If you use Ubuntu:
- Use Karmic's kernel, not Jaunty's. A lot of you with Realtek and IDT/Sigmatel HDA codecs are being bitten by /boot/grub/grub.cfg not being updated properly, resulting in Jaunty's 2.6.28 kernel being used instead of Karmic's 2.6.31. Jaunty's kernel has pretty subpar performance for PulseAudio, and you should not incorrectly blame PulseAudio.
- Check that slmodemd is not running if you're seeing a dummy/null sink in the volume control applet. Arguably PulseAudio's module-udev-detect should allow the device instead of bailing when detecting it, and an approach is under discussion for future versions. In the meantime, you can either instead load module-detect in /etc/pulse/default.pa (or ~/.pulse/default.pa) or kill slmodemd.
- Install linux-backports-modules-alsa-karmic (then reboot) if you have a very new computer, because that package enables audio on quite a few very new laptop models and contains much improved support for microphone auto-switching.
- Use a temporary alternate channel mapping for PulseAudio if you have an ice17xx-based sound card. Please be aware that the fault lies with alsa-lib not PulseAudio and will be addressed in 10.04 LTS.
- Configure PulseAudio to ignore your sound driver's misreported dB information if you experience "overdriven" sound.
- Attach a verbose PulseAudio runtime log to your PulseAudio bug report.
- Attach an ALSA codec dump to your linux bug report if jack sense (e.g., connecting headphones mutes internal laptop speakers) does not seem to function properly.