The head unit - also known as the receiver, car stereo, or deck - is both the heart and the brain of your car audio system and the component you'll directly interact with most often from behind the wheel.
Nowadays, aftermarket car stereos come with so many bells, whistles, and proprietary technologies that trying to pick one can be a daunting task. And when you choose a head unit, you're locking in your available features, audio sources, and the expandability of the rest of your car audio system.
Searching for the best single din head unit is a bewildering task. There are tons and tons of single din car stereos out there. And when you have that many car stereos, there's an awful lot of rubbish you need to wade through to find what you're looking for.
Luckily for you, we are here to help. We've done the heavy lifting for you. We've done the research so you don't have to, and we've compiled a definitive list of the best single din car stereos on the market.
Ultimate Guide to The Best Single DIN Head Unit
This is not by any means a comprehensive list. There’ are tons and tons of great single DIN head units out there. However, we did want to give you a few good options.
The head units we listed here represent different price points, types and designs. With any luck, you’ll find something that meets your needs and fist within your budget.If we missed a single DIN car stereo you like, let us know in the comments.
Reviews of The 7 Best Single DIN Car Stereos
Kenwood is a very well known established car stereo brand - they've been around for a very long time! They produce and market a wide range of car audio equipment including speakers, amplifiers, and all types of head units.
The KDC-BT565U is Kenwood's newest, best single DIN car stereo in the KDC series.
It sports various smartphone-friendly features such as Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming, built-in iPod, iPhone, and iPad control, as well as Pandora and iHeartRadio Internet radio control with iPhone and Android.
While many single DIN head units out there can only be paired to a single smartphone, the KDC-BT565U features dual phone connection which enables simultaneous pairing of two phones.
Dual phone connection is a convenient feature especially if you share your car with someone else, as it allows you to switch between two phones quickly.
The KDC-BT565U is fitted with a built-in MOSFET amplifier rated for 22 watts RMS per channel. It has 13-band graphic equalizer with Drive EQ, as well as a bass boost and loudness controls, not to mention subwoofer low-pass filter, phase, and level controls.
As for expandability, the KDC-BT565U is SiriusXM ready. It features three pairs of RCA pre-amp outputs, so you can connect additional external amps to enhance and add more punch to your sound.
It also comes with a front-panel auxiliary input and USB port with sliding covers.
Additionally, the KDC-BT565U is equipped with a detachable single-line TDF (Theft Deterrent Faceplate) display with variable-color illumination, so you can customize the receiver's single-line display to blend with your car's dashboard.
Just because you can only fit a single-DIN car stereo on your vehicle’s dashboard doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to enjoy having a touchscreen stereo.
If you need proof, look no further than the Alpine Halo9 ILX-F309.
A perfect fit inside single-DIN compatible automobiles, which is pretty much every car out there, the ILX-F309 gives users access to a floating 9-inch display that folds and keeps nicely to its attached 2-inch head unit.
With the ILX-F309, you can enjoy a head unit that you can adjust in multiple ways and one that comes with both a rear USB, auxiliary, and HDMI input, as well as Bluetooth support.
The ILX-F309 also comes with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so you can navigate your way through roads and make calls, as well as do other stuff like listen to music, all without having to take your eyes off of the road.
The only downside is it can be a bit pricey. If you are looking for the best premium car stereo, expect to shell out some dough!
- The iLX-F309 is an AM/FM/audio/video receiver with a 9-inch WVGA touch screen and mech-less design
- The iLX-F309 also has Bluetooth wireless technology with audio streaming, a built-in HD Radio tuner, and is SiriusXM Ready
- It uses a 1-DIN chassis for installation but the screen “hovers” in front of the vehicle’s dash, allowing the oversize screen to be added to a variety of vehicles without the need for custom installation.
- Once installed, the screen and mount are fixed to the chassis for a sturdy installation. The screen hovers over or in front of the dash while its rear housing tapers off cleanly at the edges for a thin and modern silhouette.
- The iLX-F309 has a suite of entertainment features. Its mech-less design is suited for smartphone compatibility through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with the Google Assistant.
Those two reasons alone are enough to buy the DMT-WT8600NEX, price tag be damned.
But, while the above-average screen size is neat and all, it’s not all that there is to this aftermarket receiver. No. Because, in addition to its compatibility with single DIN slots, the DMT-WT8600NEX also comes with a 720P HD resolution, making content appear larger and more visible, which is extremely useful when you’re driving.
And, oh, did we mention that it has wireless Apple CarPlay support?
Unlike other headunits, with the DMT-WT8600NEX, you won’t be needing a lightning cable anymore.
As long as it’s an iOS or iPadOS device, then it should work just fine on the head unit.
The Pioneer AVH-3300NEX was one of the first single-DIN receivers to offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Its successor, the AVH-3500NEX, is even better!
