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Best Double DIN Head Unit Reviews

James Benchman
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by James Benchman

If you’ve got room in your dash for a double DIN head unit, you’re in luck because the following decks will put that extra space to great use.

Replacing your head unit doesn’t have to be a difficult or complicated process. In fact, the hardest part is probably choosing the right one. But, that’s what we’re here for with this guide!

We know that with so many choices, it can become a real chore to compare all of the features and to understand what sets them apart from one another. Not to mention trying to determine which ones are high quality enough to even bother with. It can be tricky enough for people who know exactly what to look for in a double DIN head unit. So, for somebody who doesn’t eat and breathe car audio, it’s extra challenging.

We’ve done all of the heavy lifting to help you choose the best double DIN head unit, whether you’re replacing the stock one, or just looking for something with some more features. All of the following decks have passed the test, and hold up to scrutiny, so it comes down to selecting the one that has the features you want, and fits your budget.

Double Din Head Unit
  • Absolutely packed with features and doesn’t cut any corners
  • Backup camera is included
  • Siri Eyes Free technology lets you focus on the road
  • Handles digital media perfectly
  • Easily connects to rear-view camera
  • Safer trips with hands-free calling and media control
  • Excellent navigation features that work smoothly
  • Multimedia experience keeps passengers busy with a movie
  • Crisp sound quality thanks to built-in equalization technology
  • If you’re using Apple products exclusively, the issues with Android Auto won’t impact you at all
  • The box comes packed with tons of harnesses and connectors, a mounting pad, screws, adaptors, GPS antenna, and a lot more
  • This device is compatible with FLAC files for a crystal clear audio experience
  • Very high-quality audio with a 13 band EQ
  • Hands-free Bluetooth capabilities for phone calls and for streaming media
  • Crystal clear 6.95″ touch-screen display makes navigation easy

Best Double DIN Head Unit Reviews

1. Pioneer AVH-4201NEX – Our Top Pick for best double DIN head unit:

The functionality and features will draw you in, but it’s the incredible sound quality that really makes this head unit worth it. When it’s all said and done, and you’ve upgraded every aspect of your car stereo, it all starts at the head unit, and this one gives you a rock-solid foundation to build around.

They’ve even included a backup camera, not just support for a backup camera, but the actual camera.

There are a lot of good things to say about this head unit, but let’s start with the sound. It sounds really, really good. It can handle audio files up to 24-bit 192kHz. The sound that comes out of your speakers is only as good as the source.

It’s obvious why this double DIN head unit is one of Pioneer’s flagship models. It only takes a few minutes of using it to see how much thought went into the implementation of different features, and the overall ease of use. The touchscreen is a dream, it’s very sensitive and we didn’t find ourselves fighting with it at all. This is important when you’re on the road and you need information fast.

If you’ve got screens for the passengers in your back seats, you’ll feel like this double DIN head unit has paid for itself in just a couple of road trips. Thanks to the Dual Zone technology, your passengers are able to watch or listen to whatever they want (with headphones via Bluetooth), while you’re still able to control your own audio and access other features on the touchscreen like navigation without any interruptions.

The AVH-4201NEX is a collection of countless little things like come together to create an incredible package. The newer model has a handy remote control, just make sure it doesn’t fall under your seat!

The heads up display on the home screen gives you a ton of information at a glance, you don’t have to spend more than a split second to see info about your destination, the weather, the song you’re playing, the date and time, and even event seeker to help you find things to do.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking the long way home, a great stereo has that effect on people.

Pros
  • Absolutely packed with features and doesn’t cut any corners
  • Backup camera is included
  • Siri Eyes Free technology lets you focus on the road
  • HD Radio gives you CD quality radio stations with no subscription needed
Cons
  • You need to purchase an input cable separately to unlock the full feature set of Android Auto
  • If you have an Android and an iPhone, you can only connect one of them at a time

2. Sony XAV-AX5000 Double DIN Head Unit:

If you care about quality (both sound and build-wise), this double DIN head unit is a worthwhile investment. From hands-free calling and hands-free control of your music, and access to a number of audio sources, this is a complete package.

Support for both Android and Apple Carplay rounds it all out by ensuring that you don’t need to worry about whether or not your next phone will be compatible.

This double DIN deck from Sony has all of the usual suspects for features that you would expect from a modern head unit, while also trimming some of the fat that you’d find in older units.

