I realized I could play a cd and flip back and forth between digital out to the dac or analog out directly to the preamp (preamp is being used in straightwire mode)
Flipping back and forth between my new highly regarded external dac and the dac in the 7 year old player , they sound damn similar. I mean DAMN similar. Ok, there may be a little more air, a little smoother high end, etc with the dac, but it's pretty subtle. The differences I hear pale in comparison to switching the preamp out of direct mode. BTW, the disk was a very nice telarc jazz quartet.
I still need the dac for streaming from the Mac, but damn, that comparison was surprising. The dac in the pioneer was well regarded way back when....but...man. Maybe I'm just deaf.