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Digital media receivers have become the new standard with the rise in streaming music and video. They've become the mainstream choice for head units. Traditional CD/DVD head unit options are outdated at this point and much more difficult to find.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.

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-X705

Kenwood KMM-X705
Kenwood KMM-X705 front
Kenwood KMM-X705 rear

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-X705 Quick Review

The KMM-X705 is part of Kenwood's latest eXcelon digital media receiver lineup. This new receiver takes all of the best features of the previous model that was featured on our buying guide  (KMM-X704), and adds new connectivity and advanced sound tailoring to suit the most discerning ear. 

The KMM-X705 takes advantage of a new short chassis design, a first for Kenwood. Short chassis make installing the stereo easier in practically any single-DIN opening, especially those with little room or depth in the dash. But just because the stereo has a short chassis doesn’t mean that you will get shorted on features. 

Kenwood’s KMM-X705 features the latest in connectivity. Bluetooth is an essential feature, for example, and Kenwood provides the latest protocol for seamless streaming and simultaneous connection with two devices. You can easily switch back and forth between either device for quick and easy streaming music or hands free calls. Up to five devices can also be connected at once through the Kenwood Music Mix for even more streaming options. HD Radio is built in, and the receiver includes a 13-band EQ with Drive EQ and time alignment. And, like most units on the market you can count on this Kenwood to play music from virtually any streaming app.

  • 13-band equalizer for customizing your audio
  • 5V outputs for amplifying your system
  • Excellent combination of streaming and connection options, including Amazon Alexa
  • Short chassis is ideal for tight installations
  • The scrolling display lacks a modern appearance
  • Errors reported when displaying song track information 

3. Pioneer MVH-S522BS

Pioneer MVH-S522BS angle
Pioneer MVH-S522BS
Pioneer MVH-S522BS face removed
Pioneer MVH-S522BS rear

Key Features

  • Digital media receiver, Single-DIN
  • 22Wx4CH/ 50W peak
  • Bluetooth for Android
  • Wired control for iOS/ Android
  • Color button illumination options
  • 6 preouts, 4v
  • 13-band EQ

Latest Prices

Pioneer MVH-S522BS Quick Review

The Pioneer MVH-S522BS offers some of the most comprehensive customization options we’ve seen in a single-DIN car stereo, and also backs it up with essential connectivity features drivers count on. Bluetooth connectivity and the unique SmartSync feature that allows Android users to use their smartphone as a multi-function streaming and remote control are among the long list of features offered by the MVH-S522BS.

What we really liked about the MVH-S522BS is that it lets users choose from a massive number of color options to customize the single-zone button colors. Pioneer claims that the stereo can display up to 200,000 colors! This makes matching the interior color or customized color scheme of your car or truck incredibly easy. The large multi-function rotary knob and prominent buttons make changing sources or selecting functions easy as well.

This car stereo is well suited to Android users, but it will also provide wired functionality for iOS users through the front USB and even provide a 1.5a charge to your device. Three pairs of 4V preouts along with a 13-band graphic equalizer provide ample opportunities to tune and expand the stereo with amplifiers and high-power speakers

Another cool feature that we’re seeing become increasingly common with the latest head units is connected apps. Pioneer’s Smart Sync mobile app allows you to control everything from a 31-band equalizer and streaming music to syncing up your navigation.

  • User friendly mobile app with a variety of control features
  • 13-band equalizer for tuning your stereo
  • Great-looking button layout and color customization options
  • Short chassis makes installation simple
  • Buttons are somewhat close together and might be too small for users with larger fingers
  • Lacks features and control functions for iOS users


JVC KD-X480BHS front
JVC KD-X480BHS color change
JVC KD-X480BHS rear

Key Features

  • Digital media receiver, Single-DIN
  • 22Wx4CH/ 50W peak
  • Bluetooth for Android
  • Wired control for iOS/ Android
  • Color button illumination options
  • 6 preouts, 4v
  • 13-band EQ

Latest Prices

JVC KD-X480BHS Quick Review

The JVC KD-X480BHS is one of the best-looking single-DIN car stereos we have seen recently, and the dual-zone color illumination only makes it more attractive. We were thrilled to get a chance to play with this stereo and found its performance to be as nice as its looks.  

The KD-X480BHS includes Bluetooth for wireless streaming and Amazon Alexa connectivity for voice-operated commands. A front USB input lets you play music from a thumb drive or plug in your smartphone to charge while playing music. While many car stereos are better for Android or iOS devices, this JVC car stereo is optimized for both operating systems. It can pair with two phones simultaneously for hands-free calls and streaming. Streaming DJ lets you connect up to five phones simultaneously to stream nearly endless music.

Two- and three-way crossover settings, the advanced K2 Technology, a 13-band EQ with digital time alignment, and three pairs of high-voltage preouts give this car stereo a performance edge backed up by its stunning good looks.

  • Dual-zone color illumination with more than 200,000 combinations 
  • Wired and wireless connectivity for both Android and iOS
  • Ideal choice for drivers who plan on using amplifiers and tuning features like a crossover network
  • Some users report issues with the stereo attempting to connect to devices when not desired 

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

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

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!