Actually, running Media Player on the host does NOT resolve the issue. It has to be run on the client. I've simply got the XP virtual machine set so there are no startup sounds, and it auto-runs Media Player minimized, so it's essentially "out of the way". Then the sound works perfectly.
If I get a chance to "play" around a bit, I'll install v7, v8, and v9 and see what the timings look like. But meanwhile it's working fine ... there are only 2 VM's that are used regularly on that system; one is a Windows 7 VM that works perfectly; the other is the XP VM that requires the workaround to make the sound work properly (otherwise it works perfectly). The Windows 7 VM was actually created on VMWare v9, so it's v9 "hardware" -- otherwise I'd just use VMWare v7 and be done with it !!