Digital media receivers are becoming increasingly popular with the rise in streaming music and video. In fact, they've become the mainstream choice for head units. Traditional CD/DVD head unit options are actually becoming more and more difficult to find. Digital media receivers don't have a CD/DVD slot, but they do have all of the other connectivity features you need to play your music from your phone or any other media device.

Digital Media Receiver vs Digital Multimedia Receiver vs DVD/CD Receiver- What’s the Difference?

Sometimes, simple terms in the car audio industry can be a source of frustration, this might be one of those cases for you. To simplify, there are three terms in use that describe totally different types of car stereos. Knowing the differences can help you narrow the search for your perfect system.

  • Digital Media Receiver: These car stereos play music from USB drives, smartphones, and other digital media sources. The key to know about digital media receivers is they do not play CDs or DVDs. They rely on a separate device, like an iPhone, to stream your music from. Digital media receivers are, for the most part, single din units.
  • Digital Multimedia Receiver: The main difference between these stereos and the digital media receivers is the incorporation of touchscreen technology. They still don’t play CDs or DVDs, but can be connected to external players to display other forms of media like video on-screen.
  • CD/DVD Receiver: As the name implies, these units have the built-in ability to play CDs and DVDs, including playing video on screen or directing video to remote screens. Most of the CD receivers in this category are single-DIN units while DVD receivers are double-DIN units that feature touchscreen technology.

About this List

We take our buying guides very seriously. Our top pick digital media receivers and head units that we compiled on this list are based on extensive research and in many cases first hand tests. Our recommendations are guidelines, based on what we think are quality head units that will have the features you want from brands that you can trust. Our lists originate here, and are not copied from other sources. Giving you the trust that the information you read here is legitimate, and the confidence in the product you choose from this list is our top priority.

Looking for a different type of car stereo? Check out these lists!

Best Digital Media Receiver Head Unit List

1. Best Overall Pick: Alpine UTE-73BT

Alpine UTE-73BT angle view
Alpine UTE-73BT front view with screen on
Alpine UTE-73BT rear view of outputs and inputs

Key Features

  • Single-DIN chassis
  • Plays music files from USB drives, including FLC files
  • Built-in Bluetooth makes connecting Apple and Android phones simple
  • 18Wx4 RMS, 50Wx4 peak power
  • Front, Rear, and Subwoofer outputs (2V)
  • Steering wheel control compatible

Latest Prices

Alpine UTE-73BT Quick Review

The Alpine UTE-73BT is an upgrade from the previous 63BT model and provides better connectivity options while retaining all the features that made the previous model a top pick. Alpine added Android Open Accessory tech to the receiver which streamlines connecting your Android smartphone to play music from your favorite streaming apps like Pandora or Spotify.

Alpine also kept some of the best features from the 63BT, like the physical multifunction knob and a clean layout that looks correct in most dash panels. The single line LCD display now lets you change colors of the backlit buttons and is five times more readable than previous models, making it easier to quickly read information.

Alpine designed this stereo to work seamlessly with Apple and Android devices, and you’ll find that connections through Bluetooth are stable and simple to set up. A front panel USB port allows charging and convenient playback of music files from thumb drives, smartphones, and compatible MP3 players. The Alpine UTE-73BT now offers playback of lossless FLAC files for even better sound quality too.

  • Upgraded model now plays FLAC files and offers steering wheel controls
  • Clean sound even without an amplifier, chassis is designed to accommodate KTP-445A power pack for true 50wx4 RMS power
  • AOA 2.0 simplifies Bluetooth connections
  • Requires an adapter (KCU-445A) to play music from Apple products
  • Alpine reduced the voltage of expandable preouts from previous model (4V to 2V)

2. Kenwood KMM-X704

Kenwood KMM-X704 angle view of front
Kenwood KMM-X704 front view with screen on
Kenwood KMM-X704 rear view with inputs, harnesses and outputs

Key Features

  • Digital media receiver, Single-DIN
  • 22Wx4 RMS, 50Wx4 Peak
  • Built-in Bluetooth 4.2
  • Amazon Alexa Built-in
  • Front and rear USB connections
  • Front, rear, and subwoofer high-power pre-amp outputs (5V)
  • HD radio
  • 13-band EQ with time adjustment
  • Plays FLAC files
  • Short chassis design

Latest Prices

Kenwood KMM-X704 Quick Review

Kenwood’s eXcelon-series of receivers are consistently top-ranking, and this digital media receiver is one of the best buys on the market. You’ll get easy access to the most popular features in an attractive package at a great price.

