Best Double Din Head Unit 2017 [Reviews and Comparison]
I hope you'll agree with me when I say:
Driving is so much better with music on.
And so much easier with GPS! Luckly for us, we can get them both (and much more) if we install the best double din head unit in our car.
The only problem is to find it! Definitely not an easy job.
Thats why we've created this list of Best Car Double Din Head Units.
I've also created a personalized double din head unit recommendation tool that will tell you the best units for your particular wants.
So take just 30 seconds of your time to answer a few questions underneath and you'll get a double din recommendation that matches exactly what you need.
Head Unit Name
When it comes to listening to tunes in your car, you may or may not be thinking about the device you use: your stereo. Most of us fiddle with our car radios without ever paying attention to how it works or what we can do to replace it if we wanted to.
However, for those of us who do pay attention, there is an important distinction that you should know about. When looking at different stereos, there are two primary sizes from which you can choose.
You can have a single DIN or double DIN head unit. So what’s the difference? Is one better than the other? Are they interchangeable?
To get a better understanding of this issue, let’s break it down.
What are Double DIN Head Units?
The term DIN refers to the Deutsches Institut für Normung, which is a German based standards organization that made these distinctions originally. Since then, everyone uses the standard DIN sizing chart for car stereos.
But what difference is there between a single and a double unit?
It’s all a matter of size. A single (standard) DIN Head Unit measures exactly seven inches wide by two inches tall. A Double Unit is twice as tall, so it measures seven inches by four inches.
What’s important to note is that the size comparison means that you can always trade down from a Double Unit to a Single, but you cannot trade up to a Double as it won’t fit.
Thus, if your car comes with a Double DIN, you can choose to swap it out for another double or change to a single model.
Benefits of Upgrading your DIN Unit
So, if the Double DIN is bigger, does that mean that it’s better? Realistically, it doesn’t.
Size does matter, but it doesn’t necessarily make the sound better.
What it does provide, however, is more room for added features like a touch screen or a built-in amplifier. Single DIN Units can still crank out the best sound, but you do have more options with a Double model. Here are some of the top benefits of getting a Double DIN.
Simply put, having a Single DIN means that you cannot enjoy having a screen in your car. If you want any high-tech options such as GPS/Navigation, DVD playing capabilities, or just a menu screen that allows you to control everything in your car, a Double DIN gives you that ability.
These days, because tech integration is so popular in cars, most new models come with a Double DIN Head Unit so as to provide touch screen features.
Most Double Din Head Units have more pre-amp lines than single din (a simple matter of space) so if you want to install an amplifier for your aftermarket speakers, these are great.
Some, like the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX have three pre-amp outputs, meaning you could power two 4 channel amplifiers for a massive speaker setup and one Class D monoblock for a big 15 inch subwoofer for instance.
For true audiophiles, a Double DIN can provide the extra sound boost that you need to rock out to your favorite station or song.
One of the best reasons to get a Double DIN Head Unit is that you can customize it to have extra features that you want. Most notably, you can get:
- GPS/Navigation with maps shown on your digital display
- Climate Control buttons and functions in the unit
- Phone Sync so that you can have hands-free talking and music
Double Din Head Unit Reviews
1. Pioneer AVH-280BT
When it comes to car audio systems, no company has quite as much clout as Pioneer. As makers of high-quality stereos and sound systems, Pioneer is something of a gold standard for Head Units. With that being said, the AVH-280BT is one of the company’s more simplified and streamlined models. This unit doesn’t come with as many extra features as other stereos, but the quality is there, and the functionality is superb.
First off, the display screen on this unit is easy to read and has an excellent response to your touch. At 6.2 inches, you have plenty of screen space to see everything you need, including the time, name of the song and radio station, and even a display screen so you can adjust common features such as the clock and DVD playback.
The resolution of the screen is also excellent for the size, meaning that you can see everything with immense clarity.
Another fantastic feature of this Double DIN Unit is that it can connect to your phone via Bluetooth. That way, if you want to listen to your music or take a call, you can do so quickly and easily without having to worry about dropping your phone or being distracted.
In our opinion, the best double din head unit for the money.
- Large 6.2-inch display
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Resistive touchscreen
- Backup camera input
- Easy to install
- Supports all music media
- DVD Player compatible
- Five-band graphic equalizer
- Display resolution of 800x480 pixels
- Adapter available to connect to steering controls
- Display settings are somewhat limited
- In some instances, the backup camera may not have a clear picture
- Sometimes (rarely) we've found the touchscreen to lack sensitivity.
- On some cases, the radio functions stop working after a few years.
2. Jensen VX7022
Next, we have the Jensen VX7022 Double DIN Head Unit. As far as stereos go, this is the best double din head unit for sound quality. What also makes this particular unit so special is that it can playback almost any kind of sound file, which means that no matter what media you prefer, be it a CD or a music player on your phone, you can listen to your songs easily on this device.
This is in our opinion the best double din head unit with navigation.
As far as the screen goes, this 6.2-inch LCD has everything you can need and more. The digital controls are easy to read and highly intuitive, meaning that you can install this stereo for your parents or grandparents and they should still be able to use it without any problems.
