Best Double Din Head Unit 2017 [Reviews and Comparison]
Last Updated: 31st July 2017
I hope you'll agree with me when I say:
Driving is so much better with music on.
And so much easier with GPS! Luckily 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.
Additionally, I created a recommendation tool. Simply answer a few questions about your preferences and in less than 30 seconds, the tool will give you a personalized head unit recommendation for you.
Head Unit Recommendation Tool
Top Double Din Stereos Comparison Chart
|Head Unit Name||Built-in|
|Power Output||Preamp Output/|
|Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX||Yes||Yes/Yes||14w RMS|
|Pioneer AVH-4200NEX||No||Yes/Yes||14w RMS|
|Sony XAV-AX100||No||Yes/Yes||17w RMS|
|Pioneer AVIC 6200NEX||Yes||Yes/No||14w RMS|
|Kenwood DDX9703S||No||Yes/Yes||22w RMS|
|Pioneer AVH-X3800BHS||No||No/No||14w RMS|
|Pioneer AVH-290BT||No||No/No||14w RMS|
Top 5 Double Din Head Unit Reviews
The following five units I'll review here are the very best you can find on the market at the time of writing this (31st July 2017).
If you still feel you haven't found something that checks all your boxes after reading this section, please refer to the navigation bar on the right hand side where you'll find more recommendations based on the particular needs you may have (like built-in navigator, best pairing with Apple products, best pairing with Android or best options for the money).
Let's jump into the reviews:
Don't forget that you can leave a comment below if you need further help 😉
1. Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX
AVIC Pioneer headunits are Pioneer’s flagship line of car stereo head units with built-in navigation GPS modules and full smartphone integration.
They pulled out all the stops for this model, including and HD radio tuner, HDMI in/out, speaker and subwoofer pre-amp outs, and a gorgeous 7” capacitive touch screen interface for watching DVDs or USB storage HD video.
In terms of built-in features and expandability for a fully loaded car audio/video system, it simply doesn’t get much better than the AVIC-8200NEX. This is in my opinion the best double din head unit with built-in navigator you can buy in 2017.
Let’s take a look at what is so great about this double-DIN headunit, as well as one or two minor issues that may require particular attention should you decide to invest in this excellent car stereo.
Here is a breakdown of all the positive attributes based on the specs and built-in features of the AVIC-8200NEX
- First of all, the overall interface for the touch screen is absolutely top notch in terms of design and ease of use.
Even better, with an additional adapter for your make and model car, you can even integrate your existing steering wheel volume and navigation controls so that you can operate both your audio track controls and voice command features without taking your hands off the 10 and 2. I know for myself that’s an exceptionally important feature to have on long road trips and during the busy daily commute while navigating through traffic.
The hand held remote control is also a nice feature for when you want to show off your car stereo setup at shows or if you just want to be able to change tracks quickly and easily when working in or around your car.
- iPhone user? Android lover? No problem for this head unit. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are fully compatible with this device.
Apps like Spotify, Pandora, and similar music streaming or audio capabilities are fully integrated and ready to use from the moment you connect your device via USB or Bluetooth.
Additionally the built in iPod, iPhone, and iPad controls allow you to operate your device safely while on the road, and Siri Eyes-Free control is available with all models of iPhone 4s and newere.
- Turn-by-turn voice prompt navigation with preinstalled US, Canada, and Puerto Rico maps can be updated via USB flash drive, and the accuracy and ease of use for the GPS system is unparallelled.
Add to that free traffic updates in major cities, lane guidance, enhanced junction views (my personal favorite if I am travelling somewhere I’ve never been before), speed limit warnings, and 3D representations of select buildings and major landmarks all make this a standout performing GPS navigation system in every way.
- If you’re looking for a premium audio and video experience, the AVIC-8200NEX has you covered. CDs, DVDs and USB drives are all ready for video and audio playback right out of the box, and a 13-band graphic EQ makes tuning in your perfect setup fast and easy. You can even install an optional mic-adapter and use the automatic EQ system that adapts your sound to the acoustics and speakers of your car.
Furthermore, Pioneer’s Advanced Sound Retriever provides the best audio quality possible from your compressed digital files, and audio playback of lossless FLAC files (up to 192kHz/24-bit) from a USB source allows you to experience the highest possible audio quality on the go. Finally, Pioneer MIXTRAX technology is pre-integrated into this head unit, allowing for continuous mixes and automated digital effects on the fly.
Also, Dual Zone A/V out lets you send video and audio signal to headrest TFT LED/LCD displays should you have a desire to install them.
