LAST UPDATED: March 15, 2019

The Best Single DIN Car Stereos (Review) in 2021

Best Choice Pioneer Single DIN Car Stereo Pioneer Single DIN Car Stereo
Premium Pick Pioneer Single DIN CD Car Stereo Pioneer Single DIN CD Car Stereo
Best Value BOSS Audio Single DIN Car Radio BOSS Audio Single DIN Car Radio

Not all cars are equipped with modern, cutting-edge stereo systems that cater to our audio needs. For some people, streaming music while drinking their morning coffee is a must, and this is where a modern car stereo can come in handy. Car stereos and receivers were designed to make our lives easier by providing us with Bluetooth technology to make hands-free phone calls and stream our favorite music while driving. Narrowing down the top stereos can be hard to do with so many brands and features to choose from. If you are on the hunt for a new device for your car, then look no further. Our guide below showcases the cream of the crop in terms of single din car stereos.

The Best Single DIN Car Stereo

Our top pick is the Pioneer DEH-S1100UB single-DIN CD player stereo that comes with a wealth of features, including bass boost and innovative volume control. This device was designed to work with android phones and the ARC app by Pioneer. It can play back MP3 and flac files from USB. The DEH-S1100UB includes a wireless remote control and has a front panel with a large rotary volume control. The base dynamic enhancer system is activated with the touch of a button. This product is for car owners who are  on the hunt for an affordable stereo upgrade that ticks all the essential boxes.

Key Features
  • Compatible with Android
  • Includes wireless remote control
  • USB and AUX inputs available
  • CD playback and bass boost
  • Large LED panel with back light
Specification
  • Brand Pioneer
  • Model DEH-S1100UB + ALPHA
  • Weight 2.65 pounds

The JVC KD-RD98BTS single din radio and stereo is packed with tons of features such as K2 technology for enhanced digital sound quality and a plug-and-play music option. This device is compatible with android and allows you to play audio files by simply downloading the JVC music app on your phone. You can also connect up to five Bluetooth devices at the same time, so you can take turns playing random music from different phones during road trips with friends and family.  The Sirius XM feature allows you to listen to more than  100 channels covering music, sports and entertainment. Moreover, the LCD display was designed with better visibility in mind.

Key Features
  • Single din car stereo with detachable face plate
  • Allows iPhone and iPod music playback
  • Compatible with Pandora and iHeartRadio
  • Connect 2 phones full time via Bluetooth
  • JCV streaming DJ – connect up to 5 devices
  • Android music playback via USB
Specification
  • Brand JVC
  • Model KD-RD98BTS
  • Weight 2.5 pounds

The Alpine CDE-HD149BT Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo allows you to make calls without ever having to touch your phone while driving. Listening to music is  made easy thanks to the Bluetooth wireless technology that allows you to stream music directly from your phone. You can also play music by accessing applications such as Pandora. The  Alpine single din  is compatible with iPhones and iPods that you can use to listen to your favorite playlist while driving. Hook up your iPod using the USB connection on your way to the gym or simply listen to the HD radio that has smart reception control to improve your music experience. The built-in equalizer has 10 different modes, including jazz, hip-hop and country. 

Key Features
  • Compatible with iPod and iPhone
  • Works with Pandora internet radio
  • Advanced Bluetooth and audio streaming
  • Built-in HD radio receiver
  • Rear USB input
Specification
  • Brand Alpine
  • Model CDE-HD149BT
  • Weight 3.31 pounds

The Sony MEX-XB100BT is a Bluetooth-enabled amplified stereo with a built-in 100 watt class D four channel amplifier. This onboard amp is very capable and is virtually a separate amp that powers the speakers and can even be bridged for a single subwoofer output all from the deck. This feature gives you optional subwoofer direct connection, so you can use a subwoofer without a power amplifier. When it is connected to the rear speaker lead, the MEX-XB100BT features a built-in Bluetooth with NFC pairing. The wireless connection allows you to stream music from your library and apps like Pandora and Spotify. You can also make and receive calls and scroll through your phonebook. Excellent calling quality is ensured with the external Bluetooth microphone. This single din car stereo allows you to use SIRI for voice control. It also provides smartphone  control and the two-zone color option allows you to customize your display with 35,000 different color variations. You can activate Mega Bass at the touch of a button for instant low end boost. This feature minimizes distortion by automatically adjusting the frequency to its optimal position.

