LAST UPDATED: March 29, 2019
Best Single-DIN Car Stereo: Give Your Vehicle an Acoustic Upgrade
Upgrade your car’s sounds and technology with a single-DIN car stereo
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON March 29, 2019
Technology advances rapidly, which means that unless you have a newer model car, your audio system is likely outdated. Older decks lack Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you can’t sync your smartphone to stream music or talk hands-free. To remedy this inconvenience, we’ve sorted out the crowded field to help you choose the best single-DIN car stereo for your vehicle.
This car stereo receiver not only has CD playback capabilities, but also has AUX and USB inputs that make it compatible with handheld devices. It features bass boost and an RDS tuner for fuller sound.
The single-DIN head unit comes with a wireless remote control and Alphasonik earbuds, giving you different options for enjoying your music. Its detachable faceplate acts as a theft-deterrent.
It is very hard to see the display clearly in daylight. After a few months of use, the receiver may begin to heat up and smoke internally. The controls are quite difficult to use because the volume knob also controls the settings.
One of the cheapest but feature-rich decks anywhere. Bluetooth, EQ tuner, AUX, and USB are all here.
Solid max power output specs, an EQ tuner, and wireless remote control are included. The three-year manufacturer’s warranty is also a very affirming feature.
A small LCD screen, flimsy build, and unreliable performance are among the weaknesses of this single-DIN Bluetooth stereo.
High-quality construction, affordable price, and a slew of features (including CD player) are among this unit’s highlights.
A robust equalizer helps produce top-notch sound quality, while the 13-digit LCD display can be customized with multiple colors.
This deck’s shortcomings include a complicated menu to adjust sound settings and the need for a separate cable for Android playback.
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Why Buy a Single-DIN Car Stereo?
- Add Bluetooth. Bluetooth wireless technology became standard in cars only several years ago, which means older cars, and their factory stereo decks, simply don’t have it. If you install a single-DIN Bluetooth car stereo, you can sync your iPhone or Android smartphone to stream music, play audio files, and talk hands-free.
- Upgrade the aesthetics in your car. Think about installing a new stereo deck as a facelift: It significantly increases the visual appeal for you and your passengers. Top car stereos are sleek and technologically advanced, so you’ll be able to customize various settings, including colors on the display.
- Replace a broken deck. If your car stereo has worn out due to normal wear and tear, or just stopped working out of the blue, it’s time to get a new one. With an upgrade, you can resume listening to the radio, streaming music, and talking on the phone.
- Create more room. Most new cars come with display screens that take up the entire double-DIN in the car’s dashboard. By installing a single-DIN car Bluetooth stereo, you can effectively create a small storage bin under the unit with the right console plate.
Types of Single-DIN Car Stereos
Detachable Faceplate Stereos
For a modest price, the best single-DIN head unit you can choose is one with a detachable face. This is a feature that’s a throwback to the past when aftermarket stereo decks were expensive and prone to attract burglars. Today, it may still be convenient to remove the faceplate when you leave the car for security.
Motorized Display Stereos
The drawback of a single-DIN car stereo is its smaller than the double-DIN kind, which can have an embedded 6-inch-or-larger display (touchscreen or not). However, some single-DIN decks are equipped with motorized displays that can pop out with the push of a button, and then retract back. These stereos effectively give you an infotainment system without taking up extra console space.
Top Brands of Single-DIN Car Stereos
Alpine is a well-established brand in the car audio industry, known for its high-quality receivers and speakers. In business since 1967, it’s a subsidiary of Japanese electronics manufacturer Alps Electric and operates factories across the globe. Among its popular products is the Alpine CDE-175BT CD/USB Receiver with Advanced Bluetooth.
JVC & Kenwood
Headquartered in Tokyo, Kenwood Corporation was founded in Japan in 1946. Through a merger with JVC, the company (JVC & Kenwood) became a consumer electronics juggernaut that offers car audio and home audio products. Its bestsellers include the JVC KD-X350BTS 1-Din Car Digital Media Bluetooth Receiver.