The hands-free functionality works great, it doesn’t feel like a chore or a hindrance to control things while staying safe and keeping your attention on the road. Being able to make calls and control audio streams hands-free is a big plus because you don’t have to pull over to take a call, nor do you have to try to discreetly select a new song with your phone on your lap at a red light.

Sony reminds us why it’s nice to have the extra double DIN space for a big screen by allowing you to connect your reverse camera, if you have one. The 7-inch screen is quite a bit bigger than most cellphones, making it super easy to lookup maps, see what’s going on in you camera, and more.

Some people prefer the more compact size of a single DIN head unit, but when you’ve got the space for more, you might as well go all out.

Whether we wanted to throw on a podcast, stream a playlist from Spotify, play some files from our phones, or connect to Sirius XM radio, this unit supports it all, except for lacking an auxiliary input. If your audio source doesn’t support Bluetooth and you need to use AUX, you’ll want to pass on this deck and find one with AUX.

Pros
  • Handles digital media perfectly
  • Easily connects to rear-view camera
  • Safer trips with hands-free calling and media control
  • Screen has excellent image quality and brightness
  • Capacitive touchscreen is very responsive and quick to navigate
  • Supports high-quality FLAC files over USB
Cons
  • If you get an older used unit, you may need to update the firmware to fix some bugs
  • Phone needs to be connected via USB for voice commands to work
  • Doesn’t include HD Radio
  • Lacks AUX input

3. Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX Double DIN Head Unit:

We recommend this deck to people who are looking for the top-tier of performance and features, with an emphasis on navigation.

If you don’t really use navigation all that much, this is still a solid unit, but if you frequently drive around in unfamiliar territory, or just want to stay up to date on the latest road conditions, it’s hard to beat this Pioneer flagship car stereo.

Pioneer is one of the rare brands that manages to serve both the higher and lower ends of the market when it comes to audio. They can go from making incredible budget speakers like their home theater line designed by Andrew Jones, but they can also take off the gloves and go all-in like with this type of double DIN head unit.

This is Pioneer’s most feature-packed and best quality double DIN head unit from 2016. Like the Kenwood DNX994S deck that also appears on this list, this one isn’t the latest year’s release which presents a perfect opportunity to save a ton of cash while still getting a flagship deck.

One thing that can get really frustrating with some touchscreen head units is when you’re sitting there, trying to use the navigation, and the screen isn’t responding to you. With a capacitive display, controlling the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX feels almost exactly like using the touchscreen on your smartphone, and the interface is familiar in that same way.

It really feels like having a top-tier navigation system was a priority when designing this deck.

Apple Carplay and Android Auto work but you’ve got to plug in via USB (which isn’t uncommon), but wireless car controls are obviously better when they’re available.

The first time that you use Siri to send a text message using your voice is pretty exciting, we’re always on board for anything that makes driving safer.

We appreciated the auto EQ mic input that hides behind the display, it’s nice to get everything EQ’d properly with the wizard, especially for people who don’t have a trained ear to be able to do this manually.

Setup is about what you’d expect: All the ports you want are here including rear-view camera, a pre-amp for front, rear, and a subwoofer, steering wheel controls, and more. And it has built-in Bluetooth.

Pros
  • Excellent navigation features that work smoothly
  • Multimedia experience keeps passengers busy with a movie, or keeps everyone rocking with amazing audio from numerous sources
  • Crisp sound quality thanks to built-in equalization technology
Cons
  • Not the absolute latest and greatest current year model, but you’re also paying considerably less than when it first came out when it was the latest and greatest
  • Took a bit too long for an initial update to fix some Carplay issues, but it’s all good now

4. Alpine iLX-207 Double DIN Head Unit:

An incredible sounding head unit that lives up to the Alpine name. Most of the deck is actually single DIN sized, but it gets larger at the front to accommodate the screen.

You’ll still need a double DIN slot, but it gives you a little extra leeway if you’re short on space. It can handle just about any audio source you can throw at it, and it does so gracefully.

Alpine is one of the leading brands in car audio, and you would be hard pressed to find any list of top car stereos that doesn’t include at least one of their offerings. Anyone who installs car audio has put in hundreds, if not thousands, of Alpine head units. When you’re getting name-checked by NWA, you’re probably doing something right.

Right off the bat, this double DIN head unit works great with Apple Carplay and iPhones, but the results can be mixed with Android. If you’re an Android Auto fan, it might not be worth the risk, but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem then it’s full steam ahead.

