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Old 10-18-2019, 03:02 PM   #1
Topcat
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Default Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

About 10~12 years ago I was given this Panasonic KX-TA624 analog telephone system with its 'master phone' and box full of extension telephones. It's been up in the attic all this time, untouched/unused since I didn't have a land line. It has all the line expansion cards, making it able to handle up to 6 outside lines and 24 internal extensions. I was told this system was removed from a shopping center that upgraded to a VOIP system.

Why am I wasting my time on this you wonder? Well, I need a phone number for a little venture I'm working on....and I sure as hell don't want my personal cell phone number out there..... Now here's where it gets good!!! The cheapest I could get a land line is ~$70-$80 a month.....that's fracking ludicrous! Another cell phone would be more than that once I factored in the monthly costs plus the cost of another phone....and I refuse to be one of those bozos that think they're so important that they need to carry multiple cell phones.... Ok, so here's what the solution was.....a straight talk wireless 'Home Phone' box, which is compatible with any corded/cordless 'landline' telephone...hmmm, worth a little gamble to see if it'll work with this system. The box itself cost me $30. The service is $15/mo, unlimited talk & long distance....DONE DEAL!

....so here we go!! The phone network switchboard/controller:



Box full of phones and random wires...



This thing was dusty & dirty....I completely disassembled it, washed the plastic housing in the sink and blew the dust off the boards with my air compressor hose.

All Apart....I checked the caps in the PSU.... A panasonic unit with all Panasonic caps! What could go wrong!!



The boards:


A hard-mounted 'memory' battery.....hmmm... It was a miracle, 10 years in the attic with season after season of extreme heat and extreme cold, this battery wasn't dead! It was holding 2.7v.



Just to avoid headaches later, I simply harvested a socket from a junk motherboard and installed a fresh battery....a Panasonic no less!



All cleaned and going back together.





Testing.... I tested all this for a good 2 months before today just to make sure everything works and is compatible. The 'straight talk' box never missed a beat, incoming or outgoing. Audio quality is very good, never had any drops. The Panasonic system uses proprietary phones.....but researching & testing revealed that it will also work with standard landline phones as well; albeit some of the internal features won't work, but all the basic functions will. Not to mention, that even as old as this system is, it's still very well supported even today. Add-ons, phones, and other accessories for this system are still readily available and inexpensive! Now for the vintage phone test....The 'straight talk' box does not support Pulse dialing....but lo & behold, the switchboard does, and does all the DTMF translation internally!! I love the old loud mechanical ringers of these old phones...and it works with this system, including the ability to dial out. There's also another ulterior motive for the vintage telephones working on this....in my pool room mancave, I want to find & restore a ~1940's wooden phone booth, it would be even cooler if the old telephone in it is usable....anyway, back to the project! Programming this thing is kind of tricky, it's all done through the 'master phone', which was included....so I just programmed the basics and will toil away at the rest later.....for example, which extensions ring or don't ring with an incoming call, etc.



Now the beginning of the install....in the secret room deep in the bowels of the building....

Control box on the wall...


The 'straight talk' box next to it.


Mockup is up & running!


That was all the easy part.....the real fun lies ahead, wiring the building for all this!! ...so yea, this will be an ongoing project!
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:57 PM   #2
redwire
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

That looks really nice
This is from an era when phones worked like they should, and had good sound quality and good quality parts. Great in an office setting. I'm not sure how many outside lines this unit can handle.

Have you looked at VoIP modems, to pipe this through your Internet connection? My buddy uses free VoIP services and they all sound terrible and drop calls. It's the worst echoes, clicks, distortion, dropouts etc. Eventually they get bought up or go out of business. Not everyone wants to pay for it.

Very important the protective earth-ground is connected, POTS has lots of lightning transients.
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:04 PM   #3
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topcat View Post
Why am I wasting my time on this you wonder? Well, I need a phone number for a little venture I'm working on....and I sure as hell don't want my personal cell phone number out there.....
Why not go for a consumer VoIP plan?

Quote:
The cheapest I could get a land line is ~$70-$80 a month.....that's fracking ludicrous!
I don't understand why that would be the case. Our land line is ~$30/month including the various taxes and fees.

Quote:
That was all the easy part.....the real fun lies ahead, wiring the building for all this!! ...so yea, this will be an ongoing project!
I ran CAT5e, CAT3 and RG6 throughout the house (25 drops).

