Whole House Audio Distribtion


I am looking to put together a whole house audio distribution system. I have been doing a bit of research and it appears based on all of my wants for features at a low budget I will need to do a lot of integrating more basic components together. My main goal for posting is to make sure I didn't miss anything currently available before I go through the trouble of trying to figure out how to cobble something together.

Due to budget constraint I will need to build this system incrementally. With that said, it needs to be expandable such that my final goals can be met without wasting a ton of money and time.

Current needs are modest with 4 output zones and three inputs. The inputs can be centralized and include Ipod input, satelitte radio reciever, and a computer with mp3 library. I would like to be able to control the inputs of 4 zones (including seeing metadata, track selection, volume control and on/off) from my Andriod phone or Ipad. I would also like to have local (in the zone where the music is playing) volume control and on/off, but do not need anything beyond that.

The final product looks a bit more complicated:
15-20 output zones
12-15 input sources
Android/Ipad control as well as local volume and on/off
Home automation announcements which interrupt the music
Music that can follow someone through out the house (I know this is dependent on other home automation sensors and controllers)
Intercom that can interrupt music
Ability to create consistent interfaces with other home automation aspects (I don't want my wife to have to learn 3 or 4 different ways to control different systems in our house)

Things I don't think I need (and hence would not like to pay for):
Fancy wall keypads with track info and control and even source selection
Local IR control
Local source inputs

It seems to me that the Nuvo, Russound, HTD, Sonos etc. can do a lot of this stuff well but usually not all. It also does get pretty expensive especially for both remote control and wall keypad options. I am also unclear how well they would integrate with the rest of my setup which is an ELK M1 and as yet undecided master software.

I think there are three fundamental options which require different wiring but each has flaw as I see it:
1. Centrally amplified zone which requires a home run from the speakers through the keypad back to the amp. Sources are usually located with the amp as well though a few seems to have some type of local source input (not sure how yet). There does not seem to be a way to communicate with local volume control and get feedback which makes remote control nearly impossible.

2. Amplifiers in the keypad which is a distributed configuration. The signal from the central controller is line level over Cat5. Sources are usually located with the amp as well though a number do have local source input. The Cat5 does allow status feedback and communication (A-BUS is one standard), but I haven't found a keypad/central controller that meets all of my needs (probably just haven't looked hard enough).

3. Distributed amplifiers and "decoders". The signal from the central controller (if there even is one) is digital and is converted to audio at the local zone. Sources are usually distributed with this model. Seems like the best bet, but Sonos (the leader of this type) doesn't work great with a large number of sources.

As you can see, there is a lot of choices and information out there, and I am all over the place. Hopefully some one has a setup similar to my final product. My budget for the current needs is less than $500 (I know not a lot). The final product can be quite a bit more as long as each room/feature I add builds on what I start with and is reasonably priced. Thanks.
Russound has an expandable controller that starts with 8 sources/8 zones. It has page mute and variable output zones. You dont need to have the native keypads if you could control it via RS232. However, the initial controller with 8 zones will be in >$1000 range. Distributed audio is expensive ;(
A less expensive option is to use speaker switchers with a single amp, but that is not true zoned system as you can only have one source at a time and the switcher can deliver that source to multiple zones.
Why so many sources?

For that many outputs, you may want to look into a PC with multiple sound cards - There are cards that will emulate multiple soundcards from just one card - I have a Delta M410, which takes one slot on the motherboard but gives you five sets of stereo RCA outputs that you could feed to your amplifiers. WinAMP allows you to run multiple instances on a PC and JRiver supports multiple soundcards as well.
My thoughts on sources which can be adjusted/compromised based on advice here:
Family of 6

Ipod/mp3player input incase we want to listen to a guest's library
4-6x computer sources for music library, internet radio, podcasts, cd player or whatever
3x external HD/satellite radio
4-6x audio stream from video source

So this probably a little extreme, and I can easily see cutting back to say 8 inputs. The computer sources definitely will be done with the method gadget boy mentions.

Any ideas for an expandable solution that has a lower initial cash outlay or am I full of it trying to get anything going for less than a few thousand. If that is the case I will likely cobble something together which will support my current needs, then redo the whole system when i get enough money.
each zone needs it's own amp no matter what system you go with you are going to be really hard pressed to do it for $500. I would pre wire that alone will run you $500 and get the system when you have alot more cash.
Have you checked out my blog? I have a DIYer 6 zone whole house audio system that many people have duplicated (from all the PM's I have gotten). Check it out for ideas at least.
Everything that you are wanting to do is very possible..... just not for $500.

I realize this post about the different systems I looked at is out of date, but it might help you begin to get a feel for the various solutions available. I ended up going with a B&K CT600 whole house distribution system for my stereo zones and various Integra Receivers for my surround sound zones.
Initially I went with a very simple X10/RS-232 switcher called an AB8SS. It it no longer being sold today though. From here went to utilizing a Leviton electronic volume control with keypads connected via Cat5E a few years ago. I also went to a kind of subzone system in the master bedroom and two other bedrooms such that each had its own amplifier for a local source plus the house. About two years ago purchased a couple Russound CAS44's new old stock 4 zoned amplifiers for around $200 each. I integrated one into the OmniPro II. I also came upon old "new" KPL keypads and installed these as well. The KPL's were purchased at around $40 each which was really a good deal. This brought the cost to $360 for one CAS44 and 4 KPL keyboards.

The Russound is very well contructed. I'm just mentioning this because you can also purchased discontinued stock at a reasonable price. With this and other manufacturers if you purchased new old stock, refurbished or used you just have to be on your own for the support.
Did notice an email relating to one sound vendor (not Russound) to a distributor of not supporting any devices purchased via other than bona fide distributors of said devices; like thru Ebay or used a month or two ago. I don't recall specifically which sound vendor it was.

It kind of irked me a bit.

I understand wanting to keep a closed loop on said devices; but its kind of saying that they really don't back up their hardware unless its sold and installed by a distributor which does protect them but indeed also dings their products somewhat really not enticing me to even consider them for use in my home (me being a DIY type person).

My interpretation of the letter regarding the vendor is stating to DIY folks not to purchase their stuff used because they will not honor any repairs or support what so ever of said used purchased equipment.
Here's a system I've been looking at a bit lately: http://www.htd.com/Products/Lync

I like that it has intercom built in, and has local zones in every zone... that can be hooked into a computer or ipod dock or similar.

As far as output zones, there's probably fewer than you realize; for instance, if you have a livingroom attached to a kitchen, you're not going to play different sources in the two - instead they can share a zone, but have separate speakers and volume controls. There's different ways to accomplish this.

Unfortunately the control aspect will be a bit tricky - I don't know if any of the big HA software vendors support them.