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In this article: We'll review 7 of our best pick single din car stereos (head units) across a variety of categories including low cost, bluetooth, volume, connectivity and more.
The best single din car stereo should reflect the latest in digital audio technology. For example, compatibility with smartphones and the most common internet radio apps. Smartphones are really the single and only medium for listening to music in cars at this point, so a head unit that supports connected devices and comes standard with certain features is a must. This includes:
- USB port to charge and connect your media or smartphone devices.
- Bluetooth technology to stream music and make handsfree calls.
- Integrated music app functionality like Pandora and Spotify.
- + more
But your head unit shouldn't just output high quality sound, they really should incorporate the latest trends in digital tech to simplify how you listen to your music, navigate to where you're going and make wireless phone calls. In our list below, you'll find our top pick car stereos that embrace the swift changes in audio and digital technology. We're frequently updating all of our lists, so check back for updates as fresh new products get released and added!
Here Are Our Best Single DIN Car Stereos and Head Units in 2022
- Best Overall Single DIN Car Stereo: Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS
- Runner Up, Best Overall Pick: Kenwood KDC-BT778HD
- Best Looking Single DIN Head Unit: JVC KD-X270BT
- Best for Sound Quality Single DIN Car Stereo: Pioneer DEH-S6220BS
- Best Features Single DIN Head Unit: Alpine UTE-73BT
- Best Single DIN Receiver on a Budget: Boss Audio 508UAB
Best Overall Single DIN Car Stereo
- Single Din CD Receiver With AM/FM Radio
- Output: 14 watts (RMS) x 4 channels
- Built-in Bluetooth
- 13 Band Equalizer
- 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer)
Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS Quick Review
When you're looking for a head unit, power, function, and aesthetics are all important factors to consider. Across the board, it’s hard to beat the Pioneer DEH-X8800BHS.
But there’s more to this CD receiver than what meets the eye. Granted, its appearance is nondescript and traditional. As soon as you turn on this stereo is nothing short of amazing. Starting with the aesthetics, the X8800BHS gives you the option of dual-zone color illumination, allowing you to customize the text colors on your screen. This gives you have an extensive color combination range of over 210,000. In addition, the unit has a 10-level brightness control, helping you create the perfect visual setting.
In terms of audio, the Pioneer DEH-X8800 really delivers. Some of the key features of the X8800 include:
- Built-in Dual Bluetooth
- Wideband Handsfree 1.6
- Audio streaming
- Access to Siri Eyes Free, Pandora, Spotify, Android Music Support
But there are additional features that complete the system which makes the Pioneer DEH-X8800 even better. Including:
- Built-in MOSFET amp
- AM/FM/CD, and HD Radio with 100% free subscription on selected stations
- MIXTRAX for DJ-inspired technology
- FLAC playback
- Compatibility with several audio files such as WAV, WMA, AAC, and MP3
- 13-band Equalizer with 7 preset curves
- 3 pairs of preamp outputs.
The system also has a remote control, giving you complete control of the head unit without laying a finger on it. It's compatible with most steering wheel controls, has a 12-month warranty, and is CEA-2006 compliant. Toss in that the fact that you can link two phones to the unit at once and the ability to use Guest Mode for a third phone. You’ll understand why this is undoubtedly on the top of our list. Truth is, you don’t need anything else to create a great in-car experience!
- Fully packed with essential and extra stereo features
- Great audio quality
- Ability to link 2 phones to the unit at once and use guest mode for a third phone
- Simple-to-use interface
- Customizable text colors on the screen
- Limited to android and iOS devices
Runner Up, Best Overall Pick
- Single-DIN chassis
- CD/ Multimedia receiver
- Front, Rear, Sub outputs, 4 volt
- 22 watts x 4 RMS
- Front USB, Aux input
- Bluetooth 4.3, includes a microphone for hands-free answering and calling
- HD radio, Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM-ready
- Detachable faceplate
Kenwood KDC-BT778HD Quick Review
The Kenwood KDC-BT778HD is one of the best single din cd receivers on the market. It combines the technology you really want with a powerful head unit that offers optimal upgrade opportunities. It’s also a good-looking stereo with customization features useful for making the installation look seamless.