I regret running the CAT3 as it's really only useful for POTS. But, I'm stuck with it as it all terminates in a location that doesn't have convenient access to power or space for a switch.

But, I've opted to remove all of the RG6 drops and replace them with a second set of CAT5e drops. I figure this lets me run phone, audio or video to any of those drops in addition to "computer" access.

So, probably 1000 ft of RG6 got scrapped (thankfully I didn't pay for any of it!)

[You might also consider putting an external ringer on the outside of your building to "signal" you when you're out in the yard, etc. I have one in the back yard but now have other mechanisms that have rendered it "unnecessary"]
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Quote:
Originally Posted by redwire View Post
Very important the protective earth-ground is connected, POTS has lots of lightning transients.
It is all grounded, on surge protection, and UPS systems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
Why not go for a consumer VoIP plan?
For the reasons by Redwire.....horrible quality. My internet connection isn't the fastest....I don't need anything else clogging it up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
I don't understand why that would be the case. Our land line is ~$30/month including the various taxes and fees.
Only 2 carriers available. 1) AT$T = $77/mo, 2) Centurylink (also my internet provider) $72/mo + my internet service costs. No thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
I ran CAT5e...throughout the house (25 drops).
I did the same when I built my house and remodeled/added onto my shop. 14 drops in the house, 44 in the shop. I'll run additional cat5e for POTS, easy to repurpose later if needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
[You might also consider putting an external ringer on the outside of your building to "signal" you when you're out in the yard, etc. I have one in the back yard but now have other mechanisms that have rendered it "unnecessary"]
I've got one sitting in a box. Old Western Electric large wall-mount ringer box with big bells....circa 1930's. I have an old hand crank phone magneto with a ~100v 20Hz output (what it takes to ring mechanical phone bells)....I tested it, it's loud!
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Old 10-18-2019, 09:32 PM   #5
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Quote:
Originally Posted by Topcat View Post
I've got one sitting in a box. Old Western Electric large wall-mount ringer box with big bells....circa 1930's. I have an old hand crank phone magneto with a ~100v 20Hz output (what it takes to ring mechanical phone bells)....I tested it, it's loud!
I have a Northern Electric ringer box, with a Western Electric 22A magneto in it. I need a new gear, it is worn out. Ringer sounds great. You can put a few uF cap to POTS and it works.
I even have the original schematic on the door.

Last edited by redwire; 10-18-2019 at 09:34 PM..
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Old 10-18-2019, 11:07 PM   #6
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Originally Posted by Topcat View Post
For the reasons by Redwire.....horrible quality.
I find cellular connections to have horrible quality! That's largely the reason for keeping the land line (that and the fact that it "never" goes down)

Quote:
My internet connection isn't the fastest....I don't need anything else clogging it up.
Ah, that's a factor. I wanted two ways to contact the house: internet connection and PSTN (FXO gateway lets the PSTN interace to my local internet)

Quote:
Only 2 carriers available. 1) AT$T = $77/mo, 2) Centurylink (also my internet provider) $72/mo + my internet service costs. No thanks.
Wow! That's outrageous! We have CL here but the bill is half what you're being quoted (our internet connection comes from a different carrier).

Quote:
I did the same when I built my house and remodeled/added onto my shop. 14 drops in the house, 44 in the shop. I'll run additional cat5e for POTS, easy to repurpose later if needed.
That's the mistake that I made... The CAT3 was free and the 5,000 ft of CAT5e cost a pretty penny -- no desire to add another 1,000 ft to that bill! :<

But, even if I wanted to do so, I'm running out of ports on the main switch (I'm at 120 presently and each new port represents a potential ~25W load).

Quote:
I've got one sitting in a box. Old Western Electric large wall-mount ringer box with big bells....circa 1930's. I have an old hand crank phone magneto with a ~100v 20Hz output (what it takes to ring mechanical phone bells)....I tested it, it's loud!
Mine is a small unit about half the size of a Trimline phone. Mechanism is largely the same as in those phones but a bit beefier. Normally, I wear a BT earpiece to tell me of an incoming call (after it has been screened). But, if I'm outdoors and not wearing it, the external bell can be rung to get my attention.

