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The Best Single DIN Head Unit

James Benchman
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by James Benchman

Whether you’re looking for a replacement unit and are hoping to avoid cutting your car’s interior up or want something more streamlined, a single din car stereo is probably the answer.

These are the standard-sized head units that are compatible with a range of vehicles and offer plenty of modern features—meaning it’s time to get rid of the old CD player from the 2000s.

Here are our thoughts on the best single DIN head unit out there.

Top 5 Single Din Head Units
  • Bluetooth functionality
  • SiriusXM ready
  • Dedicated subwoofer pre-amp output
  • USB and AUX inputs on the front
  • Wireless remote included
  • Detachable faceplate
  • Bluetooth functionality
  • 7” motorized touchscreen and DVD play capability
  • Detachable front panel for security
  • 7-inch motorized touchscreen
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • DVD play capabilities
  • AUX and USB input
  • Audio adjustment includes multiple equalizer settings
  • Sound reconstruction for files encoded at low bit rates

Best Single DIN Head Unit Reviews

1. Alpine CDE-HD 149BT

The sound quality with Alpine’s 149BT is excellent, the range of functions is stellar, and it’s an affordable way to get Bluetooth connectivity in older vehicles. One drawback, however, is connectivity issues depending on device type and features.

Overall, for users with Android devices, Alpine’s unit is solid. For iPhone users, there are some bugs to work out, making this a solid choice for some customers and a bit of a gamble for others.

While Bluetooth is a more common feature on most stereos these days, SiriusXM compatibility is somewhat rare. Which means Alpine’s compatible car stereo unit checks the box on one of the most sought-after specs. Plus, it has HD radio audio streaming capabilities, though what channels you get depends on your local radio stations’ offerings.

Bluetooth functionality is a must these days, but unlike other models, this Alpine model doesn’t allow dual connectivity. A minor flaw, but worth noting.

The menus are easily navigable and clear, but if you want a remote control, you’ll have to buy it separately, a somewhat surprising revelation when you consider everything else this unit offers.

Decent Bluetooth call quality is helpful, but it’s also lacking in comparison with other units at this level. And while it works with both Android and Apple devices, many users with iPhones noted some connectivity challenges with certain apps. Plus, Alpine seems to lack patience with Siri: customers indicate she often gets cut off when her replies aren’t concise enough.

Also, certain devices will charge via the USB plug while others won’t, a minor flaw but an irritating one at that. Of course, for many users, that’s not an issue, particularly if they have an alternative device charging setup in the vehicle.

The car stereo display is one of the highlights, as you can customize the colors and dim the backlit glow, but it might still be too bright for some users. And although the screen quality is great and the menu functional, some of the icons are distracting and even nonsensical, something Alpine may consider nixing from future versions.

After all, rotating graphics shouldn’t take up more space than say, song titles or other icons from the menu.

Pros
  • Bluetooth functionality
  • SiriusXM ready
  • Dedicated subwoofer pre-amp output
  • HD radio feature
  • Detachable faceplate for security
Cons
  • Remote control is optional (purchase separately)
  • Dimmable screen is still very bright (3 settings)

2. Pioneer Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo

Back to basics is a reasonable way to describe Pioneer’s single DIN car stereo receiver, and that’s a good thing. It’s an affordable model that delivers crisp sound without compromising on convenience. 4

Back to basics is a reasonable way to describe Pioneer’s single DIN car stereo receiver, and that’s a good thing. It’s an affordable model that delivers crisp sound without compromising on convenience. 4

While Pioneer’s head unit lacks the Bluetooth option many modern stereos have, it delivers quality audio and multiple modes of connectivity. There are both USB and AUX inputs on the front of the unit, so it’s easy to swap out an Android, Apple, or another device for music.

Installation is simple thanks to the basic features, so this is one DIY job that won’t cause a lot of stress. At the same time, Pioneer is a reputable brand with plenty of industry experience (and accolades). So in terms of a functional single din stereo that won’t break the bank, this is a strong contender.

All the essential functions are here: radio presets, customizable equalizer settings, an included wireless remote, plus a detachable faceplate for security. It may not rock your socks off, but you can enjoy a strong audio performance on stock and even upgraded speakers.

The dimmable backlight is a handy feature, and daytime viewing is bright and crisp. One minor inconvenience is there is no “off” switch, so you’ll need to wire the stereo to shut off with the vehicle or you’ll be in low battery trouble in no time.