Kenwood builds this CD receiver with built-in Bluetooth you can use for hands-free calling and music search. You can wirelessly connect to five phones simultaneously for road-trip random DJing. You can use the Kenwood app to turn your smartphone into a remote control. Drivers will enjoy built-in Alexa and broad iOS and Android compatibility.
This single-din stereo from Kenwood is a powerhouse right out of the box. It features a factory-rated 22 watts RMS per channel and includes three sets of four-volt pre outs for powering front, rear, and subwoofer channels. The front USB and AUX input make connecting MP3 players convenient.
The KDC-BT778HD has a 13-band digital equalizer for tuning the system to your car. Variable color LED backlighting also lets the driver customize the stereo to match dash lighting. The front-loading CD, HD radio tuner, Pandora and Spotify compatibility, and SiriusXM-ready options give you plenty of ways to play music files in the car.
- Excellent sound quality and power
- Good for external amplifiers
- Simple, aesthetic design
- Friendly user interface
- Compatible with most factory steering wheel audio controls (adapter required)
- Alexa voice control
- Faceplate does not detach
Best Looking Single DIN Head Unit
- 22 watts x 4 channel (RMS) 50 watts peak
- 13-band EQ with Volume Link technology
- Time and Space alignment
- Sound elevation and response optimization
- Connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, two devices full-time
- Front USB
- Voice control with Amazon Alexa
- Dual-zone color with 33,738 colors per zone, 10 color animation patterns
- Sirius XM ready
- Three pairs of 4v pre-outs – front, rear, sub
JVC KD-X380BTS Quick Review
The JVC KD-X380BTS CD receiver brings a lot of options to your dash while looking like a much pricier head unit. The clean design and conveniently-placed buttons make this head unit as easy to operate as it is beautiful to look at. The 2-line, 13 character LCD display is easy to read, even in bright light. One of our favorite tricks this head unit offers is the dual-zone color lighting effects – one zone controls the color of the outer buttons while the other zone controls the button colors in the middle. Each zone allows up to 33,768 different colors and even provides moving illumination that adds interest to any interior.
Of course, even the best-looking head unit isn’t going to make it on one of our lists if it doesn’t have the latest connectivity tech and performance to back up its looks. It has built-in Bluetooth capabilities for wireless streaming of tunes on a compatible iOS or Android smartphone and can pair with up to five devices simultaneously using JVC Streaming DJ. Bluetooth is also used for voice control using Amazon Alexa.
The KD-X380BTS provides a robust 22 watts per channel, making it a great choice for a factory head unit replacement but also a great option for an amplified system with 6-ch 4v preouts. It features several technologies to make your favorite music sound even better too. JVC’s K2 Sound Optimization corrects audio sources from lossy formats like AAC and replaces the lost frequencies to give you CD-quality sound. Time and space alignment allow the head unit to easily discern the location of speakers in your car to optimize sound for the space, and virtual lift technology helps make low-mounted speakers sound elevated. And if you want to tailor the sound yourself, you can leverage the built-in 13 band EQ to tweak each frequency band to your liking.
- Great looking head unit with well-designed faceplate
- Illumination options offer lots of customizability
- Simple connections to multiple devices for wireless streaming
- LCD backlight is not changeable
- Display brightness is subpar
- Some settings are confusing and difficult
Best for Sound Quality Single DIN Car Stereo
- Single Din CD Receiver With AM/FM Radio
- Output: 22w RMS, 50w peak
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Front USB port
- Three pairs of RCA outputs, 4v
- Compatible with iOS and Android
- Provides access to Smart Sync app
- 13-band EQ
- Switchable crossover network (Front, Rear, Sub) or (High, Mid, Low)
- Variable and separate color control
Pioneer DEH-S6220BS Quick Review
We were a little sad when Pioneer elected to discontinue the DEH-80PRS head unit because it offered legendary control with its built-in EQ. The new DEH-S6220BS gives you an excellent 13-band EQ built-in and access to a 31-band EQ through the Pioneer Smart Sync app. We think this is the closest replacement head unit around.