[I'm not keen on letting my neighbors know that my phone is ringing so it isn't used unless needed! (I also have a PA system out there but that's even MORE offensive!) :< ]
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Old 10-19-2019, 10:23 AM   #7
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
I find cellular connections to have horrible quality! That's largely the reason for keeping the land line (that and the fact that it "never" goes down)
This one actually sounds very good. Not great, but very good. It actually sounds a bit better than my cell phone (samsung note 3). For its purpose, its fine. It won't be heavily used.....I just needed anohter contact number besides my cell. What makes this a little more unique are the internal functions of the system. I dropped 3 cat5e cables in the ground connecting the shop to the house. I'm only using 2....so I can have up to 4 extensions from this system at the house as well.

I've used vonage and magic jack in the past (the only consumer VOIP options I was aware of; I'm not even sure if they're still around)....they were miserable for quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
Wow! That's outrageous! We have CL here but the bill is half what you're being quoted (our internet connection comes from a different carrier).
Yea....now the little straight talk box makes a little more sense. I haven't tried it, but the only thing I probably won't be able to do with the straight talk box is fax. According to their documentation, you can not transfer data over this thing....but I have not tried it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
[I'm not keen on letting my neighbors know that my phone is ringing so it isn't used unless needed! (I also have a PA system out there but that's even MORE offensive!) :< ]
I'll put the big bells out in the garage.... My nearest neighbor is quite a ways away....I doubt they'd hear it.
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Old 10-19-2019, 04:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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This one actually sounds very good. Not great, but very good. It actually sounds a bit better than my cell phone (samsung note 3). For its purpose, its fine. It won't be heavily used.....I just needed anohter contact number besides my cell.
That's why I mentioned the VoIP route.

I've moved almost all "communications" over to email as it better suits MY schedule (caller wants to call at HIS convenience which is rarely when it is convenient for me to ACCEPT a call!). The last few holdouts are folks like doctor/dentist (who, curiously, want ME to "go digital" and use their web "portals" -- which I am 100% convinced are ripe for hacking! :< )

Quote:
What makes this a little more unique are the internal functions of the system. I dropped 3 cat5e cables in the ground connecting the shop to the house. I'm only using 2....so I can have up to 4 extensions from this system at the house as well.
I'm always leary of burying comms cable -- lightning induced surges, etc.. I keep a pair of Gbe fibre adapters just in case I opt to put a shed out back (video-over-ethernet, etc.). But, I don't have a long enough span of fibre to actually make it happen (OTOH, I have tools to terminate bulk fibre so would just need to buy the actual "glass")

Quote:
I've used vonage and magic jack in the past (the only consumer VOIP options I was aware of; I'm not even sure if they're still around)....they were miserable for quality.
https://www.wirefly.com/residential-voip-providers
https://www.whichvoip.com/residential.htm

I'm not recommending any of them -- just a quick web search...

Last time I went looking, there were quite a few "hiding" out there. I spent some time querying business associates who'd gone digital to ascertain their experiences with each provider -- then decided it was easier to just stick with the land line and an FXO gateway to "go digital" INSIDE the house...

The way I ran the CAT3 to the 66-blocks allows me to add 4 ATAs in the equipment closet (elsewhere) and wire them to individual CAT3 drops via the 66-blocks. The 4 FXSs gives me support for:
  • two "land lines" (which may be served via PSTN or VoIP)
  • a connection to the (old) cordless phone
  • a connection to an "extended range" (half mile) cordless phone

Quote:
I'll put the big bells out in the garage.... My nearest neighbor is quite a ways away....I doubt they'd hear it.
We're "in town" so its relatively easy to "overhear" what's going on around you (this morning I heard someone playing the piano).

OTOH, this can be an asset -- the sirens that I've hidden will likely be hard for neighbors to ignore if we're ever burgled!
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Old 10-19-2019, 06:44 PM   #9
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
I'm always leary of burying comms cable -- lightning induced surges, etc.. I keep a pair of Gbe fibre adapters just in case I opt to put a shed out back (video-over-ethernet, etc.). But, I don't have a long enough span of fibre to actually make it happen (OTOH, I have tools to terminate bulk fibre so would just need to buy the actual "glass")
Actually, I take that back -- I found a spool with ~200 ft of fibre hiding in the garage. So, I just have to decide that I have a genuine NEED to install the cable...

[Too much cruft hiding in too many places, here! Hard to keep track of exactly WHAT I've got... <frown> ]
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Old 10-19-2019, 07:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
That's why I mentioned the VoIP route.

I've moved almost all "communications" over to email as it better suits MY schedule (caller wants to call at HIS convenience which is rarely when it is convenient for me to ACCEPT a call!). The last few holdouts are folks like doctor/dentist (who, curiously, want ME to "go digital" and use their web "portals" -- which I am 100% convinced are ripe for hacking! :< )
That's another reason I didn't want another cell. This is a fixed-base system and won't travel with me or call forward to my cell....if I'm not there, nobody answers.

