At least I need Xfce.
I was a KDE3 user (for some tasks I used Ion2). When KDE4 replaced KDE3 I switched to GNOME2 and when GNOME3 replaced GNOME2 I switched to Xfce.
I tested a lot of DEs/WMs.
Really? Did you do that? I know there are themes for slim that are easily available which you can use for the requirement that browseable user list?
For my DAW I'll use Xfce in the future, but I would like to test GNOME3 from time to time for the same DAW.
Going by your migration history, it seems as if you want to achieve a minimum overhead distribution. No problem with that, but you must then realize that GNOME3 is never going to be minimalistic again in its present roadmap.
But you want to keep testing? No problems, but then if you want to test GNOME3, you must have pulseaudio right? So, you won't have pulseaudio on GNOME3 and have problems and then cry about how there is no freedom in the free software anymore and make a similarly flaming post on GNOME.
The main problem comes from two points. 1. You don't have any requirements of the DM as such. You just "want to use gdm without pulseaudio" and want to claim it should be possible. The closest you came to helping us helping you out was when you said the stuff about "browseable users" which I guess exists everywhere as has been pointed by Kwpolska. But you are not willing to accept the suggestions. You are whining about the point that you should have your way. If this simple thing irritates you so much, just go and write your own DM. GNOME has a GDM for "their" target audience which includes people with disabilities. In future, they might separate the distinction, but it is not there. In case you do want to, write a patch and send it to them. You are welcome with the heartiest spirits of free software community.
So first decide your requirements and then choose a DM not the other way round.
2. Your DAW does not want pulseaudio, we get it. So, design your solution. Choose a desktop environment which does not require pulseaudio. Choose a display manager accordingly. Your display manager requires something you think is necessary? Write to the maintainers there. Tell them the problem. I'm sure they are going to listen why you want a certain thing. But no, you want to blame someone "here". Everyone has their frustrations with different things in free software. Doesn't mean we just rant about it.
So, please, please choose accordingly.
You can simply turn pulseaudio off!!! I am sometimes frustrated that pulseaudio does not start!! (Not always, sometimes, when I am messing up my computer.) Write a script which turns it off at startup. That way, whatever you are doing which does not require pulseaudio, does not use it. I believe that unless your other applications (the ones that matter) do not directly require pulseaudio, you should be fine.