the main reason I ask is because I may need the software to do things like change bit/sample rate ect. as well as the EQ.
Yeah, and unfortunately it's that fine-tuning/feature-poking that seems to be missing/spotty from alsa and related tools. However, at least for your EQ needs, you can take advantage of system-wide, PulseAudio-interfacing solutions like LADSPA + alsaequal
Basically, I'd say practice a bit of googlefu for some of the nerd knobs you care about and see what comes back (failures, hacks, or actual support)
Also, excellent userame + avatar, love that show