The Smart Sync app is pretty cool tech that gives you nearly all of the functionality of a double-din touchscreen head unit without taking up so much real estate. A built-in cradle allows you to connect your compatible smartphone to the head unit for seamless streaming, navigation, and hands-free calling. The app is free to download and opens up a world of tuning possibilities.
This head unit offers numerous audio features to enhance the music you listen to in the car. It plays CDs and has a front USB port for connecting a music library easily. The head unit includes Advanced Sound Retriever tech that restores compressed music files to enhance sound quality.
A selectable crossover network gives you control over the front, rear, and subwoofer channels, or you can switch it to manage frequencies to control the highs, mids, and lows of your favorite music. Three pairs of 4v outputs offer the ability to easily expand your car audio system.
- Smart Sync is one of the coolest features we’ve seen in a single din head unit
- Awesome ability to customize colors to blend the unit with your interior
- Tuning without the Smart Sync app is fairly limited
- Some people report odd issues with streaming, including the inability to change stations while driving
Best Features Single DIN Head Unit
- Single DIN Digital Media receiver
- 18w RMS, 50w peak
- 6-channel RCA preouts, 2v
- Variable color option
- Bluetooth built-in
- Compatible with Android and iOS
- 3-band EQ
- Front USB and Aux-in ports
- Compatible with music streaming services
- Steering wheel control adapter required
Alpine UTE-73BT Quick Review
The Alpine UTE-73BT hits the sweet spot of useful tech and an affordable price tag. It offers Bluetooth connectivity that lets you wirelessly stream music from Pandora or Spotify and even gives you on-screen track skipping and channel selection. You can even thumbs-up that awesome new track you just heard without having to get out your phone.
A 24-bit Digital-to-Analog converter makes sure that your music sounds great and Android users can take advantage of the benefits offered by Android Open Accessory Protocol (AOA 2.0). Built-in low and high pass filters send the frequencies to the right speakers to help clean up the sound in your car even further.
A USB port and an Aux-in port on the front of the receiver offer excellent options for connecting a media player or playing music files stored on a thumb drive. On the back, you’ll find three pairs of RCA outputs that you can use to add amplifiers or a subwoofer to further enhance the audio quality in your car.
Power and tuning are somewhat limited. The receiver is rated for 18 watts of RMS output and a peak of 50 watts. A three-band EQ allows some basic tuning features, but we think this unit could benefit from a more advanced tuning system. At this price point, this head unit has a lot to offer and is an excellent budget option for getting advanced hands-free tech into your car with ease.
- Easy way to get Bluetooth for hands-free calls and music streaming
- Great options for expanding your car audio system
- Not as powerful as some other options
- Lacks tuning options that can limit how well the receiver plays music
Best Single DIN Receiver on a Budget
Boss Audio 508UAB
- 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
Boss Audio 508UAB Quick Review
Sometimes you're really just looking to install a budget-friendly stereo in your car. While there are often some drawbacks to low-cost options like lack of features or low quality construction- we understand there's always a market for affordability and we've got you covered! If you are looking for a less expensive way to get great features and sound in your dash, you should check out the Boss Audio 508UAB. It has all the important features and a glorious wallet-gracing price tag.
Bluetooth is now an essential feature, and the Boss 508UAB gets it right with A2DP technology providing wireless streaming of audio from your smartphone apps. This means that 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 do not. Front and rear outputs let you build your car audio system how you want. Boss even includes a wireless remote that comes in 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 be a pleasant surprise. 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, including built-in Pandora and Spotify, and SiriusXM compatibility, the Bluetooth connection is excellent and allows for easy media selection.