- Big fan of SiriusXM radio? Add the SXV300 Tuner for TuneMix, Traffic & Weather Now, and Sports Flash wherever you go. The AVIC-8200NEX also features an HDMI input, dual rear USB inputs, 2 rear A/V inputs, and two camera inputs for reverse camera and dash cam integration.
Most important of all though, this unit features a 6-channel preamp out for use with subwoofer and speaker amplifiers, making it an ideal choice for being the brains of your weapons of mass audio destruction should that be your endgame scenario for this head unit
While the AVIC-8200NEX has quite a lot to love about it, there are also a few caveats that are worth noting about a few aspects of this head unit.
- The internal amplification of this model is fairly weak, and installing a speaker amplifier is highly recommended if you intend to get the most out of your investment.
- You will need to use a 2GB or higher capacity USB flash drive to update the firmware on this model as soon as you get it since there have been numerous updates and bug fixes affecting both CarPlay and Android Auto since this unit was initially launched.
All necessary files are available for free via the Support page of Pioneer’s website, and the update process is largely automated. Just make sure you update that firmware right away after installation to avoid any frustration or connectivity issues when you first start using your AVIC-8200NEX.
- Some users are, shall we say, less than fond of the integrated GPS voice directions? Also, you will want to update the maps modules ASAP after installation in order to give yourself the best possible turn-by-turn navigation experience possible.
- We keep coming back to firmware and software updates, and one of the reasons this is so important is that USB file reading and smartphone USB audio streaming have been vastly improved with the newest 1.14 version of the head unit’s firmware that launched in January of 2017. Make sure you update right away to prevent issues with your new stereo head unit.
- There are a wide array of expandable modules you can connect to this head unit to improve its overall functionality.
The problem is they are somewhat costly to add, and they require you to pull, plug, and run cables extensively, especially for the reverse and dashcam connections.
If you are an experienced car audio hobbyist, these kinds of installations will probably leave you unphased, but if you are a novice and aren’t sure what you’re doing you may find that you have bitten off more than you can chew.
- Top of the line car A/V experience
- Full smartphone integration with CarPlay and Android Auto
- Preamp outputs for subwoofer and speaker amplification
- Expandable features for satellite radio and factory car steering wheel controls
- Internal amplifier is less than robust, so separate speaker and subwoofer amp installations are highly recommended.
- Firmware needs to be upgraded immediately after installation
Compare prices online:
2. Pioneer AVH-4200NEX
Our next stereo is another winner from Pioneer, the AVH-4200NEX. 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. It counts with a pre-amp signal for a subwoofer (that you can connect to a monoblock amp) and two RCA outputs to power your other amplifiers, be it a four channel or a five channel amp.
The video below (courtesy of 5Star Car Stereo) will walk you through every single connector, input, output, controller and overall configurations you can do on the AVH-4200NEX. Check it out if you're interested on this model!
- 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
Compare prices online:
3. Sony XAV-AX100
A more austere but effective offering, Sony’s XAV-AX100 is the best offering for iPhone fans who are interested in seamless Apple CarPlay integration.
Here is a breakdown of all the positive attributes based on the specs and built-in features of the XAV-AX100
- As an all digital multimedia head unit, this device does not play CDs or DVDs, but is instead intended to be a smartphone integration-driven media player. It features a 6.4” LCD touchscreen display, and Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling with included external mic.
- With its single USB input, you can connect your iPhone or Android device for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto use. Both are fairly bug free in their operation, however Sony’s overall design does seem to favor iOS over Android in terms of visual design and menu management. Siri Eyes Free capability is also available for iPhone users.
- The internal amplifier pushes 17-watts RMS/55-watts peak on four channels, so it can adequately power most factory car speakers. It also has integrated high- and low-pass filters for better subwoofer, full range, and tweeter configuration, and the 10 band EQ is loaded with presets for just about any conceivable genre of music.
- No satellite radio or GPS navigation module add ons here, but the rear USB port and reverse camera input make it easy to add a few choice upgrades. The XAV-AX100 also has a 5-channel preamp out for running a powered subwoofer kit or a speaker amplifier for high end component speaker kits.
- The lack of DVD/CD support may be a dealbreaker for some, though personally I only ever use my smartphone for music and entertainment in the car anymore.
- Apple Carplay is truly seamless on this unit, however Android Auto is a little bit behind the power curve in many regards and may seem slower to respond. It’s possible that this may change with future firmware updates, but only time will tell on that.