Key Features
  • Compatible with iPhone and iPod
  • Stream music via Pandora and Spotify
  • Hands free music playback and control
  • 100 watts peak with 4 digital amp 
  • Dynamic color illuminator 
Specification
  • Brand Sony
  • Model MEXXB100BT
  • Weight 3.76 pounds

The Kenwood KDC-168U ticks all the right boxes in terms of features and has a CD player that is compatible with recordable and rewritable CDs in addition to MP3 and WMA music files. It is smartphone friendly and can be used with iPods and iPhones. The Kenwood single din also works with both the iHeartRadio and Pandora apps that you can access in order to listen to your favorite songs while driving. Kenwood is known for impeccable sound quality, and the bass boost and subwoofer level control are one of many features that make this device worth every penny. Memory cards and flash drives can also be connected to the stereo via the available USB port. The KDC-168U is compatible with most factory steering wheel audio controls.

Key Features
  • CD player with FM/AM tuner
  • Compatible with iPhone and iPod
  • Works with Pandora and iHeartRadio apps
  • Improves sound quality of music files
  • Can play WMA, MP3 and Flac files
  • Includes USB hub for multiple audio sources
Specification
  • Brand Kenwood
  • Model KDC-138U
  • Weight 3.25 pounds

The BOSS Audio 616UAB Multimedia Car Stereo is another affordable device with plenty to offer, including a pre-amp output and a built-in charger that allows you to charge your USB-connected device while driving. The multimedia receiver gives you free rein over music since you can stream your songs of choice using your smartphone. Radio fans can use the switchable tuner to access local and European stations and listen to international hits on their way to the gym. Bluetooth technology allows for hands-free calls and streaming music via Pandora and Spotify. The preset equalizer helps you choose the best sound setting that matches the music genre you prefer, be it rock or pop.

Key Features
  • Multimedia stereo without CD player
  • Auxiliary input for  MP3 players and smartphones
  • Bluetooth system for making hands-free calls
  • Includes wireless remote and built-in charger 
  • Streams music via apps like Spotify
  • Compatible with iPhone
Specification
  • Brand BOSS Audio Systems
  • Model 616UAB
  • Weight 1.3 pounds

The Pioneer DEH-80PRS CD goes well beyond most receivers with the quality of its internal and external components to create one of the best single din head units on the market. This device has a fully detachable face plate that reveals not only a disc slot but also an SD card slot. The built-in Bluetooth allows hands-free calling plus wireless music streaming. Connecting to one of the two rear USB portals enables charging and gives you control over your iPhone’s music library and applications. Get app control over Pandora and other music apps like Spotify. The DEH-80PRS is compatible with android devices only through Bluetooth. The layout is user friendly and the lever button makes navigation through the menus easy to do. It also features variable colors and two zone illumination. You can also choose from a variety of wallpapers to add a unique touch to your personal LCD panel. This stereo is highly tunable starting with the fader and other sound adjustments that provide an ideal listening environment while driving.

Key Features
  • Hands free calling and audio streaming
  • Auto equalizer and time alignment
  • USB direct control for iPhones and iPods
  • Display and key illumination available
  • Memory card slot  
  • Detachable face plate
Specification
  • Brand Pioneer
  • Model DEH80PRS
  • Weight 4 pounds

The single din touch screen head unit receiver from Pyle is designed for audiophiles who prefer colorful high-resolution screens in their cars.  This device has everything under the sun from Bluetooth technology to a CD player that lets you play your favorite nostalgia CDs. Fans of traditional radio can save up to 30 stations using the auto-store mode. Drivers can also sync their phones with the Bluetooth system and use the touchscreen to make or answer calls during their journey. The Pyle receiver is compatible with SD cards and MP3 files, so you can play music from new and old devices. Moreover, the screen provides an extra touch of sophistication to your car with a 1440×234 pixel resolution. The seven-inch screen is compatible with both the NTSC and PAL video standards and can be used to entertain children on road trips by screening their favorite cartoons. This fully motorized screen telescopes out and up and can be folded away once you switch off your car. Passengers in the back can use the wireless remote control to play their favorite tracks from the comfort of their own seat.

