I read a little bit about the Elan system 8, and it seems that we'd need the 8.6 AVP plus an amp to have reliable power to all the zones at once. Would I then need to shop for input devices for each source from the manufacturer? For example, do I need little networked boxes for Sirius, XM, internet radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, etc. or do I need a separate computer with outputs to the pre-amp for the web-based services? The Niles system, while expensive, seems pretty elegant in that the receiver has enough amplification for our needs and offers cards that at least integrate right into the unit, hopefully with no handshake issues. Despite these niceties, I'm sure they come at a cost, and I'll be interested to hear the integrator's response as to why he suggested Niles in the first place.
I forsee us using proprietary touchpads for the audio at least 90% of the time, and could completely do without iOS device control as needed. My wife and I have very different musical tastes, and the ease of switching between sources with one button-touch would be great. It seems like both systems can accomodate that. Otherwise the tabbed G system running everything else via an iOS interface is all we need.
For lighting, I still need to talk with the integrator about advantages and disadvantages of RadioRa2 and the Centralized system (which I assume uses wiring?) We'd like to have light load and shade control on the main floor, and light load control on the upper level and basement as well. I understand it will all be controllable from iOS devices via G. I'm hoping it can be tied into the universal remote in the family room so that when the TV comes on, the lights dim to a preset level and shades go down.
Frederick, I understand that the integrator could always have ulterior motives behind any recommendation. I've price checked what I could and feel he is making a fair amount of money for the installation for those items. I think that whatever his reason for suggesting Niles, it is probably in our interest and modeled around the budget we gave.