This head unit supports a ton of different audio sources from Spotify, built-in Bluetooth, Pandora, AM/FM Radio, iPod, HDMI, SiriusXM, and HD Radio. To be fair, the vast majority of high-end head units that we’re featuring today can also support these formats.

You just don’t really see flagship stereos that can’t handle all of the above. This head unit, however, doesn’t play CDs and has no CD player. Whether a high-end deck will play CD’s and DVD’s can be a bit of a toss-up, and it really comes down to what you’re looking for.

Pros
  • If you’re using Apple products exclusively, the issues with Android Auto won’t impact you at all
  • The box comes packed with tons of harnesses and connectors, a mounting pad, screws, adaptors, GPS antenna, and a lot more
  • This device is compatible with FLAC files for a crystal clear audio experience
  • List Element
Cons
  • Android integration leaves a lot to be desired
  • You need to connect your phone with a cable to get full functionality, features are limited over a Bluetooth connection

5. Kenwood Excelon DNX994S Double DIN Head Unit:

This head unit is a heavy-hitter, and a perfect choice if you want something with the quality and features of a high-end flagship, without spending as much as you would have to for something that was released this year.

With very high-quality audio at the forefront, it’s rounded out by all of the features and inputs to keep your tunes blasting, no matter where they’re coming from.

This double DIN head unit has been out for a few years, so it’s not necessarily on the bleeding edge, but that creates a perfect opportunity to get a very high-end flagship model for a fraction of what it originally cost.

Keeping in mind that a great head unit can last you for many, many years… does it really matter if you don’t have it during the first couple of years that it’s released? As long as all of the features you need are there, and it has the correct connectivity, this is a bullet-proof way to get a great deck for much less expensive. You also have the advantage of knowing that this head unit has been around the block a few times, and has stood the test of time.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about why this head unit got on our radar in the first place. It has everything you would expect from a flagship head unit, and you’re covered whether you have an iPhone (Apple Carplay) or an Android (Android Auto).

Some head units only have an input for one camera, but this one has two, which is always a plus because we don’t want anyone to have to choose between the convenience of a rear-view camera and the safety and protection that comes from having a dash cam.

Pros
  • Very high-quality audio with a 13 band EQ
  • Hands-free Bluetooth capabilities for phone calls and for streaming media
  • Crystal clear 6.95″ touch-screen display makes navigation easy
  • Maps are fast and easy to update as roads change
Cons
  • Can’t run an external MP3 player along with Android or Apple Carplay simultaneously
  • Kenwood only offers a 2 year free subscription for traffic data, after which you’ll need to renew

6. Sony XAV-AX200 Double DIN Head Unit:

Sony knows how to create a comfortable user-experience. If you’ve used any of their products in the past, including a Playstation, then you should feel right at home.

It’s not the exact same interface, but it has that Sony familiarity.

The first thing to catch your attention is the style of this double DIN head unit. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing head units that we’ve seen in quite a while.

The screen is a bit smaller than the standard 6.9 or 7 inches, coming in at 6.4 inches. You don’t miss the extra size, it’s mostly occupied by the buttons to the left of the screen, and those buttons are fantastic so it’s well worth trimming a bit off at the side to make room for them.

Another plus is that the CD/DVD drive is right at the front, instead of hiding behind the screen, which makes it easier for people who are changing CD’s or DVD’s more often.

Now, if you’ve moved past physical media and will be streaming from your phone instead, there’s another model, the AX100, that doesn’t have CD/DVD, and also lacks XM Sirius.

Pros
  • One of the best looking head units out there, often fitting in even better than the stock systems it is replacing
  • Sounds even better than it looks
Cons
  • Your phone must be plugged in for Apple Carplay/Android Auto, neither supports wireless functionality
  • The SiriusXM trial lasts for 3 months, after which you’ll have to pay to keep using it

7. Pioneer MVH-1400NEX Double DIN Head Unit

This is a budget-orientated option, while still sharing many of the most important features that you’d expect from a high-end head unit.

Compared to the other choices on this list, it’s not quite there, but it’s a more-than-suitable alternative if you’re putting together a more modest entertainment system for your car.

Right off the bat, we have to mention that this is a more affordable option, and you get what you pay for. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is a solid unit if you’re looking to spend a bit less and still want something above-average with a decent set of features. For starters, the touchscreen is a noticeable step down compared to the other Pioneer decks, but for the most part it still holds its own.

