Never mind... For once, things went right. I found a way to get better sound quality from alsa.
So, some advice for Linux users with Intel HDA onboard audio - find out what model your HDA is, and put in your modprobe.conf (or modprobe.d, or wherever):
options snd-hda-intel model=$MODEL
where $MODEL would, for instance, be acer if you're using an Acer laptop such as mine. For some cards, at least, this should increase sound quality significantly.