Key Features
  • Multimedia Stereo Radio Receiver
  • Detachable face panel
  • Bluetooth wireless music streaming
  • 7 inch foldable HD screen
  • Plays both CDs and DVDs
  • AM/FM radio 
  • Touchscreen control 
Specification
  • Brand Pyle
  • Model PLTS78DUB
  • Weight 2.2 pounds

The Boss Audio BV9986BI comes with a wealth of features, including a motorized screen and a CD/DVD player. Just because you are on the road does not mean that you have to miss out on your favorite TV shows and movies. The seven-inch touchscreen has a user-friendly interface and gives you control over many functions within the device. Drivers can use the screen to watch videos and scroll through photos as well. The BV9986BI is  compatible with MP3 players and SD cards in addition to flash drives. Both USB and auxiliary inputs enable connectivity to smartphones. You can stream music using Bluetooth if you have apps like Pandora or Spotify on your phone. You can also make hands-free calls instead of pulling over in order to answer your phone. Customize the sound and color of your single din DVD player with the touch of a button, and expand your sound system by adding up to three amps using the pre-amp outputs that come with this device. 

Key Features
  • Plays DVD/CD/MP3/WMA/USB/SD and smartphones
  • Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and hands-free calling
  • Wireless remote, multi-color illumination options
  • Aux, USB, SD, AV and rear camera inputs
  • Detachable face panel
  • Steering wheel control
Specification
  • Brand BOSS Audio Systems
  • Model BV9986BI
  • Weight 5.05 pounds

Next on our list is the JVC KD-X350BTS 1-Din car digital media Bluetooth receiver that is satellite radio ready with outstanding smartphone compatibility. This stereo features hands free calling, wireless audio streaming and dual phone connection, which makes connecting your smartphone to your car much more convenient. As a digital media receiver without a CD player, this unit is a must-have for those who desire excellent smartphone features packaged in an easy to use single din stereo. The built-in Bluetooth allows you to practice hands-free calling. You can use the phone button to gain quick access to your phone book. You can also stream music from your library and music applications like Spotify. The front USB port lets you stream music and gives you app control with your iPhone over apps like Pandora and iHeartRadio. App control works via Bluetooth with android devices. The stereo is equipped with a blue Source Button that allows you to switch between audio sources like FM, AM, Pandora and auxiliary. KD-X350BTS has great audio customization options as well.

Key Features
  • Compatible with IOS and Android
  • Fully detachable face plate
  • Stereo steering wheel control and Sirius XM ready
  • Allows you to stream music via several apps
  • Built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calls
Specification
  • Brand JVC
  • Model KD-X350BTS
  • Weight 1.8 pounds

Best Single DIN Car Stereo Buying Guide

The quest for the perfect single din stereo begins by knowing exactly what you need in terms of sound quality, features and other audio perks that can make a world of difference to your daily commute to work. Some people prefer radio stations over music streaming apps while others prefer good old fashioned MP3 and CDs when it comes to road trip music. This guide will help you narrow down your  choices and answer some of your questions regarding the different types of single din stereos so you can make an informed decision while shopping.

What to Look for When Buying a Single DIN Car Stereo

  • Access to Audio Sources

Some drivers are tech savvy and enjoy the perks of owning the latest iPhone or sound system. Others enjoy the old school feel and sound of their CDS and MP3 players. Your audio sources determine the kind of stereo you will end up choosing for your car. For example, if you have an extensive music library stored on an external hard drive,  a stereo with a USB port will grant you full access to this library while driving. Auxiliary inputs allow you to plug in your iPhone or android to the head unit. You can also use the 3.5 mm cable with your decade old Walkman to listen to old tapes.

  • Smartphone and App Compatibility

If you are in the habit of using your iPhone to listen to music while driving, then investing in a smartphone friendly stereo is the way to go. Some head units have a -Made for iPhone- label that can help you narrow down your search and focus on a device that was designed to fulfill your iPhone needs. This includes a USB port that lets you access your media library. This port allows you to connect your iPad as well. Android and Blackberry users will need wireless Bluetooth technology in order to gain access to their music. Streaming compatibility is also a must if you rely on applications like Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio to get your daily music fix.

  • Sound Quality

Some car owners upgrade their stereo system because they want crystal clear sounds and more control over treble and bass frequencies. Modern equalizers offer more bands so you can experiment and customize your own music according to your preferred genre. Stereos with parametric equalizers let you control every parameter and this freedom of choice can make a world of difference to audiophiles. Subwoofers also boost sound quality and cater to bass fans who appreciate drum beats and deep bass licks. Upgrading your stereo is not complete without a subwoofer output with level control. This feature is a game-changer when it comes to sound quality.

  • Power

Powerful earth shaking speakers demand an equally high wattage stereo that allows you to show off your sound system while driving. Single din stereos with a solid internal amplifier were designed to help you get the most out of your speakers. Not all stereos have the same wattage, so you need to take this into consideration when shopping for a new head unit for your car.

