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.
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.