The feature was some time in coming, but Jon bit the bullet, and created the new gnome-volume-control. I came in afterwards, and did bug fixing and small new features.
Compared to the old volume control, we're already winning in terms of ease of use: no more weirdly named ALSA mixers we need to work-around, easy selection of input and output devices, microphone level bar.
Even the applet (as well as the gnome-settings-daemon media keys plugin) is now simpler because it doesn't need to work-around weird sound cards, with weirdly named channels.
PulseAudio 0.9.15 brings a few new features that we'll be able to use in the near future, such as back/front fade, sound card profiles selection (one click to setup multi-speaker output), and probably even Bluetooth headsets integration. Speaker testing is also on the cards.