You're absolutely right: AE has a crude way of dealing with audio. It isn't one of its strong suits. But then, AE does things that no editing application can possibly do. That's because it was never intended to be an editing application like the ones you normally use. Its strengths lie elsewhere.
Here's an analogy: think of your editing apps as Microsoft word, and AE as Adobe illustrator. Would you use Illustrator to write pages and pages of copy? Of course not. Would you use Microsoft word to lay out a good-looking print ad? Certainly not! Both applications can create text, but both have entirely different uses.
That's the difference: editing applications are designed to edit. AE is designed for motion graphics, effect and compositing. Just as you don't expect an NLE to do great compositing, you shouldn't expect AE to be a whiz-bang editor.
If improved scrubbing or starting/stopping the CTI during an audio preview would be that important to your work, you can submit a feature request (https://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform). Adobe uses the volume of feature requests to gauge how important a certain new feature would be to people.
But I have to tell you: in the 15 years I've used AE, the methods of previewing audio haven't changed. Maybe a tiny bit, but not to the extent you seek. So it's just not that important to the majority of users, and Adobe concentrates on introducing new features. Now, if disgruntled AE users regularly stormed the lobby of Adobe Headquarters in San Jose, CA demanding changes to audio preview, chances are good something would have been done about it.
Apparently, AE's audio previewing features work okay for the majority of users. We deal with it. I personally see no problem with it. One tends to get used to it. To sum up, I don't think it's going to change. Sorry.
But here's a rarely-appreciated trick: turn on Caps Lock when you scrub audio: you can move the CTI in real time and scrub to your heart's content. Then use either a layer marker on the audio layer, or a marker in the comp.
I appreciate the Word/Illustrator analogy, and I would never to try to do
anything remotely tricky with audio processing in AE.
But because AE is an animation tool as well as a compositing tool, it's
important to have reasonably good audio tools for track analysis. The
start/stop is one of the almost immutable hallmarks of all picture/audio
editing and it works the correct way in all of Adobe's other products
including Premiere, Audition, Flash, Photoshop and any other tool that plays
motion and audio.
(I've even stopped complaining about AE using the page up/page down to move
frame by frame back and forth (almost every other program uses the arrow
keys, including Premiere), but AE's audio behavior is bizarre. )
But I have found a weird work-around in the meantime (maybe it's a bug): if
I do a RAM preview and then hit the space bar during playback, the playhead
will stop in place and allow me to (.) audio only preview forward from that
I'm not sure I see the difference between the Audio Scrub and the CapsLock
Audio Scrub (picture refresh off). Perhaps it's because I have a reasonably
simple picture that doesn't need a lot of frame to frame render...
I was just hoping I was overlooking something so simple it needed no
explanation in the manual...
You might find the phrase "well, that's how it's always been done" to be a little more than lame, but in this case it's true. I personally have few problems with audio previewing in AE. I've adapted to AE quirks that would drive an audio pro up a wall.
Now you are aware of the four different ways to preview audio in AE, correct?