Whole Home Audio - Technologies

Guess I haven't been keeping up - but just read through all this.
If you want keypads with metadata, a Nuvo or Russound really are the only way to go.  I think all the points brought up here are valid and it comes down to personal preference - if those are items you want, and you want an established product with smartphone apps and integration with the established HA platforms, then that's still probably the best solution for you.  These progress a little more slowly but they're more stable and predictable.
Also to quickly answer about the Russound systems - A-Bus is a licensed technology that's not unique to Russound - it has a couple sources and I'm not sure the number of zones - but it's very simple; it's also probably the easiest to install - since the speakers just wire to a keypad which is also the amplifier (instead of amplification at the main unit).  CAA is their lower-cost offering - a more packaged system; and the C-series like the MCA5 is their better system (and likely the one to look at).
Some considerations when figuring out the number of zones: 
  • Neighboring rooms can be tied together - it's easy to augment with another amplifier to get more speakers on the same zone, or to tie multiple zones together on the same controller - just depending on the overall goal
  • Many people do use the primary AV receiver as the amplifier for the family room or places like that; others use dedicated speakers just for the WHA so the main high-powered receiver doesn't have to be on just for background audio - and some use the surrounds as part of the WHA using a speaker auto-switcher.
Depending on how you design your system, it's pretty easy to sway the number of required zones in either direction.  Using external amplifiers to increase the number of speakers is handy - the Russound supports voltage triggers for each zone, and the line level outputs can be configured to be fixed or adjustable volume per zone so even if you were running a separate 4-channel amp for the MBR, the volume can still be managed via your amp; same for patio or whatever; and the power to the amp can be triggered with the zone.  Otherwise you can link a couple zones together if you want the master bedroom and the master bath to always be on the same source but with different volumes, etc.  As a last resort, you could also have one keypad controlling the large open space (your livingroom/kitchen/dining room and the use of an extra amplifier with individual manual volume controls for fine tuning each room.
For additional amplification, you can use any old AV receiver, or you can use a purpose-built multi-channel amplifier; the advantage of the multichannel ones is global/individual inputs (say 6 channels are on a global input and then 2 more sets of 2 companion channels for bigger rooms) and the voltage triggers so each zone is only on if needed, saving power.
Apologies to the OP as I did not see the metadata piece on the keypads.  Here I am DIYing that on my touchscreens.
I pained for years on the metadata question, I have to say my biggest issue was the single gang boxes just don't have enough room for album art and good metadata and the double gang ones are too expensive. Not to mention you need to stay within their ecosystem to get the metadata (their also expensive music server,tuners....)
I have given up on the metadata quest and gone back to simple audio distribution. For me my biggest concern was IR remote control and the ability to centrally control it. I recently purchased the Monoprice amp (also similar to Mclelland MAP-1200HD or Factor V-66) and for the price couldn't be happier.
I know it's not the most powerful, but the sound quality isn't bad, it's not supposed to be my Home Theater experience - its music, most streamed in at 128k. It has all the features of the expensive alternatives; a PA zone to tie in my ELK, and a Rs232 interface to control it. I already wrote a driver for it, and soon i'll have a web interface to control it.
As far as metadata - I'd rather use my Grace Digital or Sonos Connect app to control the source with awesome user experience, and the keypads of the Monoprice to control the amp. Most of the family has their face in their phone all day; it really is the best controller.
pete_c said:
Yup; relating to the DIY person I think that the MAP-1200HD provides a nice solution for the price.
Bucko, curious if you are looking for Elk or MiCasa integration (or none?)?
Here I utilized Russound purchased used.  I learned about it such that it was totally done in a DIY fashion.
Most of the higher end legacy systems and integration were always proprietary and typically only installed by dealers with no real support to the DIY person.
What other choices (whole house zoned audio) are out there today relating to a DIY installation of a zoned audio system?
Many folks are utilizing Sonos today.  Other folks are just tapping into their MM receivers and turning them into multizone audio systems.
I'm looking to integrate with ELK and a Vera 3. My first method will be to just control it via my SQ Blaster. If this doesn't work out well, I'll try RS232, but I've not played with any RS-232 integrations. At any rate I'll know a lot more once I have this beast in my hands. I also ordered their speakers. They are 6" 20w 8ohm. Could have gone with their 8" 30w, but we will see.