- Good sound quality and features for the price
- 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
- No clock display when using Bluetooth
- Can’t customize the button or screen color
- No dedicated subwoofer output
Innovative Features Pick
- Single-DIN stereo
- Mechanical QI wireless charging shelf
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Front USB and Aux-in
- 50 w x 4 Peak
- Front and Rear preamp outputs
- J-Link compatible
- Microphone and remote included
Jensen MPR419Q Quick Review
One of the key advantages double-DIN units have over single-DIN stereos is the ability to display navigation on screen. Jensen came up with this slick solution: the MRP419Q that features a motorized tray that has QI wireless charging. Instead of running a separate mount on the dash or windshield for your smartphone, now you’ll have a cozy cradle perfect for running Google Maps or Waze and keeping your phone charged at the same time.
Upgraded Bluetooth connectivity lets you sync your smartphone wirelessly and use push-to-talk audio commands, wireless calling, and source selection. You can even use your voice to control navigation apps on your phone right through the included microphone. Jensen J-Link technology lets you use your smartphone as a remote, even when out of sight of the receiver.
Front and rear preamp outputs give you expandability over the factory rating of 50 watts x 4 channels peak. The stereo features four pre-set EQ balances to tune for the type of music you like. The display can show seven characters simultaneously.
- QI wireless charging tray is handy and unique
- Bluetooth voice control for navigation, wireless calling, and track changes
- Controls feel cheap and clunky
- Display and customization is limited to factory settings and colors
There are a few simple, but important specs to head units that will make all the difference in selecting the best option for you. These include:
- Power output: For those of you who would like to power your speakers directly from the head unit, this is important.
- Pre-out voltage: For the people who will amplify their speakers, this is important. The higher the voltage, typically the better.
- Equalizer bands: May or may not be important to you, but for the audio enthusiast this will give you the granularity to tweak your sound at all frequency levels.
We put together a few quick charts to help you easily compare across the units that are on our list. We know, you're welcome!
Looking for a different type of head unit? Check out these lists!
What size is my dash?
If you haven’t already asked yourself this question, you definitely need to before purchasing a head unit. In general, there are two common types of head units on the market that fit the majority of vehicle dashboards: Single-DIN (SD) and Double-DIN (DD). Double-DIN openings are the larger of the two. If your car has a double-DIN opening you can typically fit both single-DIN and double-DIN units in it. You'll just need to purchase the correct dash kit. If it's a single-DIN car stereo, you'll only be able to fit a single-DIN receiver. In this list, we primarily focus on single-DIN units. To find out exactly what size dash your car has, check out our interactive list of vehicles in our Dashboard Size: Find Your Vehicle article!
Who Is This Review For?
There's a number of reasons why you could want or need to upgrade your car's head unit. One of the most common is to integrate Bluetooth connectivity that enables wireless calling and music streaming. But you might also:
- Want to enable streaming and easy control of music through Pandora or Spotify on your head unit.
- Need to upgrade your car stereo due to compatibility issues with your smartphone or wireless device.
- Just want a new, fresh look and the latest technology.
- Need to replace a head unit that recently broke or is experiencing issues.
- Want to improve the quality of the music that you listen to.
The list is endless, but regardless of the reason, the head unit you choose should really best fit the combination of your own personal needs.
How We Tested
In order to find the best head units for our list, we read through hundreds of reviews across the industry and combined users' opinions with our own first-hand tests. There are many important factors that we consider when rating and reviewing each car stereo. Including:
- Style (Looks, Design)
- Display Type (LCD, Dotted, LCD Text, etc.)
- Features (Bluetooth, Smartphone Compatibility, Equalizer, etc)
- Power Ratings (Peak, RMS)
- Expandability (# of RCAs, XM/Sirius Read, Steering Wheel Control Ready, etc)
- Quality (Materials used, manufacturer, etc)
- Online Reviews (From multiple vendors such as Sonic Electronix, Crutchfield, Amazon and more)
The result from our research and testing is a list of the top rated and reviewed head units. And in addition to our list of best rated products, we provide price comparisons from multiple vendors to help you find the best deal. In the end, like anything, the best car stereo is the one that meets your specific needs and is compatible with your car.
