Best Single-DIN Head Units for Car Stereos
Upgrade your car’s sounds and technology with a single-DIN car stereo
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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Technology advances rapidly, which means that unless you have a newer model car, your audio system is likely outdated.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.
- Best OverallJVC KD-X350BTS 1-Din Car Digital Media Bluetooth ReceiverSummarySummaryReliable Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, and a high-performing EQ tuner firmly solidify this stereo’s top billing.ProsProsNo detachable faceplate, no problem. This stereo supports Android music playback, Siri Eyes Free, and a Bluetooth that can be paired with two phones.ConsConsThe LCD screen may glare in bright sun. Also, this unit requires an external microphone to make hands-free phone calls.
- Best ValueBOSS Audio 616UAB Multimedia Car StereoSummarySummaryOne of the cheapest but feature-rich decks anywhere. Bluetooth, EQ tuner, AUX, and USB are all here.ProsProsSolid 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.ConsConsA small LCD screen, flimsy build, and unreliable performance are among the weaknesses of this single-DIN Bluetooth stereo.
- Honorable MentionKenwood KDC-MP372BT Car StereoSummarySummaryHigh-quality construction, affordable price, and a slew of features (including CD player) are among this unit’s highlights.ProsProsA robust equalizer helps produce top-notch sound quality, while the 13-digit LCD display can be customized with multiple colors.ConsConsThis deck’s shortcomings include a complicated menu to adjust sound settings and the need for a separate cable for Android playback.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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 2019
With reliable Bluetooth connectivity and dynamic EQ presets and customization options, this inexpensive JVC unit is one of the best single-DIN radio Bluetooth options available. Boosting its stock is support for Android music playback and dual phone connection.
This JVC deck doesn’t have a detachable faceplate nor does the face change colors, but it does have a lot going for it. The black and red trim is visually appealing, and the deck includes support for Siri Eyes Free and voice recognition dialing. The unit comes with a wireless remote control and a pair of Alphasonik earbuds. It has front AUX and USB inputs, as well as a max power output of 50 watts in each of the four channels.
This stereo deck’s downsides include the need for an external microphone, which must be installed in order to make calls. Some confusion can occur when you’re listening to music and want to initiate a call, requiring selecting “JVC” on the phone to sync the call. Another issue is the LCD screen’s maximum brightness, making it harder to read the display on bright sunny days.
Best Value: BOSS Audio 616UAB Multimedia Car Stereo
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.
Honorable Mention: Kenwood KDC-MP372BT Car Stereo
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.
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 JVC KD-X350BTS 1-Din Car Digital Media Bluetooth 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.