Best Car Audio Systems: Find the Right System to Bring Your Car’s Audio to Life

Upgrade your factory audio setup for smarter tech and better sound.

byHeather Fishel| UPDATED Sep 16, 2022 2:44 PM
Best Car Audio Systems: Find the Right System to Bring Your Car’s Audio to Life
Check out our picks for the best car audio systems on the market. Deposit Photos
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Odds are you’re using your car audio system as your primary source of entertainment when you hit the road. Whether you’re listening to your favorite songs or tuning in to your favorite podcasts, your audio setup is what puts you in charge of the sound, the intricate details of how it performs, and what you’re listening on. If you’re in need of an upgrade, you can swap out your old system for one that’s more advanced and more high-tech without spending a ton. The heart of any car audio system is its receiver or head unit, and you’ve got plenty of choices if you’re shopping for a new one, from touchscreen to streaming capable to built-in cameras and smartphone syncing.

Best Overall

Pyle In-Dash Car Stereo

Summary
This do-it-all car audio system sets drivers up for success with a long list of features, including backup camera capability.
Pros
  • 7-inch LCD touchscreen display
  • Compatible with multiple device types
  • Bluetooth connectivity plus aux input
Cons
  • Pairing with poor speakers can limit quality
  • Built-in amp isn’t the best
Best Value

Boss Audio Systems Multimedia Car Stereo

Summary
With an affordable price and plenty of modern features, this car audio system works seamlessly with your smartphone.
Pros
  • Easy-to-see LED-lit display 
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Offers USB port and aux input
Cons
  • Difficult installation process
  • Thin metal components can bend
Honorable Mention

Jensen Car Stereo Receiver

Summary
High tech and able to work with a smartphone, this car audio system makes staying on top of your sound a breeze.
Pros
  • High-resolution LCD display
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • One-touch button for Siri and Google voice assist
Cons
  • Built-in microphone isn’t the best
  • Sizing is a bit funky
Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

In my search for the best car audio systems, I looked for head units that would work for a variety of makes and models. I started by considering products from well-known and reputable brands within the car audio space, and I looked for options that offered a long list of features, must-haves like smartphone syncing and Bluetooth connectivity and convenience. Receivers that offered a lot of functionality were among my top picks as well as those that were easy to use and install. 

Best Car Audio Systems Reviews & Recommendations

Honorable Mention: Jensen Car Stereo Receiver

Best Comprehensive: Boss Audio Systems Receiver

Best Touchscreen: Dual Electronics Stereo

Specs

  • Brand: Pyle
  • Size: 11.5 in L x 9.5 in W x 4 in H
  • Style: Single din

Pros

  • Built-in microphone for hands-free talking
  • Plays AM, FM, MP3s
  • Includes front panel aux port
  • Backup camera support for rear camera

Cons

  • Sound quality depends on speakers
  • Built-in amp isn’t the best

Sleek, streamlined, and full of the features you want within reach when you’re behind the wheel, the Pyle In-Dash Car Stereo is a fantastic choice. This car audio system is reasonably priced and performs like a top-tier model, offering you a 7.0-inch multi-colored LCD touchscreen display. You can use it for AM/FM radio, playing MP3s, or streaming by hooking up devices via the included aux port. It allows for hands-free operation while you’re driving thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you can control what’s playing vocally or make hands-free calls as needed. And it’s even equipped for connecting CD or DVD players. Plus, this receiver offers backup camera support, letting you link your car’s rear camera so you can see what’s behind you clearly. Keep in mind that this unit can only do so much. It’s a great overall audio system, but when it’s paired with low-quality speakers, you likely won’t notice much of a difference in sound quality. Additionally, the built-in amp is not the best, and you may want to consider upgrading to a separate, better-quality amp.

Specs

  • Brand: Boss Audio Systems
  • Size: 4.88 in L x 7 in W x 2 in H
  • Style: Single din

Pros

  • Easy-to-use LCD display
  • Dimmable, LED-lit buttons and display
  • Bluetooth capable for hands-free calling and streaming
  • Includes USB port and aux input

Cons

  • Difficult to install
  • Small, thin metal components bend easily

When it comes to value, it’s hard to top the Boss Audio Systems Multimedia Car Stereo. At first glance, this single din head unit looks pretty simple; it’s not a touchscreen device, but it doesn’t run short on any features. With Bluetooth connectivity, you can easily sync your smartphone to stream, and you’ll find both a USB port and aux input to connect with wires if you’d like. The LCD display is lit up with dimmable LED lights, and you can control just how bright you’d like the display to glow. A built-in microphone makes hands-free calls a breeze, and you’ll be able to play any digital media files. Plus, when it comes to controlling and customizing your audio, the controls let you achieve the right balance thanks to an easy-to-use equalizer. However, installation may not be an effortless process. It’s a bit of a challenging receiver to install, especially when it comes to the small, thin pieces of metal that are meant to lock the system in place. These can bend easily, which adds some frustration to the installation.

Specs

  • Brand: Jensen
  • Size: 8 in L x 3 in W x 3 in H
  • Style: N/A

Pros

  • High-resolution LCD display
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • One-touch Siri and Google voice assist
  • Customizable sound settings

Cons

  • Microphone isn’t the best quality
  • Sizing is a bit funky

The Jensen Car Stereo Receiver puts total control in your hands. Whether you’re trying to perfectly balance or customize your speakers’ output or need to have convenient smartphone control, this head unit can do it. Featuring a high-resolution LCD display with easy-to-reach preset buttons, you can listen to the radio or use the Bluetooth connectivity to stream music wirelessly. You’ll have customizable sound selections at your fingertips, from two-band control to four preset EQ curves, plus presets you can set yourself. And if you want to use your smartphone’s voice assist functionality, it’s possible with the touch of one button. There are just two details to keep in mind with this car audio system. First, its sizing is a bit odd. It may not work in all vehicles, and it may need some finessing to get in place. Some users had to shave down the edges a bit for a seamless fit. Additionally, the built-in microphone for voice control and hands-free calling isn’t the greatest. You may sound muffled when using it to make calls.

