Best Aftermarket Car Stereo: Upgrade Your Stereo’s Sound Quality
Upgrade your car’s old stock stereo to one with modern features.
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New cars come with a large touchscreen that allows you to control the vehicle’s stereo and several other functions. If you have an older car, you don’t have this modern feature, but you can change that fact. Buying and installing an aftermarket car stereo can breathe new life into your car. This will give your car a modern touch and improve the functionality of your car’s stereo. Check out these car stereos to replace your old one.
This single DIN car stereo comes with built-in Bluetooth, USB input, AM/FM radio, and an aux input. You can connect your Android smartphone through the front USB.
- Built-in amplifiers
- Supports Android open accessory 2.0
- Weak microphone
- Instructions aren’t intuitive
Install this single DIN stereo unit in your car and enjoy the seven-character LCD display. It comes with a built-in Siri/Google Voice assist button, Bluetooth, USB port, AM/FM tuner, and aux port.
- Four preset EQ curves
- Two band tone control
- Overly bright blue light display
- Extra flare around the outside edge
Upgrade your stereo with this digital media receiver. It comes with an AM.FM tuner, USB port, smartphone compatibility, Bluetooth, and voice command controls.
- RBDS information
- Works with Pandora
- Auto switches
- Small controls
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Benefits of Aftermarket Car Stereos
- More entertainment choices. Aftermarket car stereos are compatible with many devices, giving you more entertainment options. You can play music from your phone, USB storage device, or PC. You can also listen to AM/FM radio.
- Improved audio. Since aftermarket car stereos are designed to replace stock car stereos, they deliver high-quality audio. The settings are usually preset so you can get the best audio, no matter the input device you’re using.
- Optional GPS navigation system. Some aftermarket stereos are equipped with large screens and pre-programmed maps. These maps are vital when you need directions or when you’re looking for cool stopovers on the road.
- Enhanced car value. A high-quality stereo can improve the value of your car. You save the potential buyer the hassle of buying another stereo. A good car stereo is one of the features audiophiles look for in cars.
- Improved car aesthetic appeal. When you buy an aftermarket car stereo, you buy more than an audio component. Aftermarket stereos can enhance the look of vehicles. Some have changing light schemes, superb displays, and interactive controls. They add a touch of class to the car’s interior.
Types of Aftermarket Car Stereos
Single DIN Car Stereos
DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung, a standard used by Germans for the radios used in cars. Single DIN car stereos are typically 7 x 2 inches. They have small display screens.
However, this limitation does not compromise their audio quality or multi-device compatibility. Single DIN car stereos can be used with phones, music apps, and USB devices. Some vehicle owners prefer single DIN units for their ease of use and classic appeal.
Double DIN Car Stereos
Double DIN stereos, or 2 DIN car stereos, are bigger than Single DIN systems and measure 7 x 4 inches. They are more preferable to single DIN stereos due to their added features and functionalities. They have larger displays—sometimes touch screens—that can serve as navigation systems.
If your car came with a double DIN system, it is recommended that you replace it with an aftermarket double DIN system. You’ll enjoy better connectivity, faster control, and great audio.
Kenwood is one of the top-rated brands in the car audio industry. It was founded in Japan in 1946. Although it is headquartered in Tokyo, it has a global presence with offices in the U.S. If you’d like to experience Kenwood audio, get a system like the Kenwood Digital Media Player Dual Phone Connection Pandora Car Stereo Receiver. Its features include internet radio and hands-free calling.
Pioneer is an aptly named audio company that is credited with developing devices such as GPS navigation systems and car CD players. It started as a repair shop in 1938 and has grown to be a market leader in car audio solutions. In 1993, it established the U.S. division. The Pioneer AVH-210EX Double DIN Stereo and the Pioneer Single DIN In-Dash Stereo Receiver can be great additions to your vehicle.
Alpine’s roots go back to 1967 when it was founded in Tokyo, Japan. It changed its name to Alpine Electronics a decade later. Alpine stereos have a great reputation for high-quality audio. Popular car manufacturers such as Jaguar and Jeep have even collaborated with the company in the past. If you are willing to forego CDs and play digital media only, the Alpine UTE-73BT Digital Media Receiver is worth getting.
Boss has been in the audio industry for three decades, etching a name for itself as a provider of top-notch audio equipment. The California-based outfit is known for its speakers, headphones, and car stereos. It has affordable sound systems and a great brand reputation. Give the Boss Double DIN Audio Receiver a try and experience great visuals and quality audio output.