There are some quirks to this device, as you would expect from something in a lower price range. For example, Mixtrax is a feature that adds in extra sounds, effects, and transitions while you’re listening to your music. It’s hard to imagine anyone that invests in great aftermarket stereo equipment being okay with a “feature” that messes around with their music like that.

With that said, even a mid-tier Pioneer deck is going to blow the budget brands that try to do everything (and don’t execute any of it well) right out of the water. If you have sticker-shock after looking at some of these flagships, the MVH-1400NEX is a very suitable candidate.

We’re impressed to see that it supports DVDs, since plenty of higher-end units don’t have that capability anymore. Some brands are phasing this out, or only offering it on select models, as people turn away from physical media.

Pros
  • DVD support is a very nice touch, even if it means the screen is a bit smaller
  • A more affordable option for anyone who wants an upgrade from stock but doesn’t need the very top of the line
  • Support for both Apple Carplay and Android Auto that exceeds expectations
Cons
  • The package is pretty bare bones (includes a wiring harness, a USB extension, and a Bluetooth microphone)
  • It’s a clear step below the other decks on this list (and is priced accordingly, which is good)

More Things You Should Know About Double DIN Head Units

What are flagship models of double DIN head units?

Most of these are what we describe as a flagship model, which means it’s the marquee double DIN offering from that particular brand, for that particular period of time. These are the head units where manufacturers don’t pull any punches. It’s a chance to show off their latest technology to consumers who are looking for the very best.

Flagship models will often allow you to easily add a tuner for SiriusXM, to connect 1 or 2 cameras, to control Bluetooth features with your voice, to connect Apple Carplay and Android Auto (however some work better than others).

Sometimes, they’ll have support for FLAC and other premium audio formats. You’ll often be able to stream from your favorite music apps like Spotify and Pandora.

Most of the aforementioned head units have most of these features, even if we didn’t list all of them for each and every deck. We focused on highlighting the features that each deck excels at the most, to make it easier to choose one based on your priorities.

What about some of those budget brands out there?

There are some brands out there selling double DIN head units for surprisingly low prices. These are always brands that nobody has heard of it, and even if the specs seem similar, the quality just isn’t there.

We’re talking about the BEST double dins today, and it’s expensive to make a top-quality flagship stereo. Some of the biggest brands in the world of audio are fighting neck-to-neck, and always trying to leapfrog the competition with incremental improvements. It’s just not fathomable for a no-name brand to come out of nowhere and sell anything even remotely similar for a fraction of the cost.

By sticking to leading brands like Sony, Pioneer, Alpine, and Kenwood you’re going to have reputable support if you run into any issues. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

There are too many horror stories of people using these off-brand stereos and running into all sorts of trouble. If you’re looking to spend a bit less, you can still find some decent lower-cost and mid-tier options from reputable brands (like the Pioneer MVH-1400NEX that managed to squeak it’s way onto this list as a value pick). You may miss out on some of the fancier features here and there, but it’ll be worth it to go with a reliable brand.

Will my steering wheel controls still work after an upgrade to a double DIN head unit?

This depends on your vehicle, and compatibility with the deck you choose, but for the most part you can keep your steering wheel controls, you’ll just need an extra wiring kit.

What about other controls a head unit may have?

Things get a little more tricky when we look at modern vehicles, because the head unit controls a lot more than just the stereo. In these cases, you can make things easier for yourself by choosing a head unit that supports an iDatalink Maestro, which will help you keep all of your vehicle’s functionality, even when the stock head unit has been replaced.

What else should I look for in a double DIN head unit?

We hope you enjoyed reading this buyer’s guide for the best double DIN head units out in the market right now and checking out each of the reviews to see which head unit is going to work best for your needs. Chance are that you’re going to identify two or maybe three different head units that all can do a great job for what you want. Although this gives you more choices and you have to make a decision, that’s a good position to be in and not be stuck in a situation where you’re deciding between different head units that none satisfy all of your requirements and you will settle for less.

When you do have 2 or more to choose from, then you can move from your “must have” list of items to the “nice to have” list. These could be additional features that are not that important to you (like built-in Bluetooth or hands-free calling) or you don’t see yourself using them much, but maybe there will be a need for it in the future if you change your habits or someone turns you onto some way of listening to music or features that could enhance your experience. There’s also the aesthetic aspect or looks of the head unit that you can use to make a final decision.