Pioneer Corporation started as a radio and speaker repair shop in Japan in 1938. Today, it’s a multinational corporation producing many lines of digital entertainment products, from car audio to DJ equipment. One of its most popular products is the Pioneer AVH-3400NEX 7" Display Single-Din In-Dash NEX DVD Receiver.
Single-DIN Car Stereo Pricing
- $25-$100: The bargain range features mostly single-DIN receivers with one- or two-line displays. These budget decks may lack one or more of the sought-after features found in the mid-range, particularly a CD or DVD player and Bluetooth connectivity.
- $100-$200: There’s no shortage of value and quality among the picks within this range. In fact, you’ll probably find the best car deck for the money here. In addition to staples such as USB and Bluetooth connectivity, these receivers may also feature a CD player and a detachable faceplate. Add-ons, such as headphones, a remote or a Bluetooth speaker, could be included as a sales incentive.
- $200 and up: At this premium range, you can expect to find top car radios that include a DVD receiver, along with larger, multi-color displays, including touchscreens. These decks also include multiple preamp outputs and video input to accommodate a rear-view camera.
It seems everything is streaming these days, but a compelling case can be made that the best car stereo receiver must also accommodate media from the past. Most budget decks no longer feature a CD player, but a few CD-capable models still exist.
One way to assess if you have the best car receiver is to look up the number of bands in its built-in equalizer. With more EQ bands, the deck can customize the frequencies to your ears. Most car stereos come with preset frequencies that you can choose based on the genre of music that you’re listening to (jazz, hip-hop, rock, etc.)
The lower-priced single-DIN stereos are 7 inches by 2 inches and usually feature a black, plastic face, the brand’s logo, and some color accents. If you’re looking for something closer to an iPad-sized display, possibly with a DVD player and maps, there are more than a few contenders for the best single-DIN touchscreen head unit.
You don’t have to be an audiophile to be on the hunt for the most powerful car stereo head unit. The max power output of a given deck essentially tells you its sound limit, which means that unless you plan to add an external amplifier, your audio power will be limited. The more important rating is the RMS, or continuous power output, which quantifies the amount of power the car stereo can reach at a constant rate.
- HD and XM Radio: Some, but not all, decks are XM-ready and have HD radio capability. SiriusXM is a paid subscription, and you can always install an adapter later. With HD radio, you get the higher-quality radio transmission with metadata, which allows you to view artist names and song titles on your deck.
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: It’s one thing to ‘pair’ your iPhone or Android-based phone with your car stereo and another to have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. Decks that offer these state-of-the-art features allow you to experience a familiar interface right on your dashboard. These decks do come at a premium price.
Best Single-DIN Car Stereos: Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Pioneer's MOSFET amp puts out a lot more power than many factory stereos and is one of the reasons this stereo is so popular. MOSFET amplifiers set the standard for awesome-sounding car stereos. You'll be more than happy with the sound quality of your new head unit. You can control it using the remote that's provided or Pioneer's ARC app on your Android phone. The stereo is compatible with iOS 8 and iPhone6/6+. It comes with a one-year manufacturer's warranty.
This single-DIN head unit delivers the highs and lows with authority. Get it with some new speakers and turn your car into a concert hall. If you love tweaking sound controls, download the Pioneer ARC app to your Android phone to do so. You can also access the five-band built-in EQ. You can play your favorite CD any time you want and plug in a variety of devices in the aux input.
However, Pioneer should make the display more visible, as it is hard to see during the day. The company should also consider adding another knob for controlling the settings. Some users have also complained that the stereo starts heating up and smoking internally after a few months of use.
As one of the cheapest products of its kind, this BOSS Audio Systems deck is a surprising contender for the best single-DIN radio. It’s not lacking for most popular features, packing Bluetooth with hands-free calling and audio streaming, USB, SD, and AUX inputs. It checks many other boxes and features preamp inputs on the front panel.