Kenwood understands that the world is changing, and we rely on our smartphones more each day to do numerous tasks. Built-in Alexa means you can control your smart devices remotely, and using the Bluetooth connections, you can wirelessly stream from your favorite apps from an Android device or a connected Apple product.

Some of the features that set the KMM-X704 apart include dual front and rear USB connections, so you can charge a device while streaming content from another. Advanced Bluetooth means stable connections and easy access to your favorite songs. You can even wirelessly connect up to five devices for DJing down the road.

  • Front and rear USB and upgraded Bluetooth make connections easy
  • High-power RCA outputs
  • Short chassis design means it’s easy to install in space-challenging dashes
  • Limited color selection
  • Difficult to see labels on buttons
  • No remote included

3. Pioneer MVH-S720BHS

Pioneer MVH-S720BHS angle view
Pioneer MVH-S720BHS

Key Features

  • Digital Media Receiver, Single-DIN
  • Plays files from USB and SD cards
  • Works well with Android and Apple devices
  • Hands-free Bluetooth
  • HD Radio
  • Dual zone illumination with fader
  • Front, Rear, Subwoofer preamp outputs (4V)
  • Detachable faceplate for security

Latest Prices

Pioneer MVH-S720BHS Quick Review

Pioneer stepped up the digital media receiver game with this affordable and feature-rich head unit. You’ll love the built-in access to the Pioneer SmartSync app, which makes connecting your Apple or Android device almost effortless. Pioneer added MIXTRAX to the receiver, too, so you can set it up to operate as a virtual DJ, complete with special mixing effects. It will even take advantage of the RGB LCD screen to give you dance club lighting effects in your ride.

Upgraded Bluetooth technology makes it simple to use hands-free features that are proven to reduce distractions and create a safer drive. You can use Bluetooth to connect your compatible smartphone and wirelessly stream music from your favorite apps like Pandora, Spotify, or SiriusXM (subscription required). One of the best features is the ability to Thumbs Up/ Down from the receiver so you don’t have to fiddle with your phone when that song you love comes on.

The S720BHS continues the legacy of easy connectivity, great sound, and reliable performance Pioneer head units are known for. Playback from the front USB or SD card port is a fantastic way to get the tunes you want conveniently.

  • Crisp, clean sound performance
  • Excellent option for buyers who plan to add amplifiers
  • Lots of customization features to make the unit look just right in your dash
  • Display isn’t as bright as some units, making it hard to see in bright light
  • No carrying case for detachable faceplate


JVC KD-X470BHS angle view
JVC KD-X470BHS front view with interchangeable colors
JVC KD-X470BHS rear view with inputs and outputs

Key Features

  • Digital media receiver, Single-DIN
  • Plays files from USB, SD card
  • Compatible with Apple and Android devices
  • Built-in Amazon Alexa connectivity
  • Bluetooth and front USB for ease of playback
  • Three pairs of high-voltage preamp outputs (5V)
  • Dual zone illumination
  • Pairs five phones simultaneously in DJ mode
  • Detachable faceplate

Latest Prices

JVC KD-X470BHS Quick Review

This digital media receiver from JVC is perfect for Alexa users. It includes built-in connectivity to Amazon’s AI assistant, so you can make calls, schedule meetings, and communicate with other Alexa-enabled devices. Using the JVC app, you can use your smartphone as a remote, making it simple to control the head unit.

Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding with this unit. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously so your friends can get in on the track selection without causing the driver distractions. Music streaming apps like Pandora and Spotify work flawlessly, and the front USB port lets you play FLAC files effortlessly.

It’s also a great looking head unit. The dual-zone selectable color schemes make it simple to match the theme of your interior, and a special DJ mode even creates a light show on your dash. The receiver works with Android and Apple phones.

