PBX Telset Knockoff Matrix

Prior to 2010, having a phone system in the house would be cost prohibitive. With hardware and the needed software cards, it could’ve been up to $300.  VOIP or not didn’t matter (in fact you probably would’ve paid more on VOIP sets than the system itself. And ROI would be out of the window, because at home users would not see cost savings as opposed to a business.)

But if you are in a situation where you can’t afford a system, but want something that resembles it, here is a matrix of wireline phones that look like they could run off a PBX but it doesn’t need to. And they’re analog



7101 (Think of the Merlin sets and a trimline, and you get this set. Very rare, if you find one, don’t be surprised to pay top dollar.)

7102 (basically a shell of a Merlin BIS or 7400 BIS, but just a single button for flash)

8101 – Supposed to resemble the 8400 series, but it looks more like the 900 series sold to consumers. The difference? Similar quality to the 8400s!

8110 – has up to 10 number speed dial functions

6210 – Resembles the 6400 series or 4400 series in the Magix world, a basic model

6220 – Has multiple buttons for speed dial and a built in modem port for dialup or faxing


Soundstation are the conference room sets, perfect for the dining room. The first generations are the most solid, but are prone to blemishes and scratches. the SoundStation 2 are more plasticy, but aren’t prone to blemishes or scratches, but are prone to cracking.

The SoundPoint analog telephones have been on the market for years, and you can still find them new, or new old stock, like this one from my mother’s work taken years ago.


If you’re up for crummy IP, the SoundPoint IP would be the next option. The requirements would ether be a SIP service or a SIP PBX. Polycoms are considered the poor man’s Cisco to me,  but they also have the resemblance of a Nortel with the removable “Button caps” Polycoms also lack the neatness of having line or handset cables tucked in, they sit loose. I’d just pass on it.


Aastra was spin off of Nortel’s analog telephone offerings. Unlike Lucent, Nortel sold sets intentionally to consumers, and some of their popular consumer-styled sets are found on Etsy and eBay. For enterprise wannabees, Aastra licensed the Meridan name even after the spinoff. There are several models (please forgive me if I don’t have the model numbers right.)

  • M8314
  • M9116 (resembles the T7200 Norstar sets)
  • 9316CW
  • M9216
  • 9417

Another least known feature from Nortel/Aastra was a KSU-less phone system called Venture. Similar to the ComKey, and the modern ones found at Staples, the Venture could run a mini phone system of up to 8 Venture phones. Typically one phone would be the “slave” and the other sets working as “masters”, the latter would be the most expensive. The systems would talk to each other on the same circuit. Unlike offerings from “AT&T” at the time, the Venture was more flexible, such as creating your own extension numbers, and some of these sets also supported voice mail.


The Venture extended through VOIP with an IP offering since VOIP phones typically connect to a PBX or a “cloud” service and only rarely do VOIP phones dial out to analog trunks, that really this concept is unneeded.

Meanwhile, if you wanted a Meridian-like set (like the 3900 series), look at the Vista series. Some resemble the boxy sets from the 90s, but later models have the more curvy look. It’s large screen can be supported if your phone company has support for ADSI (forgot what that stood for – to lazy to search.)

ADSI which gives bits of data to the phone to check stock quotes, directory services, book a plane, etc… it may be outdated for 2015, but it was the dream around 2000. The people at Asterisk must’ve seen something to this as they supports this specifically for sets like the Vista. Some phone providers use Asterisk, so just check your provider. If your provider doesn’t support it, it does retain a 100 number call directory, speed dial, etc.

A Picture of a Nortel Vista 390 phone

The Vista supports message waiting notification, so you’ll get the red light blinking if you have voice mail waiting. Even from the phone company!

Downside is the Vista’s backlit display is always on. There is no on or off features.

There is an IP version of this set, that supports up to 4 line appearances

Other vendors

boston 200

I still can’t drool over this Telematrix telephone taken at the Boston Harbor Hotel when I was having my complex jaw surgery in 2010. This was actually a solid terminal. Great plastics, heavy base, so it won’t move off base and seemed to be reliable. On their own website, they would tout this for centrex users or for the government (and hospitality markets obviously.)

I hope this buyer’s guide helps you out finding your short term fix of a long term issue – wanting your own PBX or key system.