My wife does all the online doc stuff too...makes me nervous....but too late now.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
I'm always leary of burying comms cable -- lightning induced surges, etc.. I keep a pair of Gbe fibre adapters just in case I opt to put a shed out back (video-over-ethernet, etc.). But, I don't have a long enough span of fibre to actually make it happen (OTOH, I have tools to terminate bulk fibre so would just need to buy the actual "glass")
That's why I buried 3 (one could work if it had to), and they're several feet apart in the trench that's ~ 4ft down. The buildings are ~300ft apart....I didn't want overhead, nor do I want wireless (part of this is a security system, wireless can be jammed, intercepted, etc). The cables were underground to the old house....10 years later, never had a problem...and they were buried with a water line. The cable I used is a direct bury with a very thick sheath, and fully shielded. I didn't use cheap cable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Curious.George View Post
We're "in town" so its relatively easy to "overhear" what's going on around you (this morning I heard someone playing the piano).

OTOH, this can be an asset -- the sirens that I've hidden will likely be hard for neighbors to ignore if we're ever burgled!
I'm here 95% of the time and armed. Not too worried about burglars....but I do have a good camera setup, just incase.
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Old 10-19-2019, 11:24 PM   #11
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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That's another reason I didn't want another cell. This is a fixed-base system and won't travel with me or call forward to my cell....if I'm not there, nobody answers.
I'm home much of the time, as well. But, regardless of whether we're home or not, NOBODY ANSWERS! :> (and the ringer is turned off -- did I mention that I don't like being disturbed "at YOUR convenience"? :> )

Quote:
My wife does all the online doc stuff too...makes me nervous....but too late now.
When an MD tries to assure you that it's "secure", you gotta wonder. Would he take MY diagnosis of a health condition that HE had? Instead, I just counter with "Wow! Why are these IT guys working for YOU when they could obviously command really great wages from Sony, BofA, Equifax (i.e., the various BIG firms that have been hacked)?"

Quote:
I'm here 95% of the time and armed. Not too worried about burglars....but I do have a good camera setup, just incase.
The external "annunciators" are actually more intended for requesting assistance ("Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"). I can phone friends/neighbors if incapacitated but there's no guarantee they will be close by when needed (and, if you have to dial "contact A" before trying "contact B", a lot of time can get piddled away looking for aid. OTOH, several horn-loaded speakers can shout messages loud enough to be hard to ignore! (in case of buglary, they can simply "play" a siren sound)

I have loud sirens IN the house to scare the piss out of intruders. They are deafening -- 120dB. You REALLY want to "get away" from them when they sound!
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Old 10-20-2019, 01:45 PM   #12
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Topcat, you got ripped off.

Magic Jack is by far the cheapest landline service out there. $30 for the VOIP module (Ethernet to phone jack box) which includes 1 year of service, plus ~$30 a year after that (price depends on how long you buy at once). No frills, but unlimited local and long distance (and international rates aren't too terrible IIRC).

What's that... 1/6th of what you're paying for straight talk ($15 a month?)?

I've had mine for 3.5 years, very few issues. All you need is a internet connection (which yours is plenty fast for, trust me) Unlike the original magic jack the USB plug is power only; it isn't dependent on a PC and bullshit software.
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Old 10-20-2019, 02:05 PM   #13
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Today's positive object lesson & waste of time was the very masterful restoration of the master telephone. It was in disgustingly filthy shape, but otherwise in good physical condition & fully functional. It looked like someone spilled their latte down it....the speaker holes on the handset were clogged up with what was probably someone's ear wax.....yea, it was gross.

Anyway....disassembled.



Contact mat cleaned.


Cradle & buttons getting ready for cleaning...





Cleaned!!







Reassembled. At some point, I'll probably replace the 'curly cord'....it cleaned up ok. It's proprietary in a way, as the end that connects to the cradle has a straight section ~5" long where it weaves along the underside of the base.



Making sure I didn't kill it.....its still fully functional.



...and the finishing touch, I made a new extension ID label for it. I swiped the speed dial label from one of the other extension phones...



Now that's more like it!
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Old 10-20-2019, 02:54 PM   #14
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

Looking good nice job restoring them
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Old 10-21-2019, 04:44 AM   #15
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Originally Posted by ratdude747 View Post
Topcat, you got ripped off.