This BOSS Audio unit has a max power output of 50 watts x 4 and a built-in equalizer with balance, fader, bass, and treble controls. The EQ can be controlled with buttons on the faceplate or via an included wireless remote control. The manufacturer’s warranty is for three years from the date of purchase.
The downside of purchasing this cheap deck is that it has a very flimsy construction compared to other decks with just a slightly higher price. It’s also possible that it may malfunction or perform unreliably. Other shortcomings include the lack of subwoofer and iPod controls.
There’s a nearly perfect mix of features and value offered in this Kenwood single-DIN radio Bluetooth unit. It includes a CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth connectivity, and is iPod- and iPhone-compatible. It also features front USB and AUX inputs and an equalizer that has been embraced by discerning audiophiles.
Crafted with high-quality materials, this receiver features a 13-digit LCD display on the detachable faceplate, which also has multiple color illumination to match your car’s interior. It features an EQ tuner with a built-in crossover that significantly boosts the sound quality.
The biggest issue with this Kenwood unit is that it does have a rather complicated menu, which will require some getting used to in order to make tuning adjustments. Also, for Android audio playback, a separate USB-to-micro-USB cable is needed.
Alpine is a reputable brand in the audio industry, so it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Alpine CDE-172BT. Diving into the design features, it’s a single-DIN receiver that comes with an AM/FM tuner and CD player. It also connects to USB devices and can play MP3, WMA, and FLAC files. You can charge select Android devices via the USB port. To provide the best audio experience, it features a three-band parametric equalizer, high- and low-pass filters with bass level control, and a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
Built-in Bluetooth allows you to connect the stereo to your smartphone so you can make hands-free calls or stream audio. Alpine also includes Phone Book Access Profile, which is designed to access your contact list so the caller’s name can be displayed on the stereo. Other than that, it features an external wired microphone so that your voice can come out clearly when you’re on a phone call.
While all these advanced features may come in handy for long drives, expect to pay more for this car stereo. Also, you may have trouble establishing a constant Bluetooth connection with some Android devices. The connection may be choppy and could force you to reset the stereo.
If you mostly rely on the AM/FM radio as your main source of entertainment when you’re on the road, this Sony stereo could work for you. It comes preloaded with 140 channels, including news, sports, live events, comedy, and commercial-free music. It also comes with a CD player if you would like to control your entertainment, and USB inputs that let you play music from iOS devices.
An interesting feature on this stereo is the dual Bluetooth connection that allows you to connect to two devices wirelessly. You can use one device to make or receive hands-free calls while you play music from the second smartphone. In addition, it’s integrated with NFC technology that allows you to establish a wireless connection with the stereo by simply tapping your phone on the volume knob. Aside from that, it includes a two-zone illuminator display, and you can change its color to match the theme in your vehicle’s interior—there are 35,000 colors to choose from.
The main drawback of this stereo is that it doesn't provide enough features for adjusting the sound quality. Therefore, it may deliver subpar sound in comparison to other high-end models. You may have to upgrade it with an amplifier or high-quality speakers.
This JVC car stereo could be a great entertainment system for road trips where you are traveling with more than three people with different tastes in music. You can take advantage of JVC Streaming DJ, a built-in Bluetooth feature that allows you to connect up to five devices simultaneously so that your passengers can take turns controlling the music. It can also maintain a full-time connection with two phones so you can exclusively use one for making or receiving hands-free calls.
Calls are made easier with voice-recognition dialing, and the caller ID will be displayed on the stereo thanks to the Phone Book Access Profile. You can adjust the audio quality to your liking thanks to the 13-band equalizer that comes with 11 presets. Also, it has an external output for connecting a subwoofer.
Unfortunately, it may be incompatible with some select iOS devices, especially when connected via the USB port. It’s important to check the list of compatible devices provided by JVC before buying the unit.
