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.
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 enough quality to even bother with. It can be tricky enough for people who exactly what to look for, 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.
Editor’s Choice Head Unit
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- 1 Best Double Din Head Unit Reviews Of 2019
- 2 More Things You Should Know About Double DIN Head Units
- 3 Will my steering wheel controls still work?
- 4 What if your head unit controls things like climate, how your door locks work, etc?
- 5 Final Thoughts :
Best Double Din Head Unit Reviews Of 2019
1. Pioneer AVH-4201NEX – Our Top Pick :
The functionality and features will draw you in, but it’s the incredible sound that really makes this deck worth it. When it’s all said and done, and you’ve upgraded every aspect of your car stereo, it all starts at the deck, 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 one, 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 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 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), while you’re still able to control your own audio and access other features 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.
2. Sony XAV-AX5000 :
If you care about quality (both sound and build-wise), this 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 Auto 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 single DIN, 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.
3. Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX :
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 head unit.
This is Pioneer’s most feature-packed and best quality deck 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.
4. Alpine iLX-207 :
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 deck 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 stereo supports a ton of different audio sources from Spotify, 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 unit, however, doesn’t play CD’s. 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.
5. Kenwood Excelon DNX994S :
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 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 deck 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.
6. Sony XAV-AX200 :
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 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.
7. Pioneer MVH-1400NEX :
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.
More Things You Should Know About Double DIN Head Units
What are flagship model double DINs? :
Most of these are what we describe as a flagship model, which means it’s the marquee 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 the budget brands out there? :
There are some brands out there selling 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?
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 if your head unit controls things like climate, how your door locks work, etc?
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.
Final Thoughts :
Getting an aftermarket 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.
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?
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