Last updated on November 23rd, 2020 at 10:23 pm
Most car owners want to upgrade the stereo in their car at some point without losing key factory controls. With vehicles staying on the road longer than ever before, the technology that was once top-of-the-line is now antiquated. But upgrading from a factory head unit to an aftermarket stereo is more complex than ever before too. Today, our vehicle’s factory head units incorporate numerous features, from steering wheel controls to built-in navigation, to climate control functions. Many aftermarket stereos are fully capable of integrating these features, but actually making the connection and getting all the desired features to work requires significant alteration of factory wiring.
To answer the call of needed connectivity, iDatalink created the Maestro module adapter. The adapter simplifies the connections necessary between factory wiring and an aftermarket stereo head unit. While many aftermarket stereos can be set up to use an iDatalink Maestro module adapter, only a few are designed specifically to make the connection.
Five companies build stereos that are out-of-the-box ready for the iDatalink Maestro unit. Alpine, JVC, Kenwood, Pioneer, and Sony provide numerous options for the aftermarket stereo enthusiast wanting to install a modern stereo in an integrated car.
Picking out the best iDatalink-ready head unit can be an overwhelming task. Many of the head units are similar, but which are the best? We did the tough task for you and dug through thousands of reviews, contacted manufacturers, and narrowed down which head units are the best.
Most of the companies that make iDatalink Maestro-compatible head units also make head units that are vehicle specific. If you own a 2014-newer Dodge Ram, Jeep Wrangler, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, or a Toyota truck, start your search for a great upgrade by looking at head units designed to fit the dash of your truck for a factory appearance.
Below, we will look at the best iDatalink Maestro-ready head units from each of the manufacturers.
Unsure what size head unit will fit your dash? Search for your year, make and model using our Dash Size Search Tool to find out if the head units on this list match the dash opening of your car!
Sony XAV-AX210SXM Quick Review
Sony only builds one head unit that is iDatalink-compatible and that is the popular XAV-AX210SXM. This is a 6.4” touchscreen double-din unit with a physical three-function knob that also plays DVD-Video and CD-Audio.
The Bluetooth 2.1-enabled head unit features 20×4 watt RMS power with a peak of 55 watts per channel. It is out-of-the-box ready for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A hard-wired USB MSC cable provides connectivity and a 1.5a charging source. It is also factory-ready for SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
The XAV-AX210 features three camera inputs that are switchable. This allows connectivity of a front, side, and rear camera. The head unit has five 4 volt preouts.
Because the Sony XAV-AX210SXM is also iDatalink-equipped, most vehicle owners will be able to retain all the factory features, plus add a ton of additional diagnostic controls using the Maestro adapter that is designed for the vehicle.
Overall, the Sony XAV-AX210SXM is well-received. Fans of a physical volume knob will not be disappointed here, and the ability to play CDs and DVDs without the problems of a mechanical face make for a nice package.
Alpine Halo9 iLX-F309
Alpine Halo9 iLX-F309 Quick Review
As mentioned above, if you drive a truck from Jeep, GM, Ford, Toyota, or Dodge, look for a unit designed to integrate seamlessly with your dash. Alpine has got your back with numerous iDatalink-ready head units through their i200 series.
The most popular head units from Alpine featuring iDatalink Maestro compatibility that are intended for a universal fit are the iLX and X300 series. Select Alpine receivers are iDatalink compatible across the range of touchscreen head units on the market today.
Alpines iLX-F309 is a single-din chassis with a “hovering” monitor. Okay, it’s a ridiculously massive 9” monitor. The floating screen is unlike anything else on the market. It allows for numerous positions and angles to fit in most dashes. This thing looks so cool, the actual features almost don’t matter.
The iLX-F309 is rated at 18 watts RMS per channel with a peak of 50×4 watts. It has a total of five 4 volt preouts. A single rear USB port allows for screen mirroring on Apple and Android devices, though many Android devices will require an adapter.
A single camera port allows for connectivity to a backup camera. Optional adapters can be used to enable multi-camera applications.
The consensus among users is very positive. The biggest issue that many users reported was the lack of wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a tendency for the screen to seem “washed out” when viewing maps. The solution to the washed-out appearance seems to be switching to satellite view.
