Ever since ALSA got a software mixer (dmix) for cards who can't do hardware mixing, I haven't felt a need for a new audio anything.
I don't see the point behind PulseAudio. I don't see a need for it. Something is fine if it stays out of my way and does what I expect it to. I expect my soundcard to play sounds, mix them, and allow basic volume control. ALSA works.
To me, PulseAudio is a solution looking for a problem, and creating far more problems along the way. It is surely an interesting piece of engineering, but not a piece of engineering anyone needs as default on their desktop distro. I don't need it, and I don't want headaches, so it's not coming anywhere near my machine. It's aRts and ESD done correctly, at a time when nobody needs aRts and ESD.
Linux has a decent sound system - ALSA. Linux also has several choices for media decoding - ffmpeg, xinelib and GStreamer. Pick one for your app and go. Even better, use a higher-level interface which will abstract from it, like Phonon or SDL.