- This is definitely and audio focused double-DIN headunit despite the multimedia description on the box. Also, if you are going to upgrade your car with some aftermarket speakers, definitely install a good speaker amp and a powered subwoofer kit.
- The lack of satellite radio integration and GPS navigation upgrade options may be offputting to some, but if you are looking for a great head unit that lets you use your iPhone for controlling and providing primary functions this is a good first choice.
Here's a great video from the guys of Sonicelectronix explaining the ins and outs of this unit. Check it out:
- Great integration for iPhone thanks to Apple Car Play
- External mic for handsfree calling included
- Plenty of outputs for integration with amplifiers and powered subwoofer kits
- Subpar Android Auto integration
- Weak internal amplifier may not be suitable for aftermarket speaker kits
- No upgrade capabilities for satellite radio or GPS navigation
Compare prices online:
4. Kenwood DDX9703S
In terms of the best possible Android Auto integration, Kenwood definitely comes out miles ahead of the competition with the the DDX9703S. Let’s take a look at what makes this such a great double-DIN headunit for Android mobile device users.
- The large 6.95” clear resistive touchscreen display makes DVD and CD playback crystal clear, and with a motorized 7-step tilt angle display adjustment capability you can enjoy onboard A/V entertainment comfortably regardless of where you are seated. It also allows for playback of most multimedia file formats including lossless FLAC files.
- In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, this head unit supports both Apple CarPlay (with Siri Eyes Free control) and Android Auto; however, Kenwood’s integration for Google Maps and Navigation is far superior to Apple Maps integration and features
One feature that really sets this model apart though is the ability to mirror your smartphone display right on the head unit for select iPhone and Android devices.
- A 13 band EQ with Drive EQ to improve your sound while your car is at speed is included right out of the box, and DSP self-configures with its own digital time alignment. High and low pass filters also allow for selective crossover point configuration, and there are features pre installed for a reverse camera such as parking grid lines.
- Unit comes ready to integrate a satellite radio tuner and reverse camera, but both are sold separately. Additionally, there is a rear USB input, and HDMI/MHL digital A/V in, rear analog A/V input,and both front and rear-view camera ports. Furthermore, this unit has RCA video and audio outputs as well was its 6-channel preamp out connections for connections to speaker and subwoofer amplifiers.
- Reflexive touchscreens never seem to work as well as their captive counterparts, and if you are used to using a capacitive screen this may present something of a learning curve.
- This head unit's design heavily favors Android Auto over Apple Carplay capabilities.
- Internal amplification is weak. Get a speaker amp and possibly add a subwoofer kit to kick your sound up a notch.
- Satellite radio and reverse camera kits sold separate.
- Excellent Android Auto integration
- Lots of AV input and output options.
- Screen mirroring for select smartphones
- Apple Carplay integration could be better
- Weak internal amplification
- Single USB port
- No built in navigation system
Compare prices online:
5. Pioneer AVH-X3800BHS
Want the most double-DIN bang for your buck? This Pioneer AVHX3800BHS definitely delivers with all the features an audio-focused car audio fanatic needs without premium extras. Check this out:
- DVD/CD player with a decen internal amp power and 6.2” touchscreen make for a versatile head unit that is ideal for those interested in making this the nerve center of their car audio set up. It also includes a wireless remote for easier operation at car shows or working around the garage.
- Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming and USB connectivity make this a good fit for iPhone or Android users, and AppRadio One compatiblity makes it easy to stream audio via USB seamlessly from your iPhone or Android device.
- In addition to DVD/CD player capability, this unit can also play lossless FLAC audio files via USB connection to a flashdrive or stored on your phone.
A 13-band EQ with 7 presets, a 3-way network mode for the preamp, high and low pass filters, Pioneer’s Advanced Sound Retriever, digital time alignment, and Auto-EQ with the optional mic installed all make this an excellent stereo head unit for your car’s premium audio suite.
Given the number of preamp out options, this model also makes it easy to connect to more powerful external audio drivers like powered subwoofer kits or speaker kit amplifiers.
- Add SiriusXM satellite radio and/or GPS navigation module at an additional cost.
- Touchscreen is reflexive, which is not as sensitive or accurate as capacitive touchscreens.
- No CarPlay or Android Auto may be a dealbreaker for those seeking cutting-edge smartphone integration
- Weak internal amp means you will need to add a car amplifier and possibly a subwoofer kit if you are integrating aftermarket speakers into your setup.
- Paid-add on modules for GPS and satellite may be something of a deal breaker if you are looking for the head-unit that does it all right out of the box.