Apps that are available on this stereo include a GPS/Navigation system, which allows you to clearly see where you are and where you’re going.
This particular unit also takes DVDs as well as CDs, so if your kids want to watch a movie during a family outing, you can do so with this device.
Additionally, the Jensen Unit can sync up to your phone in a variety of ways. You can connect via Bluetooth for both music and hands-free calling. You can sync up to your phone to use apps directly through the stereo, and you can connect with an aux or a USB cable for charging or direct listening.
- Large 6.2 inch LCD screen
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Compatible with all phone devices
- DVD and CD compatible
- 2.1 amp capacity
- USB charging plugAux input
- Micro-SD card input
- Smartphone sync
- Five different background colors
- GPS/Navigation compatible
- Radio reception may be spotty at times
- Navigation voice may have a slight delay, depending on connectivity
- At night, brightness level can be too much for some users
3. Pioneer AppRadio 4 SPH-DA120
As we mentioned above, Pioneer is one of the top brands available for car stereos, which is why you have so many different Pioneer models from which to choose. Our next stop is the AppRadio 4 DIN Unit, which separates itself from the crowd by being a device that is designed for compatibility and syncing to your smartphone.
Overall, this unit is made for iPhones and Apple products, but Android users can still utilize many of the same systems without any problems.
The display on this model measures 6.2 inches, and the LCD screen is fantastic with regards to touch sensitivity.
The resolution of the screen is spectacular, and the control panel is super easy to read and use.
Almost anyone can navigate the stereo’s systems without having to refer to a user’s manual.
As far as apps go, this stereo has everything for music lovers.
First of all, it comes pre-loaded with Apple CarPlay, which means that you can import your entire iTunes account without having to upload songs directly from your phone.
You can get an incredible library of music with just a touch of a button. If the Jensen VX7022 was the best for android, this is the best head unit for iPhone by far.
Additionally, this stereo connects to your phone via Bluetooth, which gives you the option to make hands-free calls and listen to your music without having to connect via USB or through the aux input.
Finally, this stereo comes with a GPS/Navigation system that is easy to use and can be formatted to your settings for both ease of use and accuracy of directions.
- Large 6.2-inch LCD screen
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Compatible with most smartphones
- Comes with Apple CarPlay and iPhone sync
- GPS/Navigation capability
- Ideal with iPhones, but not Android devices
- Touch screen can be spotty at times
- In rare cases, radio reception may not work properly
- In rare instances, the apps may not work at all for a time
4. Pioneer AVH-4100NEX
Our next stereo is another winner from Pioneer, the AVH-4100NEX. What sets this model apart from the other Pioneer stereos on this list is the size of the device.
While most Double DIN Units have a 6.2-inch screen, this particular model has a full seven-inch display. What this means is that everything is much easier to read and the menu navigation is second to none.
Also, this stereo comes with a remote control so your passengers can make selections without having to get in the way of the driver.
As far as functionality goes, this stereo has it all. First, you have a DVD/CD system that allows you to play movies for your passengers during long trips. If you still have any CDs, you can listen to them with crystal clarity with this stereo.
In our opinion, this is the best head unit for Android users, as others lean more towards iPhone functions.
Additionally, the AVH has phone sync capabilities, which means that if you have an iPhone or Android device you can connect it and use your apps without having to hold your phone.
What makes it even more amazing is the fact that it has screen mirroring.
This means that you can read texts and see images from your phone on a larger display, thus making it safer for use while driving.
Along with the sync feature, you can connect to your phone through traditional Bluetooth, which is ideal for hands-free calling.
Finally, the other thing that makes this stereo so incredible is that it comes with three preamps, so if you’re in the market for a full sound system upgrade, you can make it happen with this device. Connect up to three amplifiers so that you can get the most out of your music.
- Extra large seven-inch LCD screen
- Wireless remote included
- 800x480 pixel resolution
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Sirius/XM compatible
- Syncs with most smartphones
- USB connection for charging
- Aux inputDVD compatible
- Backup camera compatible
- Three preamp outputs
- One-year limited warranty
- Touch screen response time may lag sometimes
- To play DVDs, you need to buy a separate attachment
- Bluetooth connection may cut out at times
- Ideal for iPhones, but not for Android devices
5. Kenwood DPX501BT
Finally, we have the Kenwood DPX501BT. Compared to the other stereos on this list, the Kenwood model is somewhat basic However, for some users, this may be preferable to a modern touch screen. Having analog buttons and knobs means that you can control your custom options much easier than with a touch screen.
For example, instead of pressing a button to lower the volume incrementally, you can turn a dial and adjust the volume much more quickly. In short, this stereo is for people who want a more hands-on device
With that in mind, just because the stereo has an old school feel doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with modern amenities as well.
First of all, you can connect to your phone via Bluetooth, making calls and listening to music that much easier. Secondly, you can still sync it to your phone so you can control your music player directly through the stereo and not have to play on your phone while driving.