Equipped with a user-friendly and intuitive flip-out touchscreen, the AVH-3500NEX can be tucked in and out of its single-DIN slot with ease. But, as much fun as it is to play around with the motorized display, it doesn’t even compare to how enjoyable it is to enjoy all of your smartphone’s functionalities straight from the dashboard of your automobile.
Regardless of whether you’re using an Android or iOS smartphone, you’re going to get to see the same UI interface on the AVH-3500NEX.
The best part? Voice control is supported. This means that you might never even have to take your eyes off of the road anymore with the AVH-3500NEX. Although, we do suspect that you’ll be getting a couple of looks considering how it’ll look like that you’re talking to yourself every now and then.
For added enjoyment, you also get access to Pandora Internet Radio and Spotify.
Additionally, the AVH-3500NEX also supports playback of multiple media file types, as well as via the DVD player and the USB port. You’ll also be able to stream videos to screens on the rear seat via the video output port, as well as connect a back-up camera input port for a more convenient parking experience.
- Apple CarPlay Compatible
- WebLink Compatible
- Navigation Ready
- Works with Pandora, and SiriusXM Ready
- Selectable Parking Assist Guidelines
Some people want a more modern-looking single DIN head unit. Some prefer something that looks more vintage, but with some modern niceties.
If you’re more of the former, then the Pioneer DEH-80PRS might just be for you.
At first glance, the DEH-80PRS looks just like the car head units of automobiles of yesteryears. But, don’t let its looks fool you. This is because it’s one of the best head units out there as far as audio quality goes. However, the DEH-80PRS is not just a high-performing head unit, it also comes with modern features, such as an SD card and CD slot, as well as a faceplate that you can detach anytime for added privacy and security.
The DEH-80PRS also comes with an internal amplifier, which is enough to power four speakers.
You can also use the DEH-80PRS to finetune the sound however you like, and with Bluetooth connectivity, as well as hands-free call functionality, this could very well be the best single DIN head unit for people who don’t want to splurge but, at the same time, don’t want to compromise too much either.
Based on its price alone, the BOSS Audio Systems 616UAB is not the kind of head unit that you’d think you’d find on a list of the best single DIN head units on the market.
Then, after taking a closer look at the spec sheet and feature list, you’ll see exactly why it’s part of our recommendations.
The 616UAB is packed with a number of features that you’d usually only find in head units twice its price (or more. This includes Bluetooth functionality with hands-free calling support. It’s also got audio streaming, USB and SD card slots, as well as auxiliary inputs. It even has preamp inputs found conveniently on its front panel.
With a max 50 watts x 4 output, as well as a built-in equalizer for some level of fine-tuning, the 616UAB sounds so much better than what you’d expect, and to top it all off, it’s backed by a three-year warranty.
Say what you will about its flimsy construction, but that’s a small price to pay, all things considered.
- Next Generation 616UAB - Now includes Dimmable Illumination for Buttons and LCD Display, Updated Dancing LED lights, and Added Mute Function
- Bluetooth - Answer/make calls and be hands-free with no distractions. The built-in microphone picks up your voice and your car speakers let you hear the person on the other side. Play and control your music and apps like Spotify/Pandora wirelessly
- Media Playback - Play music through your Bluetooth device or use the USB port. Digital media support include MP3 and WMA file formats. Tune into the AM/FM radio stations for up to date music, news, sports and more
- Auxiliary - Compatible with the audio output from smartphones as well as MP3 players
- Inputs - The USB port gives you the option to have a vast library of audio files at your fingertips. The auxiliary input is a convenient way to hook up to your MP3 player. Advanced Bluetooth supported profiles include A2DP, AVRCP and HFP
You don’t often see manufacturers go the extra mile for something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, but, for some reason, JVC did for the KD-R990BTS.
Capable of putting out clean and refined audio, regardless of its source, the JVC is equipped with digital signal processing and dynamic tonal control features for the best sound quality possible.
It’s also equipped with Bluetooth functionality for better connectivity with today’s smartphones, as well as a rear USB and AUX port, for additional channels.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is that the KD-R990BTS comes with 3 sets of 5V preamp outputs. This makes it easier for you to hook up your amp to the rest of your car’s audio system and be done with it.
Other notable features include a SiriusXM Tuner, K2 technology, Time Alignment, and last, but certainly not the least, a 13-band graphic equalizer.
7 Things To Look For When Choosing A Head Unit
So what should you look for when choosing a new head unit for your car? Well, in order to make an informed buying decision, here are the most important things to take into account.
The main purpose of the in-dash car stereo is to output audio signals to your car's speakers via its internal amplifier. The amount of wattage a car stereo can put out is one of the most important factors to be taken into consideration.
So, if you have power-hungry speakers that can handle a great amount of power, then look for a receiver with a solid internal amplifier.