Specs

  • Brand: Boss Audio Systems
  • Size: 7 in L x 6.5 in W x 3.9 in H
  • Style: Double din

Pros

  • 6.2-inch touchscreen display
  • Rear and front camera compatible
  • Bluetooth connectivity for voice control
  • Works with existing steering wheel controls

Cons

  • Have to scroll a bit to see all options
  • Audio cuts out when camera is in use

With a long list of features, inputs, outputs, and equalizer settings, the Boss Audio Systems Receiver is a car audio system that doesn’t skimp on its capabilities. This receiver really has it all, from Bluetooth connectivity to a built-in microphone to wireless streaming with voice control to rear and front camera inputs to steering wheel audio control. Plus, it’ll play any audio source, from CDs to streaming apps to USB and MP3 files to AM/FM radio. The equalizer settings let you customize your sound with the right amount of balance, fade, bass, treble, and more. There’s even a wireless remote control if you’d like to stay on top of the settings from inside or outside your vehicle. You’ll even get the option to charge your USB-compatible devices while you’re on the road, thanks to the included USB input. Note that when the backup camera is in use on this receiver, the audio stops. You won’t be able to use the camera and keep your audio playing. Additionally, trying to use all of the available options can take some time. You’ll need to scroll for quite a bit to access the entire list of features and settings.

Specs

  • Brand: Dual Electronics
  • Size: 7 in L x 7 in W x 4 in H
  • Style: Double din

Pros

  • 6.2-inch LED backlit LCD touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 7 EQ presets and 30 station presets
  • Streams and makes calls hands-free

Cons

  • Clock settings can disappear or reset suddenly

When it comes to touchscreen car audio systems, the Dual Electronics Stereo is responsive, easy to use, and nicely bright. Equipped with a 6.2-inch LED backlit LCD touchscreen, it’s perfect for clear visibility in both daylight and darkness. Don’t want to use the touchscreen? A small selection of seamless buttons gives you even more control to scroll through the settings, presets, and options. This receiver comes with built-in Bluetooth so you can make hands-free calls, use voice commands, and stream wireless from your favorite apps on your most-used devices. Plus, when it comes to customizing your music or audio, the preset EQ curves and the ability to set your own two-band tone control gives you everything you need. The clock settings can suddenly disappear or reset, however, leaving you fussing with your chosen settings. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it can be a minor annoyance.

Our Verdict

The Pyle In-Dash Car Stereo is one nicely capable car audio system, one that offers a long list of features and plenty of options. It’s convenient and easy to manage via touchscreen or your voice with all of the versatility you need to use your smartphone, radio, or any other device. If you’re looking for a more affordable option that’s still value rich, the Boss Audio Systems Multimedia Car Stereo is another solid pick with modern features, Bluetooth connectivity, and seamless smartphone integration. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Car Audio System

Bluetooth Connectivity

While Bluetooth isn’t a necessity, it’s a hugely helpful feature to have and most of today’s systems do offer it. With Bluetooth connectivity, you’ll be able to wirelessly connect your smartphone and receiver, which means you can play your favorite podcasts, stream music, or listen to audiobooks without plugging in or fussing with extra accessories. Plus, it’s even more helpful for phone calls, as you’ll be able to take and make hands-free calls over your audio system. 

Easy-to-Use Display and Controls

No one wants to fuss with their audio system while trying to drive, so an easy-to-use display along with simple, straightforward controls are important. To operate your controls safely, make sure the touchscreen is sensitive, the buttons are sizable enough to hit, and the display lets you see pertinent information during the day and at night. The fewer frustrations and distractions, such as eliminating daytime glare, the better. 

Seamless Vehicle Fit

To make sure you get a perfect, edge-to-edge fit, you’ll want to look for units that are made for your make, model, and model year. You can also measure your existing receiver so you know what size you need. If you’re opting for a setup that may not seamlessly fit your vehicle, try to find a product that comes with bumpers that can make for a perfect size after installation. 

Pricing 

Upgrading your factory car audio system doesn’t have to cost a whole lot. With products priced as low as $30 and as high as $200 or more, you have a wide range of options. For $30 to $50, you’ll find budget-friendly head units that are streamlined yet include modern must-haves such as Bluetooth connectivity. For $50 to $150, you’ll have an even wider range of choices, including premium receivers with touchscreens and a long list of features. Spend more than $150, and you’ll be choosing from larger, more capable, and top-tier audio setups.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: How many watts should a good car audio system have?

A: Aim for a minimum of 20 RMS watts per channel, or a base range of 60 to 80 watts at peak output, to choose a solid sound system.

Q: What components are needed for a car audio system?

A: You’ll need a stereo receiver (or head unit), an amplifier, and speakers. The number of components, along with any wiring or extras you might need, will vary depending on your exact make and model. Just note that when you’re shopping, each component of the system is often sold separately.

Q: Do you need an amplifier in a car audio system?

A: This is a component you really can’t skip. Without an amplifier, your audio system won’t work.

Q: Do you really need a subwoofer in a car audio system?

A: While it might seem like an extra you can skip if you’re not really into turning up the bass, you do want to add a subwoofer. Many drivers can get away with just one, but it’s a key piece to enhance the low tones of whatever you’re listening to, and a subwoofer can help evenly distribute bass.