Sorry, I’m still figuring all of this out myself. Yes, PipeWire is still starting even with the socket disabled. I’ve since re-enabled the socket.
In retrospect, I think it was the following lines added for my sound driver that actually made things work for me. In my case, I was just trying to get surround sound working over HDMI.
$ cat /etc/modprobe.d/sound.conf
options snd-hda-intel model=dual-codecs
options snd_hda_codec_hdmi static_hdmi_pcm=1
I was changing too many things at once and when it started working, I mistook what it was that did the trick.
I do not use kodi or flatpaks.
FWIW, it think the codecs that you can use can be seen by looking at /proc/asound/card0/codec#0 (the numbers in the path may be different for you).
In my case, AC3 is supported and is listed at that path.
$ cat /proc/asound/card0/codec#0
Codec: ATI R6xx HDMI
AFG Function Id: 0x1 (unsol 0)
Vendor Id: 0x1002aa01
Subsystem Id: 0x00aa0100
Revision Id: 0x100700
No Modem Function Group found
rates [0x70]: 32000 44100 48000
bits [0x2]: 16
formats [0x5]: PCM AC3
I think PipeWire actually runs “on top of” ALSA (I think ALSA is the low-level kernel driver and both PipeWire and PulseAudio are more or less “wrappers” that make configuring it easier).
Edit: Apparently PipeWire isn’t “just” a wrapper around ALSA. It does a lot on it’s own and replaces ALSA’s “user space library”. But it does still depend on ALSA’s “core functionality” (so the stuff under /proc/asound is still relevant to PipeWire). I could be wrong. Source: Does PipeWire Replace ALSA?