The power of the built-in amplifier is measured in watts and it's stated in two ways: peak power and RMS. The peak power refers to the maximum amount of power that an amplifier is capable of producing. while the RMS (Root Mean Square) refers to the amount of power the amp will consistently produce on continuous basis.
When you're shopping for a new car stereo, you'll notice that car stereo manufacturers like to brag about their head unit's peak power handling. Don't let that deceive you.
The most important factor in power handling is RMS, and not peak rating. RMS rating realistically measures how much wattage a receiver is capable of outputting on continuous basis and not just for short period of time.
The power rating will also include a number of channels that the amp built into the receiver is capable of outputting (usually four: front right and left, and rear right and left) and will be presented something like "25Wx4 RMS" or "52Wx4 max."
Generally speaking, more RMS wattage is good. It gives you more headroom for turning the volume up before reaching the limits of the amp's ability, where distortion kicks in.
However, more watts don't necessarily mean better sound; Sound quality is determined by various factors such as the quality of your audio source, digital signal processing, equalization, the digital-analog converter, and most importantly the speakers.
I find that for most factory-installed and reasonably priced aftermarket speakers will perform quite well with about 25 watts RMS - say 50 watts max - per channel, but you'll also want to make sure that your amp's output doesn't exceed the amount of power your speakers can handle.
The audio sources that you most often use are another element that you should consider when you're shopping for a head unit.
Do you still have and play CDs? Or you've ditched them in favor of digital media? Even if you still keep a book of CDs in your car's glove box, odds are good that one day you'll want to plug your phone or mp3 or mp4 player up to your car, so make sure that your new receiver at the very least includes a USB port for MP3, AAC, or WMA playback from flash storage devices and a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input for universal connectivity.
Apps and Smartphone Integration
The odds are good you're reading this guide on your smartphone, or at the very least there's smartphone in your pocket that you'll want your new car head unit to play nice with.
The broad advice is to look for the "Made for iPhone" badge to ensure that the USB port on your new stereo supports full speed access to your iDevice's media.
"Made for iPhone" means that a car receiver has been designed to connect specifically to iPhone and has been certified by the manufacturer to meet Apple's performance standards.
Additionally, if you're an iPhone user - particularly iPhone 5S, 5C, or iPads that use the new Apple's lightning connector - you'll also want to make sure the receiver you're considering uses a plain-vanilla USB port and not an older 30-pin connector.
If you're an Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry user, opt for a ca stereo featuring A2DP stereo Bluetooth audio streaming for wireless media playback.
Heavy users of streaming apps like Pandora or iHeart Radio should look for receivers that support those apps.
Sound Shaping Controls
Whether you're a serious audiophile or an audio enthusiast, you'll want to have as much control over the sound as possible.
So, look for a car stereo with an EQ that offers as many bands as possible. You'll also want to consider a parametric EQ for the greater flexibility in fine tuning the entire range of frequency output.
Dedicated Sub Output with Low-pass Filter and Level Control
Whether you're a bass head who's a big fan of the boomy, bone-rattling bass or you're just wanting to add decent bass to your car stereo system, a dedicated subwoofer output is a must-have.
Many head units out there with a sub output also come with a subwoofer level control, which lets you increase or decrease bass volume depending on the song or the type of music you're listening to. This is incredibly convenient.
A dedicated sub output with a low-pass filter gives you even greater control over the range of frequencies that flow to the subwoofer, so you can truly fine tune the bass from the driver's seat.
An easy to read display is a must. You don't want to squint to see the screen. Furthermore, you don't want a display that washes out in sunlight. That's a huge pain in the ass.
In order to avoid all these issues, opt for a car stereo with two line high-contrast display. These receivers are a bit expensive, but they're much easier to read when you glance down at them.
Cosmetics and Ergonomics
It all boils down to personal preference when it comes to the look and feel of a car stereo. For example, some people prefer a rotary knob for volume control while others push buttons.
Some people like catchy, multicolor display with moving graphics and light shows while others like to keep things as simple as possible.
And as a matter of fact, pricey head units typically feature an appealing and eye-catching design. Additionally, you have to shell out some serious dough for the type of flashy bells and whistles that really make a head unit stand out.
Single-DIN car head units used to be a thing in the past. Then, people realized that double-DIN head units took up too much space and they longed for a little bit of both.
The result? Single DIN head units with large touchscreen display screens!
While our entire list is not composed of such head units, there’s no denying that they’re an excellent choice. This is especially true for the specific models that we’ve chosen, which are great value for the money, even if their asking price is far from what most would consider affordable.
With that said, even if your car already has a double-DIN head unit display, it might benefit from the extra space created by installing a single-DIN head unit! Regardless, we hope you have gained some insight in picking the best single DIN head unit. Enjoy the new car stereo!
Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API