A new Double DIN Stereo Head Unit can really help to make your car that little bit more user friendly. This is the 21st century after all, who wants to be fiddling around with little knobs and dials to change a radio station, huh? In fact who wants to touch buttons at all – it’s so analogue!
A Double DIN unit has you covered. It brings a high degree of multi-functionality, incorporating the controls, and use, of several different tools and devices into one friendly screen. As more and more cars are produced with the space to handle a Double DIN installation, so more companies are producing different models, each with slightly different pros and cons, some with more features and some with less – and of course spanning a whole range of prices. Here are 6 of the best out there on the market right now.
The Best Double Din Car Stereos
First thing to note with this device is that BOSS has decided to sell it pre-bundled with the excellent Apple CarPlay software. This means it syncs easily and effectively with your iPhone. This is great because some Double DIN Head Unit manufacturers want you to use their own software they insist on installing, often with patchy results. Let’s face it – who knows how to make apps and software better, a car radio manufacturer or Apple?
Oh, but my phone is Android I hear you say. In that case I suggest skipping this product, it’s not for you. If you prefer your phones fruit based however then stick around because this model brings a decent amount of features for a mid range price tag.
The unit itself obviously syncs with your iPhone to play music through that device, it can also sync with other devices via Bluetooth and has a built in AM/FM radio receiver. Sat Nav is not built in, but rather comes via your iPhone too. 20 RMS Watts of power output is very generous, so if you are playing music through factory-installed speakers (i.e. whatever your car came with) it will sound very good.
All in all a pretty good stereo upgrade – provided of course you have an iPhone!
Apple Play Exclusive
Wide Range of Inputs
Built in Charging Point
- BrandBOSS Audio
- Weight3.1 lbs
Seamless Integration with iPhones
Very Good RMS Wattage
Mid Range Price
No Android Connectivity
No DVD or CD Input
If music (or audio quality in general) is your priority then this could be the unit for you. That is especially true if your car is still rocking the original speakers it rolled out the factory with as 50 Watts of RMS output (over 4x channels admittedly) will give you premium sound quality for music, radio, audio books and in car phone calls.
Whilst your tunes will sound great though, other than that there’s not too much extra to boast about with this model. A wide range of inputs is par for the course at this stage, though the fact it accepts CDs is helpful, especially with older cars. It accepts both Apple & Android apps so will happily sync up to your phone for audio playback, GPS SAT Nav, etc.
Price wise it is well toward the lower end of mid range, clocking in at a shade over $200. This is a very good, if somewhat basic model, perfect for someone who likes their music whilst they drive but doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of more expensive types.
50 Watt RMS Output
Multiple Inputs (Including CD)
- Weight5 lbs
High Quality Audio
Mid Range Price
Quite Basic in Some Ways
This is a high end product from JVC, and nothing illustrates that fact better than that gorgeous 6.8-inch screen. They have really worked hard to cut back on both the border and external buttons to provide the biggest display area possible – then backed that up by installing a top quality screen. The display is designed to be bright and easy to read in all types of light situations, which is a real bonus.
It comes pre-bundled with both Apple and Android’s in car apps, meaning it syncs easily and instantly with all types of cell phone. The built in quick charge USB port is handy for charging devices on the go and the audio payback is of a very high standard indeed. All of that is packed into a very small unit too – only 2 pounds total weight, less than half some of the other models on this list.
Price wise we are in the big bucks now however with this machine tipping in at over $350, making it the most expensive model on this list. If you want a Premium model however – and have the budget to match – it’s hard to look past it.
6.8 Inch Screen
USB Quick Charge Port
Excellent Audio Feedback
- Weight2 lbs
Pre Bundled with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto
CD & DVD Playback
Small Unit (2 Pounds)
This model from Sony has a really well thought out design and brings a number of innovative features to the market – though really you would expect nothing less from such a well-respected manufacturer as Sony.
First thing to note is that this stereo is designed to be very easy in use, and this translates to a number of different control options. You have voice control and the ability to control the device through the touch screen. You also have a little dial on the front for a bit of old school, tactile control that is a nice touch. It means no matter how you like to interact with your stereo you have the ability to use the method most comfortable to you.
