Did you reinstall Flash?
I had this problem once with a corrupt Flash install.
What browser are you using?
Try reinstalling the browser, or using an alternative such as Google Chrome (preferred) or Firefox. Does the problem persist?
oh yay! while i had reinstalled flash since my windows reinstall, it was no longer the most recent version. i updated it to the newest version. i had also tried changing a setting or two for my playback devices - i change the "Default Format" to a higher quality; changed "communication activity" from "reduce the volume of other sounds by 80%" to "Do nothing." things seem to play correctly now - and in both firefox as well as internet explorer. i also realized that one program i had yet to reinstall after my reinstal was Secunia psi; i am doing so now. who knows what other programs need updating/patching.
thank you so much!
@nevander: last i looked at my bios, i did not see an option to disable the onboard sound. i had looked in the bios to do so once previous. i am not sure where in my bios that setting may lie. i could easily have missed it last time. i will see how the current settings pan out first, give it a few days before i go and make any more changes. i dont much like the idea of tweaking too many variables at once without doing some routine tests of the results.