i dont think this is a firmware issue, i think it is a configuration issue.
you could be right though-- alsa could operate differently with some firmware vs pa.
although the link that i posted in frustration was pretty useless to me, i did find another thread that recommended something in the first link (i think so-- this is still absurdly overcomplicated. remember when features like this were off by default or easier to find and fix? i dont mean in 1998, i mean in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012... really until up to 4 years ago.)
one of the solutions that came up twice, i gave it a try and its the one i will be trying in the future before i start dismantling hardware.
maybe im silly for thinking that pa should respect the setting that the user sets with alsamixer. though i think pa should respect the setting that the user sets with alsamixer-- as usual. daddy lennart always knows best. i can forgive the 4 years of forcing the gnu/linux ecosystem to reassert itself, but hes really just bent on breaking everything he touches, isnt he?
well, here-- should someone have the same problem, they can try this:
comment this line:
in this file: /etc/pulse/default.pa
one person (in 2015) said it didnt help. so i didnt try it at first.
i still think compiling iceweasel-uxp without the requirement for pa would be ideal though. no one wants their browser to require it, when it was an option until the mozilla devs got lazy or simply more bent on destroying the last advantages of their browser.
people always talk about the year of the (gnu)/linux desktop. that year was 2013-- after that, are the years of the broken gnu/linux desktop. but we wouldnt be here unless we believed we can get it working again.
this time, watch out for things like dbus, udev, pa, and other freedesktop garbage becoming relied on too much. if you dont want a second systemd, you have to look at how we got there-- and then not do that.
i promise though, that none of this was a setup. i really had decided that removing speakers was the easy way (used to be easier-- i couldnt find a connector to detach like there commonly used to be) and i really had tried to find a solution and come up empty.
only im a stubborn person who sometimes doesnt really try until after hes given up two or three times. so theres some answer now. maybe itll work reliably. if its from lennart, im guessing not. if something works well and works reliably-- he can fix it.