Magic Jack is by far the cheapest landline service out there. $30 for the VOIP module (Ethernet to phone jack box) which includes 1 year of service, plus ~$30 a year after that (price depends on how long you buy at once). No frills, but unlimited local and long distance (and international rates aren't too terrible IIRC).

What's that... 1/6th of what you're paying for straight talk ($15 a month?)?

I've had mine for 3.5 years, very few issues. All you need is a internet connection (which yours is plenty fast for, trust me) Unlike the original magic jack the USB plug is power only; it isn't dependent on a PC and bullshit software.
No he didn't. Magic Jack needs internet and his Straight Talk Box doesn't ( Its a cell phone service).
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Old 10-21-2019, 06:32 AM   #16
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No he didn't. Magic Jack needs internet and his Straight Talk Box doesn't ( Its a cell phone service).
... and he has internet through other means! It's not great (been to his place, can confirm) but it's more than plenty for magic jack to run without hogging the bandwidth.

So, given the available resources, IMHO, he was ripped off. Unless the concern is an internet outage taking out the phone... but I don't consider that to be a spectacular benefit since he has a cell phone and there is acceptable signal on his property (we're on the same network, no issues the last time I visited).

Sure, he's getting what he paid for... but if it's stuff he didn't need and didn't care for, then that's still a ripoff.

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Old 10-21-2019, 10:53 AM   #17
Topcat
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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... and he has internet through other means! It's not great (been to his place, can confirm) but it's more than plenty for magic jack to run without hogging the bandwidth.

So, given the available resources, IMHO, he was ripped off. Unless the concern is an internet outage taking out the phone... but I don't consider that to be a spectacular benefit since he has a cell phone and there is acceptable signal on his property (we're on the same network, no issues the last time I visited).

Sure, he's getting what he paid for... but if it's stuff he didn't need and didn't care for, then that's still a ripoff.
Having used magic jack, no I didn't get ripped off. It was complete junk. I'm a firm believer in you get what you pay for....and having used both, I definitely made the right choice. Quality-wise, the two don't even compare, the straight talk box is significantly above magic jack. The reasons are above....try reading them, especially in regards to anything else clogging up internet connections....even if its trivial.

The signal strength with the straight talk box is far better than my cell. I don't even bother taking my cell into the back room, zero signal. The 'box' is in the wiring closet and has a ~50%+ signal (2~3 out of 4 bars), it has 2 nice big antennas on it...and if I needed I can add external antennas mounted outside, but so far I don't think they're needed.
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Old 10-21-2019, 05:23 PM   #18
ratdude747
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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Having used magic jack, no I didn't get ripped off. It was complete junk. I'm a firm believer in you get what you pay for....and having used both, I definitely made the right choice. Quality-wise, the two don't even compare, the straight talk box is significantly above magic jack. The reasons are above....try reading them, especially in regards to anything else clogging up internet connections....even if its trivial.

The signal strength with the straight talk box is far better than my cell. I don't even bother taking my cell into the back room, zero signal. The 'box' is in the wiring closet and has a ~50%+ signal (2~3 out of 4 bars), it has 2 nice big antennas on it...and if I needed I can add external antennas mounted outside, but so far I don't think they're needed.
To each their own... I didn't know you had prior experience. If it works for you, great.

(Sorry for being an asstard there).
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Old 10-21-2019, 07:31 PM   #19
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To each their own... I didn't know you had prior experience. If it works for you, great.
It was one of the first things I tried long before I dug this POTS system out of the attic. After a few calls on it, the quality made me not pursue it any further.

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(Sorry for being an asstard there).
No worries.....we all know your bark is a lot worse than your bite!
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Old 10-21-2019, 08:18 PM   #20
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Default Re: Topcat's Budget Telephone System- Panasonic KX-TA624 Conquest

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It was one of the first things I tried long before I dug this POTS system out of the attic.
Do yourself as favor and make a crib-sheet regarding how to program various features. Most of these systems (esp older ones) are incredibly cryptic about what to do and how to do it -- in addition to knowing the proper lingo ("Camp ON", "Call Group Pickup", "Line Queuing", DID, DLA, "Forced Line Disconnect", "Tandem Calling", etc.).

I had a 96-port Meisei system (three large 12x12x18" cabinets) that was a PITA to have to "re-learn" each time I wanted to update the "programming". (This is what motivated me to move to all digital inside the house).
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