under explored segment and thanks to IPVM for giving it some attention.

Been using an aiphone system for years, lots of options for localized mesh installs (JP series using twister pair to the door and Cat5 between masters) or remote reception functions (the later using IP converters to software at the headend 2500 miles away).

Biggest challenge now is finding a hybrid of both worlds as our business evolves, something local during core hours which can be forwarded to a central station after hours. Their AI series is getting close but has limited VMS partners and I'm generally reluctant to deploy IP intensive solutions due to management and cyber concerns, something to be said for the simplicity of analog when troubleshooting. Then there's the issue of audio quality with IP, not the best experience in the remote reception role.

Digital Accoustic's caught my attention at one time but has a limited catalog compared to AiPhone, and to fully realize the potential of a VMS as a PSIM through SIP requires the decision to commit. Heard good things about Security Centre, anyone have experience going all-in with Genetec?

Undisclosed 7 might consider going all-in with Genetec a gamble.

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