I couldn't get PulseAudio to work on one of my computers no matter what I do. But removing PulseAudio can be tricky and besides, there is a very easy way to "fix" it (if you're using GStreamer as a backend for music and videos). This is very useful for applications which use GStreamer but do not let you select the sound output module like: Rhythmbox, Totem and so on.
Ubuntu Karmic comes by default with ALSA 1.0.20 and if that doesn't work for you, an upgrade to ALSA 1.0.21 might be the solution. We wrote about the ALSA upgrade script for Ubuntu and Debian but there is an easier way of upgrading ALSA: by using a repository (Launchpad PPA).
Using the same ALSA upgrade script as for 1.0.20, but with some minor tweaks, you can upgrade to ALSA 1.0.21 by running a simple sh file.
The ALSA 1.0.21 driver package update brings the Creative X-Fi Linux driver officially along with a horde of updates to the other drivers and more. The CMI8788 Oxygen driver (used by sound cards like the Razer Barracuda AC-1) now includes support for HDAV S/PDIF inputs and when it comes to sound cards now works with the ASUS Xonar Essence ST.
KernelCheck is a a program that automatically compiles and installs the latest Kernel for Debian based Linux distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, etc.). The program also allows for automatic installation of proprietary video drivers via EnvyNG.
We posted instructions for upgrading ALSA on Ubuntu to version 1.0.20 but there are a lot of steps to follow so for this reason I searched for an alternative and found a script on the ubuntuforums.org (thanks to soundcheck)
Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (known by the acronym ALSA) is a Linux kernel component intended to replace the original Open Sound System (OSS) for providing device drivers for sound cards.