Kubuntu 12.04 here.
This system is built for heavy gaming and videos, it has a Zogis GeForce GTX 550 Ti which connected to my TV via HDMI.
I'm using the sound card that's integrated into the GPU, I have made it my primary card in alsa by changing "/usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf":
I have never liked pulseaudio, and alsa does everything I need faster, so pulseaudio is usually the first thing I remove in my installation.defaults.ctl.card NVidia
However those are the problems I have without pulseaudio:sudo apt-get purge pulseaudio
1) dolphin-emu produces some weird noises randomly.
2) The 2 games I have developed which use SDL for sound have sound distorted and failing a lot.
Other games that use SDL for sound seem to have the same behaviour.
When I run it in the console I have a LOT of:
ALSA lib pcm.c:7339snd_pcm_recover) underrun occurred
3) MAME has serious latency in sound (about half a second). It uses SDL for sound too.
4) MAME running old games such as twinbee have a terrible crackling sound that makes it unplayable.
There are two lame workarounds for this; one is reducing sampling rate below 22050 (argh!); other is using the alsa oss wrapper : "aoss mame twinbee -audiodriver dsp" which is a little better.
I have tried removing the Ubuntu SDL packages and installing SDL from the official page, but it didn't change a thing. The bug seems to be deeper, maybe in libasound2 or in alsa itself.
Well, with all this trouble I was FORCED to reinstall pulseaudio to see if things would just work.
It does solve the described problems I had with just alsa.sudo apt-get install pulseaudio
However I'm developing this small HTML5 game:
1) In firefox the sound effect sometimes plays at the right timing, sometimes it plays half a second later, sometimes it doesn't play at all.
2) In google-chrome the sound effect always plays at the right timing, but it seems to cut before the sample finishes.
I have tried other HTML5 games, and they seem to have the same issues with pulseaudio: http://www.html5games.net/shooter/ninja-jarimaru/
Right now I have disabled pulseaudio ("autospawn = no" in "/etc/pulse/client.conf"), and I only execute it when needed. This is a major annoyance and not really a proper solution.
Things won't just work with pulseaudio and things won't just work without pulseaudio. Why a desktop distro needs a sound server is beyond me, I don't really want pulseaudio, I just want alsa to work.
But I would accept to shut up and use pulseaudio if things just worked.
What to do?