In use we have the typical Apple and Android app compatibility for easy syncing with most cell phones on the market. Music output has a meaty 55 Watts of power (over 4 channels) for great sounds and there are also no less that 3 pre-out amps so if you are looking to create your own bespoke speaker set up this stereo is the perfect model to work with customized speaker set ups.
It also syncs to rear view cameras for parking assistance and can re-calibrate sound on the fly to make the most of factory standard speaker set-ups. This isn’t a cheap product (second most expensive on the list, well over $300) but this is a quality product from an extremely well regarded manufacturer.
Tactile Controls (An Actual Volume Dial)
55 Watt Power Output (4x Channel)
- Weight2.4 lbs
No CD Input
This model from Power Acoustik is certainly at the more bargain end of the scale – though it’s not the cheapest on this list it is only going to set you back a bit over $100.
For that price however you are getting a heck of a lot of features in what is actually a quality Double Din stereo with a remarkably low price tag. It has compatibility across a range of cell phones but no ability to download apps. What that means is the device mirrors your cell when connected – this allows phone calls, media play back, etc. if you love using Apple CarPlay or the Android alternative however, you’ll have to use them through the phone rather than as a native download to the stereo itself.
CD, DVD, Bluetooth and SD Card and USB flash are all supported for media playback, which is nice, and it has built in Sat Nav which again is a nice touch, let it use your vehicle GPS antennae instead of eating up data through your cell phone.
All in all this is a pretty basic device that misses out some of the features that you would expect to find on a more expensive model. But it still brings plenty to the table, what it does it does very well and for the price tag you can’t complain too much!
Turn-by-turn GPS navigation of USA, Canada and Mexico
6.2″ LCD touchscreen
- BrandPOWER ACOUSTIK
- Weight6 lbs
Built in Sat Nav
Easy to Use
Not the Nicest Looking Design
Uses Internal Software – No Apps
Can’t Charge Devices
This is the bargain model on the list, the only product here with a price tag of under $100. So just go into it knowing it is very cheap, check your expectations at the door and what you have is actually a pretty decent, if extremely basic, Double Din stereo unit.
Of course to achieve that low price, a lot of features you would find on pricier models have been removed. The biggest cut back is compatibility with no way to play CD or DVD’s through the unit. It also lacks a USB connecter, meaning it can neither charge nor physically sync with a cell phone or similar device. All connections through external devices are via Bluetooth only. It also does not support GPS either internally or via your cell phone.
On the other hand however it plays the radio fine, it has a nice bright display and does a decent enough job of media playback for the price. If all you need is something to play the radio, help take phone calls and not much else then this could be the model for you. It is extremely cheap and whilst it doesn’t do much, what it does do it performs very well.
- Weight1.8 lbs
Cheap. Very Cheap!
Very Basic Model
No CD or DVD Playback
No USB Connection
Best Double Din Buying Guide & FAQ
So there are the best Double Din stereo units on the market right now. Broadly speaking there are a lot of similar features across the whole range, but the more features a model packs in, generally the price is going to start creeping up.
So lets take a look at some of those features and help you to decide which ones you do need and which you may be able to live without. That is going to help you to not only select the right model that does exactly what you need it too, but also find the right model in your budget – and hey, maybe even save you a few bucks!
We’ll also take a quick look at why you should consider upgrading your Double Din unit, and more importantly how. Our installation guide is going to help you to save some extra money by taking care of the install yourself.
Types of Double Din Head Units
So just what is a Double Din Stereo Head Unit (to give it it’s full name)? Well, Din just refers to the size, a single Din is the traditional car radio size, so a Double Din is twice as large.
No matter the brand, no matter the features a Double Din is a standardized measurement so they all the same external dimensions – 178mm by 100mm. that’s handy to know as it makes installing – and especially upgrading – that bit easier. If your car already has a Double Din unit it will accept an upgraded model, because it’s the same size.
As far as different types, they all broadly follow the same design. That extra space that larger Double Din provides is always used to utilize a nice big screen with touch screen control. They also play the radio and sync to cell phones to allow you make phone calls. That is the absolute basic level of functionality that you can expect.
In fact, just take a look at the model in the list above from Speedton. That is both the cheapest item on the list and also the most basic. So everything that this model does any other model will also do. But as the price goes up so too does the list of extras.
Whether you need all our extras or not, well that is up to you…
What to Look for When Buying a Double Din Head Unit Car Stereo
So as we’ve said, the list of features that come with each model will differ slightly. So this list is a very comprehensive one that discusses all the features and premium extras that everyone should consider. As you read it, feel free to filter out the things that you don’t need.