Peak power and RMS are two important specs that can make or break your listening experience. Each amplifier is capable of generating a maximum amount of power. This maximum amount of power is known as peak power. Amps were designed to be consistent when it comes to power generation and this consistency takes the form of RMS. When it comes to power handling, RMS is your friend. Car owners should be concerned about the average output power of their speakers over a long period of time, so they need to check the RMS rating before hitting the purchase button.

More RMS wattage means more freedom to turn up the volume and enjoy what your amp has to offer. Great sound is not guaranteed since it depends on other factors such as the audio source itself and the equalizer feature found on your device. Most affordable speakers are compatible with 25 watts RMS and a maximum of 50 per channel. However, you need to make sure that your speakers are equipped to handle this amount of wattage.

  • Appearance and User Friendly Interface

What one person deems simple and user friendly can be labeled as too complicated by someone else. Some car owners prefer more buttons and features while others choose devices with basic features such as CD players and Bluetooth technology. Others enjoy reading the manual and learning all about the different features available and want to customize everything to meet their audio needs.

  • Display

Investing in a stereo with a high resolution screen can make answering calls and changing radio stations a lot easier. The screen should be easy to read and bright enough in the dark. Two line display screens are also better than one.

single din stereo in car

Should I Upgrade My Head Unit?

Answering this question depends on the already installed system in your car. If this is your second upgrade, then all you need to do is replace the old unit with the new one since the wiring and mounting foundation is already in place. Some smart computerized systems found in new vehicles are connected through an intricate web that makes it difficult to upgrade your unit without sacrificing something in return. If this is the case, then you need to proceed with caution and do a bit of research before you proceed with your planned upgrade. If your car has more than one display screen, and those screens are connected to the head unit, then replacing the head unit can affect their functionality and force you to buy a new screen that is compatible with your new upgrade.

Single DIN vs. Double DIN Head Units

When it comes to size, the double DIN is larger and twice as tall when compared to the single DIN. The panel is 7 x 4 inches compared to the 7×2 inches that belong to the single DIN. The double DIN is also designed with more features, a larger touchscreen and a bonus camera as well. Single DIN have their own share of features even though they are smaller in size. They offer something for everyone including a user friendly interface and an overall simple system that anyone can use to listen to music and make calls.

Types of Single DIN Head Units

  • CD players

These are simple and straightforward and have a USB port that allows you to connect MP3 players.

  • Multimedia Bluetooth Stereos

These units are equipped with Bluetooth technology that allows you to make hands-free phone calls and listen to your music via your smartphone. You can also listen to radio stations and save the channels you like so you can tune in to them with the touch of a button.

  • Touchscreen and DVD Players

Touchscreen are one step above the regular digital panel and they come with a DVD player that is compatible with a variety of audio and video files.  The high screen resolution allows you to screen movies and TV shows for kids and passengers who could use the distraction during long road trips.

How To Install a Single DIN Car Stereo

In order to install your new car stereo, you will need to have the necessary tools on hand. These tools consist of a trim plate and a mounting bracket to secure the stereo to the dash. You will also need a wiring harness adapter, screwdrivers, wire strippers and cutters in addition to a roll of electric tape. Keep your service manual on hand in case you need it.

  • The first thing you need to do is disconnect the ground cable from your battery.
  • Use your owner’s manual to identify the dashboard parts that need to be removed before you get to the stereo. This step will require a panel remover.
  • Most original stereos are held in place using bolts and screws. Others require certain tools and more time to successfully remove them. The difficulty of this process depends on the make and model of your car.
  • Use the wiring harness adapter to unplug the wiring harness from the back of the stereo.
  • Attach your new harness adapter to the dashboard.
  • You will then need to attach this adapter to the head unit. This is achieved by matching the colors and sizes of the wires on the plug with the ones found on the adapter.
  • Remove two inches of insulation from all the wires and twist the matching wires together.
  • Wrap the joined wires with tape.
  • Plug the adapter into the back of the stereo.
  • This step involves attaching the new radio to the dashboard. You might need a DIN cage depending on your car.
  • Reconnect the ground cable and switch the engine on in order to test your new device.

Man's hand tuning radio in the car

Our Top Pick

This car stereo offers a wealth of features at an affordable price and ticks all the right boxes in terms of sound quality and power, delivering 50 watts and bass boost capabilities. The auxiliary input is compatible with most handheld devices and the head unit includes a wireless remote control so passengers can play their favorite music from the comfort of their own seats.

Sources:

  1. Single vs Double DIN – Quora
  2. A DIY Guide to Installing a New Head Unit – Life Wire