A developer has begun working on a new audio sub-system for the Linux kernel, which he is referring to as KLANG, the Kernel Level Audio Next Generation. KLANG was conceived after the developer became frustrated by ALSA, OSS4, and PulseAudio.
The developer hopes KLANG will work not only with the Linux kernel but also the FreeBSD kernel. The open-source project is described as offering "professional grade audio, that means lowest possible latency, latency compensation and bit exact precision at a very low CPU load. KLANG has been designed as a signal routing system, supporting seamless and transparent signal transport between all endpoints. In practice this means that there's no distinction between hardware and process endpoints. Each endpoint is either a signal source or a sink, allowing for versatile signal routing topologies. All connections are fully latency compensated. A metronome system synchronizes the signal processing to a configurable set of system internal and external clock sources. This greatly simplifies tasks like audio/video synchronization."
Moving the audio system into the kernel is said to be "the only reasonable thing to do" for the lowest possible latency and best performance, compared to projects like PulseAudio and JACK living in user-space.
Where it comes to configure flexible signal routing and synchronization, the OSS API is expanded upon. However only very few applications will actually require to tap into the extended API. So if a program speaks OSS, it also speaks KLANG. There will be no entirely new API. Actually KLANG reuses an existing API and extends it."
KLANG can also handle power management of audio devices and does transport for non-sample sequencer data like MIDI. The motivation for working on KLANG is allegedly over the lack of proper mixing support in ALSA, user-space audio systems being annoying like JACK/ESD/PulseAudio, and OSS4 having various limitations.
As far as whether Kernel Level Audio Next Generation will stand a chance of making it into the mainline Linux kernel, that remains to be seen. The code hasn't even been seen yet with the developer claiming "in a very unstable and experimental state, at which it simply is not yet ready for a initial release...The first release of KLANG sources will happen, as soon as both the routing system are stable and a functional native driver for Intel HD-Audio chipsets has been finished."
More information on KLANG is available from this web page