This car stereo doesn’t have much in the way of looks, but if you need to replace a factory unit, you can’t go wrong with this option. And the sizing is standard, so it’s unlikely customers will need additional equipment to install.

Of course, if you don’t want your car stereo to switch off when the vehicle does, you’ll need to invest in other equipment to ensure you can turn it off—a minor inconvenience but one that’s worth noting.

Pros
  • USB and AUX inputs on the front
  • Wireless remote included
  • Detachable faceplate
Cons
  • No Bluetooth connectivity
  • No “off” switch; must connect to the ignition switch

3. BOSS Audio BV9986BI In Dash Receiver

Hands-free calls, remote audio streaming, and a motorized touchscreen are the highlights of BOSS Audio’s single DIN head unit. Sound quality is superior to other similarly classed stereos, and the ability to connect additional equipment is a definite perk.

The only add-on you’ll need is an interface module to connect the steering wheel buttons to the car stereo—otherwise, everything is already on-board.

For single-DIN setups where customers want full-screen features, BOSS Audio’s unit packs a punch. It has a trim profile, but the unit holds a motorized touchscreen that can play DVDs, connect to your on-board backup camera, and stream music.

Bluetooth is on-board, which is always a plus, but there are also USB, AUX, and SD inputs available. So in addition to music app accessibility, you can also plug and play from multiple memory sources. USB flash drives up to 32GB are compatible, and that includes playing both music and video thanks to the 7-inch screen.

And if audio performance is your game, this head unit has pre-amp outputs that let you connect up to three amps or signal processors for subwoofer channels. Of course, there are also preset equalizer settings and electronic skip protection for CD playback, too.

The design is sleek, which is something most consumers expect with a single din unit—nothing flashy here, especially when the screen is stowed. Of course, depending on the layout of your vehicle’s interior, the screen might bump other accessories as it’s moving in or out.

Although the compatibility with USB and SD memory is great, there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to finding the tracks you want on this car stereo. There is no organization in the menu, so you’ll be stuck with numbers one through thousands rather than being able to search for specific titles.

Pros
  • Bluetooth functionality
  • 7” motorized touchscreen and DVD play capability
  • Detachable front panel for security
  • USB, AUX, and SD input
  • Rear view camera compatibility
  • Steering wheel button functionality
  • Subwoofer preamp outputs
  • Three-year warranty when purchased via Amazon
  • Excellent sound quality
Cons
  • Steering wheel button function requires a separate interface module
  • Challenging menu navigation with SD/USB tracks
  • No CD player; device or memory card/stick and radio play only

4. Pioneer AVH-3300NEX

If video and Bluetooth features are on the top of your car stereos wish list, Pioneer’s AVH-3300NEX head unit will fulfill those needs. Audio quality is great, video quality is superb, and you can access all your music whether it’s via the cloud or plug-in media.

The only drawback we can find is that the USB port is in the back of the car stereo, so accessibility is a challenge.

Another single DIN head unit with a motorized touchscreen, Pioneer’s AVH-3300NEX has just about everything you need for music, video, and smartphone functions. The touchscreen interface is customizable, and you have both DVD and CD capabilities.

And with both CarPlay and Android Auto, you can play tunes with either Apple or Android devices. The caveat, however, is that those functions don’t work via Bluetooth; you’ll need to plug the smartphone in via the USB port instead. The USB port is on the back of the unit, likely to keep it streamlined, so accessibility can prove challenging.

If your vehicle has a backup camera (or you’ve installed an after-market option), you’ll be able to connect that as well, and the video quality is superb. And, the screen tilt can be customized (and the settings stick), so you can alter the way the screen pops out and at what angle.

And although the touchscreen display shows the names of songs and radio stations, you can’t view those details entirely on the smaller, basic display screen. Instead, the songs scroll across the screen, meaning you’ll be taking your eyes off the road to check what song is playing.

In some vehicles, the head unit will stick out a bit, but that depends on how you install plus which make and model vehicle you have, so results can vary. Fortunately, the customizable screen tilt helps with positioning once the touchscreen pops out.

Pros
  • 7-inch motorized touchscreen
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • DVD play capabilities
  • CarPlay and Android Auto functionality
  • Comes with a designated Bluetooth microphone for calls and voice commands
  • SiriusXM compatibility
  • Works with backup cameras
Cons
  • USB port is in the back, making it difficult to access
  • Song titles/radio stations don’t show in their entirety on the non-touchscreen display

5. Kenwood KDC-168U

Plenty of audio adjustment controls make this head unit a satisfactory choice for music lovers and those with aftermarket car stereo systems. However, the lack of Bluetooth will make this one a no-go for some users.