Today, you have head units that offer a lot of customization options in terms of the colors of illumination of the standard buttons that they have. Even more so today, however, we really don’t have many buttons left and more about touchscreen technology. Still, whether it’s buttons or maybe how the user interface is setup and allows the user to customize to their taste, that’s a good factor to use for picking your final choice. Some people definitely like to tweak every last little thing on their products, especially in terms of looks and maybe user interface functionality. If you’re one of those people, then this is a great area to look for a particular brand or model that may differentiate itself for you to pick as your winner.

Also, see what you think about the actual touch screen in terms of size, of course, but also the material and technology used. The touch screen can make a significant difference in terms of lighting, clarity, and even touch response. Other important features to think about are if they have built-in Bluetooth. And, are hands-free calls possible and are they done via built-in Bluetooth. Whether single DIN or the latest double DIN head units, they should all be easy to use as you don’t want a car stereo that is frustrating. After all, an upgraded car stereo should give you more enjoyment and that’s what car stereos are for after all, right?

Of course, don’t forget some of the main fundamentals like how much power is provided and across how many channels. You’ll see this information designated as the following examples: 25 Watts x 4, 50 Watts x 4, 125 Watts x 4, or 75 Watts x 4. This is telling you how much power (Watts) the head unit is able to provide to how many channels of audio, that’s the “x 4” part. So, x 4 after the power amount means 4 channels. So, 25W x 4 means that the deck provides a maximum of 25 Watts to 4 channels (x 4) of audio. So, if you have 4 pieces of speakers in your overall car system, each speaker will be fed 25 Watts from your head unit. As well, 125W x 4 means that you’re getting 125W of power to x 4 or 4 channels of audio. Finally, 75W x 4 means you’re getting 75 Watts to 4 channels (or x 4) of audio output. Conversely, if you have a need for 6 channels of audio (so, x 6 and not x 4), then you would look for a head unit that has a specification of something like 55W x 6.

Ultimately, the best double DIN deck for you will feature built-in Bluetooth, stream music, hands-free calling, and be easy to use. Now, you may have additional needs like video output, one USB port, also allows support for a rear camera, also comes with a remote, maybe a graphic equalizer, support for your iPod iPhone, features responsive touch screen, have the capability to sync with two phones, and maybe also be a CD receiver. Those are the additional things you should look for above in our reviews to make the right choice.

Final Thoughts

Getting an aftermarket double DIN head unit is one of the best upgrades you can make to your car’s audio, and beyond that, they take care of a lot more than just sound these days. This is your interface to your vehicle, and your connection to the world. And a double DIN can be so much more enjoyable than a single DIN head unit.

It bridges the gap between your phone and your car. When you’re already putting in the work to research and build your car stereo system, why not opt for a flagship head unit to complement it?

Some thoughts about installation and completing your double DIN upgrade

We’ve talked about installation and ease of getting it done above in our head unit reviews. Some can be easier to install than others, but overall, it’s not that big a task and you should be able to get it accomplished without a lot of trouble. Of course, it’ll depend how handy you are and if you have any experience with these types of car audio or electronics upgrades.

Typically, there will be some electrical connection aspect to the install or upgrade. There is also an overall wiring portion of the work in terms of getting the head unit to drive all of the speakers in the system. As discussed above in terms of power distribution and capability of your head unit, a 75W x 4 head unit means that you’ll need to wire up those 4 channels (the x 4 part) to your speakers in the system.

Finally, there’s the physical aspect of the installation in terms of the head unit getting placed into the double DIN slot. You’ll need to see if there’s a template or chassis that the unit will slide into for the double DIN slot or does it just slip in on its own and then get secure. As always, check the manual and installation instructions that come with your new double DIN head unit and make sure you read all of them and understand them completely before getting started. That’s always the best practice to make sure you don’t hurt your vehicle, your new head unit, and most important yourself.

Luckily, these days you can not only access the original manufacturer’s website for detailed instructions and additional tips, but there’s also YouTube that will probably have multiple helpful videos that take you through the process. Just make sure you don’t rush things. Take your time, do it right the first time, and don’t be in a hurry to just get it done. That’s usually a good way to mess things up and be sorry. You’ll be done soon enough, anyway, and the better you manage the installation the more you’re going to enjoy all of the hours and hopefully years of listening the new head unit will provide to you.

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About James Benchman
James Benchman
James is an Automotive Mechanic with over 20 years experience and 300+ car repairs. He is an expert with cars and has worked with different models from the biggest brands.James is a Mechanic , Husband , Father of 3 , and head of content at Caraudiologic. Learn more about us
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