  • Excellent connectivity through Amazon Alexa for users that prefer smart devices
  • One of the easiest Bluetooth connections, particularly for Apple users
  • Excellent expandability with high-power outputs
  • Many of the buttons are small and difficult to press without looking away from the road
  • Requires adapter for steering wheel control functionality
  • No remote included

5. Sony DSX-A415BT

Sony DSX-A415BT angle view of screen
Sony DSX-A415BT front view
Sony DSX-A415BT rear view of head unit with outputs and inputs

Key Features

  • Digital media receiver, Single-DIN
  • Plays USB, SD card files
  • Tap-to-connect for Android, wireless voice control
  • USB connection for Apple, compatible with Siri Eyes Free
  • Built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calls and track control
  • 55wx4 Peak
  • Preamp subwoofer output

Latest Prices

Sony DSX-A415BT Quick Review

Sony is one of the biggest names in car audio and when you take a look at the features of this digital media receiver you’ll understand why. Sony built an amplifier into the receiver that gives you a stunningly powerful and crystal-clear music listening environment, no matter how you want to play your tunes.

The front panel USB port enables easy playback from thumb drives or MP3 players, and also allows the use of numerous Apple products including most iPhones. You can even access Siri Eyes Free through the USB connection. Android users will love the wireless Bluetooth connection for streaming music from apps like Pandora and Spotify, and you can even use voice commands to control the receiver.

A slick new feature of this receiver is the ability to tap-to-connect with Bluetooth. This simplifies hook up and makes changing from one device to another seamless and fast. It’s a great way to reduce distraction.

  • Apple users will need to connect through USB
  • Only one color illumination (blue)
  • No pre-outs for front or rear speakers, sub only (2V)
  • Microphone quality is not the best – you may have to speak louder to be heard properly

6. Low Budget Pick: Boss Audio 508UAB

Boss Audio 508UAB angle view of screen
Boss Audio 508UAB front view
Boss Audio 508UAB side view of chassis
Boss Audio 508UAB rear view with RCA outputs and inputs
Boss Audio 508UAB box

Key Features

  • Single-DIN CD receiver
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • 50 w x 4 Peak
  • Front USB and Aux-in
  • Built-in microphone
  • Wireless remote
  • 2-volt front and rear outputs

Latest Prices

Boss Audio 508UAB Quick Review

Sometimes, you just need a good stereo with basic features that won't drain your wallet. We have you covered. If you are looking for a less expensive way to get great features and sound in your single-DIN dash, you should check out the Boss Audio 508UAB. It has all the important features and a wallet-gracing price tag.

Bluetooth is an essential feature, and the Boss 508UAB gets it right with A2DP technology providing wireless streaming of audio from your smartphone apps. That means you can run Pandora or Spotify wirelessly and use your voice to answer calls using the built-in microphone.

A front-mount USB and Aux-in port make it a snap to play music from MP3 players or thumb drives. It even plays CDs, which many more expensive head units don’t. Front and rear outputs let you build your car audio system how you want. Boss even includes a wireless remote that’s handy when you don’t want to reach for the radio.

Power ratings from Boss are 50 watts x 4 channels peak. You may think that audio quality suffers when you buy an inexpensive head unit, but the 508UAB may surprise you. Playback using Bluetooth or MP3 is quite good and is comparable to units costing twice as much. While the head unit lacks some features for connectivity, like built-in Pandora and Spotify, and SiriusXM compatibility, the Bluetooth connection is excellent and allows easy media selection.

  • Good sound quality and features for the money
  • Bluetooth quality is good and streaming works flawlessly
  • Stylish faceplate and design
  • Basic, no-frills stereo with limited tuning capabilities
  • No on-screen control of Pandora, Spotify, or other streaming apps
  • Won’t display the clock when using Bluetooth
  • Can’t customize the button or screen color
  • No dedicated subwoofer output

How We Tested

Our reviews take many criteria into consideration when researching and ultimately compiling our lists of best products. This includes features, controls, appearance, inputs, connectivity, available apps, audio quality, price, value for money, services, and support.

And, be sure to take a look through our Easy Guide to Installing a Car Stereo if you do decide to purchase a Digital Media Receiver and install yourself!