Those who are content with AUX, USB, and CD music, however, will appreciate the equalizer adjustments and sound quality features.

Another entry-level car stereo that is a great replacement for factory units is Kenwood’s KDC-168U. It plays CDs with MP3 and WMA files and accepts media via USB input and an AUX cable. All inputs are on the front panel, so accessibility is a highlight.

And while input is limited since there’s no Bluetooth, there are plenty of audio settings that upgrade the user listening experience. From the EQ curves and 3-band equalizer settings to the Kenwood sound reconstruction for low bit rate encoded files, you can expect excellent sound from this basic pick.

There’s also a low-pass filter and subwoofer level control, things you won’t often find on the more affordable stereos, if at all. Plus, iPhones and select Android devices enjoy music control support, such as Pandora and iHeartRadio with iPhones.

Installation is straightforward, though there are some performance challenges with certain models of GM (and potentially other) vehicles. Knowing what you’re doing is important, so some DIYers might need additional support in those cases.

One awkward feature is that when connecting a phone or other device, you can’t use the stereo’s play and skip controls on the display unless you connect via USB. With the AUX input, you must change the music from your device’s screen, which is standard, but it can also be cumbersome since drivers need to keep their eyes on the road.

Pros
  • AUX and USB input
  • Audio adjustment includes multiple equalizer settings
  • Sound reconstruction for files encoded at low bit rates
  • List Element
Cons
  • No Bluetooth
  • Separate adapter required for factory steering wheel audio control capability
  • No skip/play buttons when using AUX, must use device controls

Final Word

Whether you need a stock radio replacement or something with a bit more kick, these are the best single DIN head units available at a range of price points. For some of us, a basic car stereo radio kit is all we need, but others want full touchscreen capabilities, hands-free calling for phone calls, and Bluetooth functionality.

There are many new features that the latest in technology provides today. Beyond what you would expect in upgrading your car stereo with an updated single DIN head unit that has advanced music features, you’ll also get additional capabilities such as:

  • being able to make phone calls
  • hands-free calling
  • a wireless remote control,
  • a more elaborate LCD display
  • better sound
  • a detachable face
  • USB and AUX ports
  • digital media support
  • a graphic equalizer
  • Enhanced power output
  • DVD player built-in
  • Satellite radio built-in
  • Music streaming, and
  • Being able to leverage multiple audio sources

Single DIN versus Double DIN Car Stereo Head Units

We hope you enjoyed our reviews about of the best single DIN head units that we gathered. These head units were picked for their combination of features, performance, and cost. We believe these head units represent a good selection of the best single DIN head units in the marketplace for your consideration. Single DIN upgrades are typically the most popular because single DIN is still the main size that car manufacturers are using for their vehicles. You will have larger vehicles, where there’s more space in their dash, to include double DIN spaces instead of single DIN. This gives you the ability to leverage a double DIN car stereo instead of a single DIN head unit. The double DIN head units have more real estate than single DIN head units, so they can do more within their overall car stereo chassis, as well as display more information and graphics on larger screens. However, we wouldn’t say that double DIN head units are better than single DIN head units. There can be more capability, but that comes at a greater cost and also more that can go wrong with the unit.

Other Capabilities & Specifications

When reviewing these car stereos, make sure you also pay attention to the amount of power is available and in what configuration. For example, if you see a 50 Watts x 4, that will tell you that 4 channels of audio (that’s what the “x 4” means) will be provided at a maximum of 50 Watts. Make sure you know what your speakers want in terms of power and how many channels of audio you need to feed.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Either way, there’s a straightforward solution to your listening needs, and it doesn’t have to be complicated when considering new car stereos. Taking a look at the basic features will tell you whether a head unit will meet your specifications and be the best single DIN head unit for your particular situation. But, when budget is also a factor, you may find that even the lower-end single DIN car stereo offerings can also deliver surprising performance levels. That’s the beauty of the constant march of technology progress in that you always get more for your investment. In fact, any of the best single DIN head unit choices above, regardless of price, may be far better in most ways than the most expensive sing DIN head units of just 5 or so years ago. But, you will pay more for certain car stereos that offer features like hands-free calling, so you can make calls, have built-in Bluetooth and a wireless remote control.

Thanks for reading our best single DIN head units guide and feel free to drop us a message if we can help you figure out which of these units is the best for your needs.

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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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