For the past year, every time I have tried to adopt PulseAudio, I have had issues where it wouldn't allow me to independently control sound channels, or some types of audio streams would simply crash the entire audio stack, and force me to restart it. The main symptom of this would be that all I would hear is crackling, somewhat consistent with the sound that should have been coming through the sound mixer.
As of today, I believe I have found a solution, following the instructions located on http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1305889
I'm not quite sure why these items fix the problem, but for now they are working. It will be interesting to see what implications this has on the controls, and if it works long term.
Steps I took
Edited and uncommented the line with "load-module module-alsa-sink" to read "load-module module-alsa-sink control=PCM". Modified "load-module module-udev-detect" to read "load-module module-udev-detect ignore_dB=1".
I then restarted alsa and pulse with sudo alsa force-reload and sudo /etc/initi.d/pulseaudio restart