JVC KW-V950BW Quick Review
JVC offers a number of head units that feature iDatalink Maestro compatibility. Our favorite is the KW-V950BW. This head unit is powerful and feature-packed at a reasonable price point.
JVC managed to cram practically every connectivity option on the market into the KW-950BW. It features built-in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with ready-to-run Bluetooth for compatible devices and a USB plug for devices that are not wirelessly connectible. It comes set-up for optional SiriusXM Satellite radio, Pandora, and Spotify. An included GPS antenna and an included microphone mean that you will have navigation and hands-free calling right out of the box.
Dual USB inputs allow users to stream music from one device while charging another at 1.5a. If that isn’t good enough, JVC snuck a DVD/CD player into the top of the head unit. In a rarity among head units, this JVC even plays rewritable CDs and DVDs, a nice touch for expanding your listening options.
The JVC KW-V950BW is also a powerful head unit, featuring 22 watts per channel RMS with a peak of 50 watts x4 channels. The head unit includes three pairs of five-volt pre outs for massive expandability.
The 6.8” touchscreen is a great size for many applications. The double-din case is just over 6” deep and is the standard 3 15/16” tall. The screen resolution is a Wide VGA design that is clear resistive touch.
Kenwood DMX09706S Quick Review
Kenwood and JVC merged in 2008, so it is no surprise that both companies provide similar, broad iDatalink Maestro compatibility across product lines. Almost every line of touchscreen-equipped head units from Kenwood offers at least one unit that connects directly to iDatalink adapters.
Our pick from Kenwood is the DMX-9706S. This is a feature-rich head unit that provides Bluetooth connectivity, built-in wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with dual USB inputs that double as high-speed charging ports.
What really sets the Kenwood KMX-9706S apart from competitors is the use of a widget-based user interface. This allows for some of the best customization options of any touchscreen head unit on the market. While all of the units on this list have some degree of personalization available, nothing comes close to the ability to use widgets, especially when connecting through the iDatalink Maestro adapter.
This Kenwood head unit allows for multiple split screens, so you can really take advantage of the options iDatalink Maestro adapters provide. When connected, users can display diagnostic information, gauges, the music currently playing, and a nav screen at the same time. No one else does this.
The DMX-9706S produces 22 watts RMS per channel with a peak power of 50 watts x 4. In addition to dual rear USB connections, the DMX-9706S has three camera inputs for rear, front, side, or any other combination of cameras. This head unit is also accident dash-cam ready and can record instantly to the removable 8gb SD card.
Three pairs of 4 volt preouts offer great upgradability for advanced speaker configurations. Built- selectable two-way or three-way crossover technology allows for even greater customization of speaker setups. Kenwood Stage EQ controls allow for customized settings to increase performance of speakers by selecting the installed location.
Pioneer AVIC-W8500NEX Quick Review
The Pioneer AVIC-W8500NEX is a top-of-the-line head unit that features iDatalink Maestro compatibility. This head unit has a 6.94” capacitive touchscreen that has built-in wireless connectivity to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and can run numerous apps for music streaming.
The W8500NEX is a navigation receiver that allows for a fantastic, integrated driving experience. Pioneer engineered the nav system to account for live traffic updates using the most up-to-date maps of the United States, Canada, and the territories.
Every aspect of the Pioneer W8500 is designed as an extension of the driving experience. Hands-free voice controls allow for easy use of music streaming and navigational commands. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and Dual USB connections make it simple to enjoy listening wherever you drive. This head unit supports Siri Eyes Free Control, MiraCast for Android, and WebLink for Apple users.
The head unit produces 14 watts of power RMS with a peak of 50W x 4. Six pre outs of 4 volts each allow for expandable listening options, while low- and high-pass adjustable crossovers provide easy customization for the perfect experience. Need more connectivity? The W8500NEX includes a mini and RCA AUX inputs, HDMI input, and supports multiple cameras. This head unit can even play a DVD on your headrest screen while running Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on the front monitor.
The Pioneer W8500NEX is at the top of the price range for the units compared here, but is the only head unit with a dedicated built-in nav system and is the only one that supports rear DVD playing. These features probably justify the price for many buyers.