The Pioneer MVH-S215BT packs a lot of power and can deliver high-quality sound even without upgrading your factory speakers. This is because it’s designed with a built-in 50-watt amplifier to help boost the audio quality. Pioneer also provides an RCA pre-out so that you can hook up a subwoofer to improve your listening experience.
The unit provides a number of ways of connecting to your smartphone, including aux inputs, USB inputs, or wireless Bluetooth connection. You can leave your smartphone to charge as you tune in to the AM/FM radio. Besides that, it comes with a button-controlled interface that you can use to sort through songs or receive a phone call.
The main issue with this stereo is that it may have trouble connecting wirelessly with some smartphones. Also, the Bluetooth audio volume may be lower when compared to other sources.
If you experience sound delay or poor audio quality when playing old CDs, the JVC KD-TD70BT could be what you need to right those wrongs. To start with, it features Time Alignment technology that allows you to digitally delay the speakers that are closest to the stereo, so sound from all the speakers in your vehicle can reach your ears at the same time. This helps to create a fuller and more natural sound.
It also features K2 technology, which expands the frequency range of an audio file. This means you can recreate the sound from an “old” audio file by expanding the frequency to make it sound better. Besides that, the usual features of other stereos are on board, including Bluetooth connection, a USB input, aux input, and an SD card reader that accommodates up to 32 gigabytes. It also allows the user to make hands-free calls.
However, some users have reported quality issues or loss of certain functions. For instance, the USB function may stop working, it may be a hassle to get the CD player working, or the clock display may work only when the AM/FM radio is turned off.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of a double-DIN head unit without actually having to buy one, then you can opt for the Pyle single-DIN receiver. It has a typical single-DIN stereo design plus an extension of a slim, 7-inch touchscreen. The stereo is rated at 320 watts, so it’s powerful enough to give detailed and clean sound.
The touchscreen features a multicolor LCD and displays high-quality videos. The unit is also compatible with a rear camera so you can rely on the display to help you back safely into a parking spot. The stereo features Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming or making hands-free calls, and it’s compatible with most iOS and Android devices. It also comes with a remote control so you can change channels from the back seat.
Unfortunately, the built-in microphone may pick up sound from the other side of the call, which can make it somewhat annoying for people on the other side who have to hear themselves. Also, it might experience quality issues after a year, including issues with the Bluetooth connection or the display.
Tips & Advice for Single-DIN Car Stereos
- A distinguishing feature when choosing the best car head unit should include the LED pixel count. The higher the count, the more you’ll be able to control the deck’s brightness and color.
- Some vehicles have multiple screens that interlink with the factory stereo. Do some research to find out whether installing a new head unit will affect how these function. There are many adapters that can allow you to add features such as an AUX input or Bluetooth without replacing the stereo.
- Various playback modes make it easier and seamless to stream music from your Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and other music and radio apps.
Q: Will I lose any features or functions in my vehicle if I install an aftermarket single-DIN Bluetooth head unit?
A: The factory head unit may control a number of functions in your car, from the horn to the automatic locks. There’s always a risk that you will disable a function when you upgrade your deck. Consult your driver’s manual and do some research before you proceed with a new stereo deck installation.
Q: What is the downside of buying a single-DIN stereo with a CD player?
A: Most single-DIN Bluetooth stereos skip the CD player because it’s simply a redundant feature. The complicated and sensitive technology involved may also contribute to the poor performance of the unit.
Our top pick for the best single-DIN car stereo is the Pioneer Single Din Car Stereo Receiver. It’s affordable and packs all of the desirable features, like Bluetooth and AUX input. This aftermarket deck is an all-in-one solution.
For an ultra-cheap deck that offers many of the same features, consider the BOSS Audio 616UAB Multimedia Car Stereo. It’s more than a serviceable alternative to higher-priced stereos.