This is my current situation. I have been researching most of the things I am talking about to no direct and/or any solution. Hence my plea to you.
I own a two story house. I currently have no sound equipment purchased. My budget is extremely flexible as long as I can get what I am aiming for. The house is fully networked in each room with Cat 6, along with wireless availability thoughout the house.
I have a vast music library located on my PC in which I want to be able to play in each floor of the house. Upstairs "Computer Room", Downstairs "Living Room", and Basement. Currently all of this music is located in iTunes.
I need the functionality to be able to play or not play music on all floors. However in the living room, I want to be able to swap between a 5.1 Surround System as well.
I would like the functionality of shutting off or turning on the music to each floor of the room to be able to be done remotely if possible. (An example would be, connecting to firmware through my home network that controls the inputs on a receiver like device). The being able to swap between a 5.1 System will most likely be easiest when done locally anyways, so that doesn't need to be remote.
I am very knowledgeable about all things IT, however A/V is lacking. My concept was that if there was a networked wireless / wired type receiver in which I could access on the network to control inputs would be the only key. It is quite complicated...
The problem, when I see projects like this is that they always involve computers, networking and lossy compressed music. I just wonder why anyone would want to introduce that level of complexity and unreliability into the equation in order to hear second rate sound.
I would just put a CD and receiver/speakers in each room. Probably cheaper too.
Forgive my luddism. Though I've been working with computers since 1985, I inherently distrust them.
Though I own an iPod and occasionally use it happily with headphones, I wouldn't play it back through hifi speakers -- nor risk using iTunes if I could avoid it because it is just so illogical and user hostile.
I think I've used CD since 1990 and generally appreciate the convenience and sound of remastered older recordings.
But I recently rebuilt my Thorens 125 turntable (ADC VLM cartridge in Mission arm) and sat down with a musician friend and compared CD against vinyl versions of the same records. In many, not all, cases the vinyl was preferable. We concluded this was because digital tended to destroy ambient out of phase information and wasn't very good at dealing with marginal signals -- it was either ON or OFF -- so natural decay was lost.
If you then process the music using lossy compression these effects become more marked.
A multichannel power amplifier and a processor/pre-amp should be able to do this.
Something like a Denon POA-A1HDCI 10 channel amplifier and AVP-A1HDCI(A) pre-pro (4 zones) might work out for you. MSRP is $15,000 although nobody pays MSRP these days, you should be able to get this for under $10k.
You'll want to use at least 12 gauge, if not 10 gauge speaker wire for the length of runs you are making.