Monoprice 6 Zone with Chromecast
Just thought I would post a follow-up to my original question a few weeks ago. I received the Monoprice 6-zone system a couple of weeks ago, and ended up getting it on sale for $490, including shipping. I also purchased 2 Chromecast Audio units at the same time. My system in the house is 6-zone (actually 7, but I combined the master bedroom and bathroom into one zone). I have the 8-inch kevlar 3-way Monoprice speakers installed throughout all zones. Four of the zones are 5.1 and the rest are only speaker pairs. In the 5.1 zones, 2 of the speakers are used for 5.1 AND whole house audio. Works great.
The instructions that came with the 6-zone amp are pretty limited and specified that you should use Ethernet wiring scheme A, but I wired my house for B throughout. Turns out the instructions are outdated, and B is actually correct. Once that was sorted out, I terminated all ends, set the the dip switches on the keypads for the appropriate zone assignment and hooked it all up. Hook up was a breeze, and I had most everything working first shot. I had 4 speakers not playing, but that was due to poor connections at the speakers themselves. Fixed all that and everything is good. The system is easy to use, and Chromecast works great. I didn't have the budget 2 buy 2 Sonos Connects and went the Chromecast route at $35 a piece. Maybe Sonos is more user-friendly, but I don't know. Chromecast is easy to use, works great, sounds good. I have Comecast Business Class internet at the house, and I never have any problems with skipping.
The only downsides I see with the Monoprice system is that you can never turn the keypads completely off, so there's always a blue light on. I haven't found it to be disturbing, even in the bedroom, but it would be good to have the option to turn them completely off. There is no party mode whereby you can control all zone controllers from any zone controller, so until I get the iPhone app that's on this thread up and working, you do have to go to each keypad and turn them off. This is sort of minor, too. I plan on getting the app set up this weekend, running off a Plex server next to the Monoprice app.
All in all, I'm extremely pleased with the set-up and even more pleased with the overall cost. I've got about $2k invested in a whole house audio system with about 28 speakers and 2 stream sources (soon to be 3 with Plex). This is far cheaper than any of the other alternatives.