For example, Pre Amp outlets are perfect for the audio enthusiasts who have installed their own custom speaker and amp set up. They are less important however for the person who is just using the factory standard speaker set up that the car came with originally. So depending on that consideration, you can discount (or put a big tick net to) model with good Pre Amp outlets.
So what else should you look for as you consider which model is the right one for you?
- Power – Simply put, if you want to crank your music then you need a stereo that can handle it. High power translates to the ability to play loud music that doesn’t distort, and sounds great at low levels too. The power of the unit is given in Watts, and of course the higher the wattage the more power is delivered and the smoother the sound. Some models provide peak Wattage, typically around 50 watts or so, however the better way to judge power is the RMS Wattage. This refers to the actual wattage delivered to the speaker units themselves, and anything over 20 RMS Watts is pretty good.
- Pre-Amp – As we mentioned up top, Pre Amp outlets are the way the Stereo connects to upgraded speaker systems that have their own Amps. So if you’ve gone to the trouble of installing custom speakers you want a stereo unit that can take the best advantage of them. On the list above the best to o this is the product from Sony, which comes with no less that 3x Pre-Amp outlets, a very useful amount.
- Control – No matter how much power the stereo pumps out or how many cool apps it can download, if it is a pain to use it is not going to a useful tool. First off, the unit should be easy to use purely to make it a pleasurable experience. After all, the whole point of these larger than normal stereo installations is that they are easy to use – that’s why they have nice big, bright screens. There is also the safety element. A car stereo must be intuitive so that it does not distract your attention too much whilst driving. Touch screens, remote control, voice control and syncing with steering wheel mounted buttons are all useful and you’ll know which one works best for you.
- Connectivity – Another key feature of a Double Din stereo is its ability to connect with other devices. At it’s heart, the stereo is just a basic radio with a big screen – most other features come from attaching external devices like cell phones and tablets. As you’ll see in the list above, as the price goes down so to does that level of connectivity. Eventually you get to the stage when all you can do is Bluetooth connect your cell to make phone calls. If that’s all you need and want then maybe go for a budget model. If you want your cell phone to be an integral part of the driving experience – including utilizing bespoke Apps – it could be worth splashing the cash for better connectivity.
- Looks – This refers both to the screen display, but also the overall appearance of the unit too. So, the screen first and that feature really is one of the key selling points of a Double Din stereo – so pick one with a nice big, bright screen and make the most of it! Other than that, the sheer size of a Double Din means that is can dominate the dashboard area of the car, and it is sure to draw the eye of most passengers. Again, choosing one with a good screen will help make it look good but also take in the overall appearance, including the frame and any buttons. You’re probably dropping a fair amount of money on this product, so make sure it actually looks good in your car!
Benefits of Upgrading a Head Unit
So considering the average model is going to set you back north of $200, why bother? Well, upgrading to a new (or better) Double Din brings a number of advantages such as:
- Media Streaming – Listening to the radio is so 1895. There are just so many different forms of media these days, and a top quality stereo will allow you access them all. Radio, CD, DVD, Bluetooth connection to an Ipod with 10,000 songs on it, all of that can help to make a journey – especially a long one – that little bit easier.
- Safety – Like we mentioned above, the size of a Double Din stereo – and it’s high capacity for connectivity to various devices – should make it an item that is both easy to use and that won’t district your attention too much. Hands free, voice activated models allow you to interact with your stereo, make calls and look up Sat Nav routes all whilst keeping your concentration on the road.
- Superior Sound – A good stereo will make your favorite tracks really rock, and a Double Din has the size to incorporate the software, hardware and power outputs to make that happen.
- They’re Cool – Hey, let’s not beat around the bush too much, these devices are pretty cool too. They look cool, they do cool stuff like voice activation and they are just fun to use!
How To You Install Double Din Car Stereos
A great thing about these stereos is that they are relativity easy to install – especially if your car already has a Double Din sized stereo installed. That is because they are all of a universal size, and many manufacturers go out of their way to make install as simple as possible. You probably won’t even need too much in the way of tools.
Each model is going to have slightly different installation instructions so, just as with any product, make sure you read all the paperwork and the instructions before you start the install!