- Excellent multimedia capabilities
- Lots of preamp out options
- Wireless or wired smartphone integration
- Reflexive touchscreen display
- Adapters required for factory steering wheel controls integration
- Weak internal amplification
Check prices online:
Best Options With Built-In Navigator
- Pioneer AVIC 8200NEX
- AVIC 6200NEX
- Jensen VX7022
Undoubtedly the very best option for those who want to have a complete infotainment system with built-in navigation functionalities.
For those who are exclusively iPhone users and want to install a backup/reverse camera, this is going to be your best choice for a double-DIN head unit with integrated GPS navigation. Here’s what I love and dislike about the AVIC-6200NEX
- A 6.2” resistive touchscreen display with DVD/and CD playback capability is where the good stuff starts for this head unit.
- Apple CarPlay makes using your iPhone hands free fast and easy with this head unit, and Siri Eyesfree operation is a built-in feature right out of the box. Android users can take advantage of AppRadio mode, and iOS fans will enjoy onscreen built-in iPod, iPhone, and iPad controls.
- Maps of the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico come preinstalled and can be updated via USB flash as needed. Free traffic updates in major cities, voice turn-by-turn directions, lane guidance, speed limit warnings, and manual map zoom are all included standard.
- In addition to playing CDs and DVDs, the AVIC-6200NEX also allows you play lossless FLAC audio files, features a 13 band EQ with presets, and can even be upgraded using a CD-MC20 mic from Pioneer for Auto EQ capabilities.
The crossover points are also adjustable for fine tuning your amplifier outputs as well. Advanced sound Retriever and Pioneer MIXTRAX are also standard options for this head unit, as well as dual-zone A/V output for headrest or rear seat displays.
- Add satellite radio, HDMI devices, and speaker and subwoofer amplifiers thanks to the numerous pre-amp audio outputs.
- AS with the AVIC-8200, firmware needs to be updated as soon as you have finished installing and connecting your head unit.
As with any advanced double-DIN headunit, there are firmware issues and bugs that have long since been rectified in manufacturer updates. Just download the free updates from Pioneer’s website and install them on your headunit using a blank 2GB flash drive.
- The lack of Android Auto on this head unit means that Android users are going to get a sub-par experience no matter how you slice it. The features integration and functionality of this head unit are heavily weighted towards being more Apple friendly than Droid friendly.
- Update your maps ASAP to ensure that you are getting the latest and best directions no matter where you travel.
- So, the internal amplifier on this unit is not going to win many car audio competitions in terms of power. Those looking for strong audio performance and power should definitely invest in an amp and possibly a subwoofer amp and bass box kit to take full advantage of this head unit.
- Still very much a pay-to-play model for satellite radio and factory steering wheel controls integration. It is well worth the extra expense if these features are important to you, however they can make an already difficult installation significantly more challenging.
- Excellent quality touchscreen display with GPS navigation and DVD/CD playback
- CarPlay integration for Apple iOD products.
- 6-channel preamp outs for speaker and subwoofer amps
- Low power speaker out for internal amplification
- Firmware needs to be updated immediately after installation for an optimal user experience
- Android smartphone and mobile device users may have a subpar user experience with the lack of Android Auto integration
- Resistive touchscreen displays do not function as accurately or reliably as capacitive touchscreens
Compare prices online:
Last, we have the Jensen VX7022. 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.
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
Check prices online:
Best Options For iPhone Users
- Pioneer AVH4200NEX
- Sony XAV-AX100
- Pioneer AppRadio 4 SPH-DA120
For Apple users who don't specifically need a built-in gps, the AVH-4200NEX is probably the best option around.
The second recommendation would be the Sony XAV-AX100 for its great features specifically with the iPhone user in mind.
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 last recommendation on this section is the AppRadio 4 , 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.
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
Check prices online:
Best Options For Android Users
- Pioneer AVH4200NEX
- Kenwood DDX9703S
The AVH-4200NEX is also my favorite when it comes to a great double din stereo to use with my Android phone. If you don't need a built-in GPS, this would be the best choice for you.
Best Options For The Money
- Pioneer AVHX3800BHS
- Pioneer AVH-290BT
- Kenwood DPX502BT
No other double din stereo offers the features of the AVH-3800BHS at its price. This is the most versatile unit you can get on a budget. Extremely high bang for the buck. Totally recommended.
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-290BT 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.
- 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.
Compare prices online:
Finally, we have the Kenwood DPX502BT. 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
Compare prices online:
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.
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
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 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.