Audio is very low and pulse-audio server is disconnected

Hey there, Manjaro newbie here.

Default audio quality is very subpar and, hoping for improvements, followed a post called “[Solved] Terrible sound in linux, much better in windows” in the archived forums (Can’t seem to post the direct link because of forum permission issues).
Funnily, the volume levels are very low after following the instructions. The volume is sorta better by 5% when I use headsets. The Pulse Audio GUI panel is apparently disconnected from the server.

Running pulseaudio --check shows this:
E: [pulseaudio] conf-parser.c: [/etc/pulse/daemon.conf:1] Missing '='.

Here is my daemon.conf without the comments:

default-sample-format = float32le
default-sample-rate = 48000
alternate-sample-rate = 44100
default-sample-channels = 2
default-channel-map = front-left,front-right
default-fragments = 2
default-fragment-size-msec = 125
high-priority = yes
nice-level = -11
realtime-scheduling = yes
realtime-priority = 9
resample-method = soxr-vhq
enable-lfe-remixing = no
rlimit-rtprio = 9
rlimit-rttime = -1
daemonize = no

The file’s kept at /etc/pulse and /root/.config/pulse; running aplay -l lists these:

card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 0: ALC233 Analog [ALC233 Analog]
Subdevices: 0/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: PCH [HDA Intel PCH], device 3: HDMI 0 [HDMI 0]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

Anything related pactl doesn’t show anything useful, since nothing’s running in the first place.

So yeah. What’s going on, here? :[

The discussion on archived forum you mentioned is over 4 years old
[Solved] Terrible sound in linux, much better in windows - Technical Issues and Assistance - Manjaro Linux Forum

A user in that discussion had the same problem as you

pavucontrol only says “Establishing connection to PulseAudio. Please wait…”

If the file /etc/pulse/daemon.conf is configured incorrectly then PulseAudio server fails to start. pavucontrol cannot establish a connection to PulseAudio because it has failed to start

The error message posted confirms that something is mis-configured in /etc/pulse/daemon.conf at line 1
but aside from fixing any error, many of the suggested settings are now no longer necessary or have been found to be too excessive for many users

the volume levels are very low after following the instructions

That is probably due to the suggested ALSA configuration - /etc/asound.conf
The logic for adding this was valid at that time

This piece of code I had you put in your asound.conf bypasses dmix for pulseaudio increasing sound quality by a lot

But Manjaro now uses a different ALSA configuration that does not rely on either dmix or plug ALSA plugins

I suggest you revert system to default configuration and remove asound.conf:

sudo rm /etc/asound.conf

then reinstall PulseAudio to reset configuration to default

and finally,reconfigure PulseAudio audio quality in user home folder using this:
No sound whatsoever after trying to fix crappy sound - #9

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