Whole House

I have the opportunity to outfit a newly constructed condo from scratch, as it is being designed. I don't have the ability to change the floor plan greatly, but have a lot of other flexibility. Since I don't usually go looking for this type of information, I'm wondering if people have suggestions for, or information sources for, topics such as the following:

whole-house music distribution
in-wall or on-wall speakers
all forms of home automation

The condo will be upscale, and at this point I'm more interested in what is possible than what I will specifically choose to do - I have several months to research.

Any / all ideas welcomed, and thanks in advance.

Check my virtual system....Russound & B&W etc.
Pre-wire speakers everywhere you might want them. You can even leave wires buried in the walls for the future. In wall speakers are great, wives love them too. Paint the grills to match your walls. I don't care for in-ceilings, sound is weird if you aren't sitting in a perfect spot.

Electricians are lazy. You will have to watch them pull the wires to make sure they don't pull speaker lines through the same places as electric lines. The can cross at 90 degree angles, just don't have them run together.

Buy good wire. You can use Cat-5e for speakers but it is thin. Advantages are that it is shielded. You can always use 2 wires for + and two for - which will equal thicker wire.

I pull extra CAT-5e everywhere. This is just for future proofing. It's cheap and pays off in spades if you ever even need just one of the runs vs poking holes all over the place to retro-fit. I pulled 2 runs of CAT-5 to many places to allow for future items such as lighting controls, phone and internet. Yes, most of this can be done wireless these days.

Although I have a wired Niles system (6 years old). It looks like the whole world is going wireless for the controls. Much more flexible. Keep in mind that many of the controls are a bitch to program...

I have had several systems and it turns out that a dedicated system works much better than Zone 2 off of a receiver (my Anthem worked ok but not as well as a Denon 395). Even with the Denon multi-zone unit, I still use a dedicated amp and Niles 8 zone impedance matching controller. The amps in a receiver are nothing compared to using a really good 2 channel amp (NAD, ROTEL or similar) that will run all of the time. I actually use a QSC 1000.

Final note: Price does matter. Niles is expensive for a reason. It is really well built gear. Xantech is cheaper, made by niles, and may be easier to install but at a lower quality (in my opinion...). Also, some gear is mix and match, some is not. Be careful.

Hope this helps.
Since you're able to think about this early in the construction process, I recommend doing as much to future-proof the place as possible.

Some recommendations:

1) Run cat5e or cat6 network cable to each room of the house that connect to a gigabit ethernet switch (8- or 16-port, depending on the number of rooms) (don't forget the kitchen and bathrooms).
2) Run conduits between a large (3-gang) box from each room to a central area, such as a closet or basement or garage. This allows future-proofing by being able to run wires easily after the fact.
3) Wire for speaker jacks (L/R/C/surround x2) in living room and any other room that may be eventually used for home theater purposes.
4) Cable TV jacks to each and every room.
5) Consider running fibre to each room (expensive, though)
6) Check out X10 home automation. smarthome.com is a good source for those kinds of products.
7) Wire a second set of 75ohm coax to each room (in addition to that used for cable TV) for digital audio communication.
8) Consider putting a wireless access point if you have a laptop or other device that could make use of it. You may need more than one access point if your place is sufficiently large or has obstructions to the signal.
9) I don't have much experience with them, but consider those subwoofers that go in the floor joists for the home theater room.
10) Consider additional soundproofing (double 5/8" drywall, insulation in floors/walls, etc) around the room that might be used for the home theater.
11) If you're interested in a security system, get the company involved while construction is underway.
12) Wire dedicated 20 ampere circuits to the living room or wherever else you may anticipate a home theater/stereo system.
13) Consider building dedicated closet areas for A/V gear that is well ventilated.

Those are just a few thoughts to get you started.

Just remember that it's a lot easier to put these jacks in ahead of time, so err on the high side. I renovated a house 10 years ago and wired it well (for the time). The best decision I made was the cable TV jack that I put in the bathroom so I could watch TV while in the hot tub.

Good luck!