Aftermarket Car Stereo Pricing
- $50-$100: Most good car stereos sell for $70 and above. As you edge closer to $100, you’ll find stereos with more features. Most stereos here have a single DIN system and features such as Bluetooth, iOS, and Android compatibility.
- $100-$200: Car stereos in this range are usually made by reputable brands—like Sony, JVC, JBL, Rockford, Morel, Polk—and have a 2 DIN system. They offer superb sound quality and visuals. Some audio systems can play Spotify music and have interactive HD displays.
- $200-$300: Further up the price bracket you’ll get a premium car stereo that perfectly fits a more expensive vehicle. Some stereos here are custom-made for specific vehicles and can’t fit other vehicles. However, if the unit can be installed in different vehicles, it may have larger displays, video output, camera integration, and even voice control.
- $500 and up: One of the reasons you may want to consider getting a car stereo in this price bracket is its compatibility with Sirius XM satellite radio. Features such as phone control and Wi-Fi connectivity are commonplace in this price category.
When buying an aftermarket car stereo, you need to think about the various audio sources it can work with. Most car stereos can play AM/FM radio, audio CDs, and media on digital storage devices. However, higher-end ones offer Spotify compatibility and can play Sirius XM radio. All these features affect the quality and price of an aftermarket car stereo.
Display is a key influencer of how you interact with a car stereo. Single DIN aftermarket stereos typically have LED display panels, while double DIN audio systems have large color displays. In some cars, these displays function as screens that show navigation maps. However, this cool feature has to be enabled.
Car stereos do not produce the loudest sound on their own. To that end, you will need an amplifier to boost the power from the head unit for better audio output. You may be fortunate enough to find a good stereo with an amplifier, but amplifiers are usually sold separately. If you buy an amplifier separately, be sure to select a good one or you risk frying the entire system. Its power output and input must be compatible with that of your stereo.
These play a big role in your comfort and driving experience. Single DIN units use buttons and dials while most double DIN systems use touch screens and on-steering controls. If your budget allows, get a stereo with an interactive touchscreen as you’ll have faster access to features. However, it’s also important to note the response levels of the controls. This will ensure you don’t play very loud music and stay focused on the road.
- Security Features. Cool accessories come with security concerns. Fortunately, some aftermarket car stereos have features such as detachable faceplates and passcodes. Whichever security feature you choose, make sure your vehicle also has a good security system.
- Compatibility with Phone Operating Systems. If your car stereo is compatible with Android and iOS operating systems, you can easily connect to different apps. You can make the most of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri, and Mirrorlink.
- GPS Navigation. In this age of digitalization, GPS navigation is a feature you cannot live without. Getting an audio system with GPS navigation puts you at an advantage. You can easily access unknown locations as you listen to great music.
Best Aftermarket Car Stereo Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- A single DIN unit will be a direct replacement for your stock stereo. A double-DIN will require you to make some adjustments, as it is usually double the size. Single DIN stereos won’t have a touchscreen, while double DINs will.
- Pick a unit that has good sound quality if you enjoy listening to music. You don’t want the sound to become distorted when you adjust the volume. Look for features like bass and treble adjustability.
- Not all units will provide you with full phone functionality. Pay attention to how the manufacturer describes this. It could be compatible for playing music, or it could give you full hands-free control over your phone.
Q: What features are most important for a car stereo?
A: This completely depends on what you like to listen to. If you enjoy listening to the radio, then AM/FM is important. If you listen to satellite radio, then you’ll need a compatible unit. For others, full phone integration is the most important feature. Other great features include MP3 playback, DVD playback, Bluetooth, or GPS navigation.
Q: Will I get better sound quality with an aftermarket stereo?
A: This depends on the unit you buy. If you buy a quality unit, it will have a better circuit design and more built-in power. This will give it a louder and cleaner sound than your stock stereo. If sound quality is critical for you, look for preamp features that let you further control the sound.
Q: Can it match my interior?
A: An aftermarket car stereo will never exactly match the interior of your car like your stock stereo. However, it can enhance the look of your interior with full-color animated displays and custom color schemes. If you choose a touchscreen model, then you can select a unit that lets you customize the background.
Our top pick for the best aftermarket car stereo is the Pioneer In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver. It has built-in amplifiers and several audio features for plenty of versatility.
For a more affordable option, the Jensen MPR210 Multimedia Single DIN Car Stereo Receiver will deliver impressive audio quality. It comes with four preset EQ curves and two band tone control.