Looking for a Head Unit with even more features? Check out CarAudioNow's Best In-Dash Car DVD Players for units that you can watch your favorite movies on. Or our Best In-Dash GPS Navigation Players to add GPS Navigation AND movie watching to your dash! We also recommend upgrading your car's speakers with your car stereo with one of our recommended best car speakers.
And, be sure to take a look through our Easy Guide to Installing a Car Stereo if you do decide to purchase and install yourself! This guide will undoubtedly save you time with helpful tips along the way.
What to Look For
Every car requires a unique combination of car stereo components to sound great. A car stereo may sound excellent in one car, but sound terrible in another. Additionally, the limitations in size and wiring configuration make selecting the best head unit even more difficult for you.
A quality car stereo will give you the features you love while conforming to the environment of your car and create an excellent reproduction of the music that you love. With the right car stereo, you'll be able to custom tailor frequencies to your car, integrate your favorite music/media device, connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and much more.
At CarAudioNow, we use multiple key criteria when rating products in our top lists. Below is a list of criteria that we take into consideration while choosing the best car stereos for your vehicle.
Power ratings are extremely important feature to consider while choosing a car stereo. Without an external amplifier, the power output of the car stereo is what dictates the power of your speakers and ultimately the power of sound. There are typically two power output ratings that are given with car stereos:
- Max Power Output: Max power rating is the maximum amount of power that the car stereo can emit for short periods of time. It is the maximum amount of power that will be sent to your speakers (without an external amplifier)
- RMS (Continuous) Power Output: RMS power rating is the amount of power that the car stereo can emit at a constant or continuous rate. This is the most important power output rating.
Along with power handling and output, the level of control of the output sound's shape is also very important. This control is typically made through a built-in equalizer (EQ). It will allow you to tailor the shape of sound, raising or lowering the level of certain frequencies in order to best optimize the output sound for the environment of your car. The higher the number of bands that the car stereo's equalizer has, the more you will be able to customize the frequencies and shape of your music and sound.
Display features play a huge role in how stylish and user-friendly car stereos are. High end car stereos will have a high LED pixel count, and give customizable features like color and brightness in order to match the color of your interior.
Playback can be defined as the methods that your car stereo is capable of playing back audio. CD, DVD, MP3, HD Radio, Pandora, Auxiliary (Aux) Ports, Bluetooth; these are all examples of playback types that the a single din head unit should typically have.
You will want to make sure that the playback methods that you intend on using is consistent with the playback features of the car stereo. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a head unit that doesn't play your music in the format that you have it. Here is a breakdown of the most popular playback features we recommend you look for:
- HD Radio: HD Radio is the same radio stations that you listen to, but with a higher audio quality and more metadata than tradition radio. Metadata includes titles, artists, albums and more.
- CD Player: CD players will play your favorite CDs in multiple formats, including CD,CD-R/RW, MP3, AAC, WAV and WMA.
- Auxiliary (Aux) Port: Auxiliary ports allow you to connect any music device that you may have using a headphone connector. Typically, the best car stereos will have an auxiliary port on the front of the unit (in our opinion).
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth music allows you to connect to your music on a smartphone or other bluetooth enabled device, playing all of your music wirelessly from your device via a Bluetooth connection.
- USB Port: A USB port will allow you to connect your music devices via a USB connection. It will allow you to listen to your favorite music from your device, while charging it for endless listen time.
- XM Radio: XM radio is satellite radio such as SiriusXM, that allows you to connect and listen to thousands of channels of radio via a satellite connection. This increases the coverage of radio that you have, however requires a paid subscription.
All of the top reviewed head units will allow you to fully integrate with your smartphone, enabling the best features such as Pandora and Spotify while allowing you to answer phone calls hands-free. With recent legislation prohibiting you from using your phones while driving, it is becoming increasingly important for the best car stereos to fully integrate with your smartphone. Additionally, they will come with microphones with noise-canceling technology that will hone in on your voice and eliminate road noise.
Expandability is what allows you to connect external components to your car stereo. The best car stereos will have at least three 4volt RCA outputs (Front, Rear, Subwoofer), Audio/Video (AV) input/outputs, rear view camera inputs (with compatible displays) and a microphone input.
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