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It may seem obvious but it's the only thing I can think of, did you change the permissions on /dev/dsp and /dev/mixer so that an ordinary user can use them?
chmod a+rw /dev/dsp /dev/mixer /dev/sequencer /dev/midi
Distribution: tried a lot of 'em, now using kubuntu
I had already chown'ed them to root:audio and made sure that I am a member of the audio group. I went ahead and did a chmod a+rw on all of those items. All of those are just links, I'm going to try chmod on the actual devices and see if that works. Changing the links didn't make a difference.