All these jargons of Linux sound architecture are really confusing. Not long ago, I was running KDE applications using aRts layered on ALSA.
These days, we have PulseAudio, Phonon & Gstreamer for most of the distributions. All the three systems are horribly broken IMHO. I had to kill Pulse Audio on Ubuntu to make applications use ALSA API directly. I am using Mandriva these days and thank God it has a switch to disable PulseAudio.
Here is a pictorial proof of the mess
This picture is taken from this presentation (OpenOffice.org Impress file format). I hope things improve in future :-(