Finally, this unit has Sirius/XM capability as well as an aux input for when you want to connect manually.
- Easy to use interface
- Easy installation
- Syncs with most smartphones
- RMS 22 watts x 4 channels
- Remote control included
- Bluetooth compatible
- Plays all kinds of music files
- Takes CDs
- Aux input
- Sirius/XM compatible
- Display screen is analog, which may be a bad thing for some users
- Daylight illumination levels are poor.
- The USB connection may not work properly at times
- In rare cases, the sound quality may be lagging
How to Choose a Double DIN Head Unit
When looking at a new stereo, there are some important factors that you need to consider before making your purchase.
To the uninitiated, most car stereos are a lot alike.
However, some critical differences can affect how well it will perform in your vehicle. With that in mind, here is what you should be looking at.
When talking about usability, what we really mean is how well everything fits your preferences.
For example, some people like having physical buttons and knobs to control things like volume and bass, while others may want a more integrated touch screen system.
Play around with different stereo setups to find out which control layout is best for you.
For anyone who likes to pump up their jam, they will need to find a Head Unit that has a lot of power.
Simply put, the more power you have, the better your output will be overall.
When comparing different models, you will see two classifications: peak and RMS power.
Peak Power is how high the stereo can go in short bursts. If you try to sustain the system at a high level, however, it will eventually damage the speakers.
RMS power, on the other hand, is the measure of how much energy your stereo uses on a continual basis.
Therefore, don’t judge a Head Unit by its peak power, instead, compare the RMS numbers to figure out which one has more potential.
When you install aftermarket speakers, they usually have a higher RMS rating as factory stereos give, and even more than some aftermarket head units.
If your head unit RMS isn't too high, consider getting yourself the a good 4 channel amp for your speakers and hook it using the pre-amp outputs, which is our next topic.
If you’re serious about getting a state-of-the-art speaker system installed into your vehicle, then you will want to pay attention to pre-amp outputs.
Pre-amp means the amount of signal you get before it’s been amplified, and the more outputs you have, the more you can customize your listening experience.
The way it works is that you can hook up multiple amplifiers (up to three) to your Head Unit, thereby enabling you to adjust the sound as you see fit with different control options.
If you’re looking for something simple, however, then you will need just one pre-amp.
Because car stereos are so easy to install, that makes them prime targets for thieves. Selling a stereo on the street is much easier than stealing a whole car, and the risk to reward ratio is relatively high.
To help minimize your risk of theft, DIN units can come with a partially detachable head.
Once you are ready to leave the car, just take the face of the head unit off and save it anywhere (under the seat, trunk, glovebox...) Thieves simply won't take the risk to break into your car to steal 1/2 a car stereo because it has no street value.
Since they've got no guaranties that they'll find the other half lying somewhere in the car, they'll pass.
Double DIN Head Units FAQs
Even though you’ve seen some examples of Double DIN Units, you may still have some questions about how they work or what you can expect from them.
With that in mind, we have compiled a list of many of the most commonly asked questions regarding Double DIN units, as well as general questions about installing a new stereo into your car.
Overall, this process should be quick and simple, and you should have a much better listening experience once you have a new DIN unit in your vehicle.
Can I install a Double DIN Unit on any car?
If the dashboard has the space for a double unit, then yes. However, if your vehicle had a single DIN unit, then you cannot install something bigger than the space provided.
If my steering wheel has audio controls built in, do I need to get a new wheel when I install this unit?
No, you do not have to get a new set of steering controls. All you need is an adapter so that your new stereo will connect automatically.
For syncing with my phone, what is the difference between an aux input and a USB connection?
With an auxiliary cord, you are playing music and audio from your phone’s headphone jack. The sound quality will rely on the phone itself. For USB connection, you can access your phone’s functions through the stereo, making it safer and easier to use.
Will a high-powered Double DIN unit be compatible with my current speakers?
Yes, it will. Factory speakers are usually really bad and have low RMS rating. Most likely, the new unit will push them to the max. Once you install some of the best car speakers we recommend here, you may need even more power, as most head units rarely produce anything over 25w RMS.
Will any Double DIN Head Unit fit into my car’s dashboard if I had one in there before?
Because the classification of Double DIN refers to a standard size, all Double DIN Head Units will fit into a space that has held one before. Make and model do not matter in this case.
How long can I play video with the engine off?
That depends entirely on your car battery. Bigger batteries with higher Ah rates will likely provide longer usage of video-audio features with the engine off (alternator not working). The best car battery for longer use is a deep cycle battery.
When comparing these stereos to each other, what you have to keep in mind is how well they work as a radio/music player.
While other features are nice, at the end of the day this is a stereo system that you are installing, so you want to make sure that it handles its primary operation as well as possible.
With that in mind, our top picks for best Double DIN Head Unit are the Jensen VX7022 and the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX. Both of these models have the best sound quality, and they also have features that make the unit worth every penny.
Whether you’re listening to the radio or taking a phone call, these stereos have the best results.
That is not to say that the other models on this list are not worthy, though. Each unit featured is highly rated and will provide excellent service for the life of your vehicle.