Music makes everything better, and listening to music while driving a car is no exception.
One thing that makes a tremendous difference is the quality of your vehicle’s music system.
Is it just an old radio, which gives you very little control, or is it a state-of-the-art stereo system capable of playing exactly what you want to hear, with clarity and quality?
In this article I’ll review the best single din head units available in the market.
- List of Top Single Din Head Unit Reviews
- What do Single DIN and Double DIN actually refer to?
- How to Choose a Single DIN Head Unit
- Final Verdict
List of Top Single Din Head Unit Reviews
BOSS Audio Systems 612UA Multimedia Car Stereo – Single Din, No CD DVD Player, MP3, USB Port, AUX Input, AM/FM Radio Receiver
1. Pioneer AVH-3400NEX
Typically speaking, if you want to have a touchscreen in your car, you have to have room for a double-din head unit in your dashboard. If you don’t have space, then you’re all out of luck.
Or are you?
Pioneer is one of the top brands for car audio, but they have taken things a step further into the future with the AVH-3400NEX. No longer are touchscreens relegated to larger or newer vehicles. Now, this technology can belong to everyone.
Let’s take a look at all that the AVH-3400NEX has to offer, and how it can transform your ride into a cutting-edge entertainment machine.
- Power Output: 50 Watt x4
- Preamp Output: Three Channels
- Sub Preamp: No
- Android Auto: Yes
- Apple CarPlay: Yes
- Motorized seven-inch screen
- Single-din head unit
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Navigation ready (requires software)
- Plays CDs and DVDs
- Siri Eyes Free compatible
- Android and Apple compatible
- SiriusXM compatible
More than anything else, the primary selling point of this system is the fact that it has a motorized touchscreen that extends from the unit itself. Thus, if you only have room for a single din head unit, now you can upgrade without having to get a new car as well.
The flexibility doesn’t stop there. Because the screen is motorized, you can move it however you like. So, if someone is watching a movie in the backseat, you can raise it. If you’re trying to find your favorite station, you can angle it to suit your needs.
Yes, you can watch movies on this. In fact, the AVH-3400NEX is technically a DVD player with a screen attached, so be sure to take advantage of that fact whenever possible (don’t watch and drive, though). Also, because it accepts DVDs, this player can also play CDs, assuming that you still use such ancient technology.
Otherwise, this is a fully integrated high-tech device. You can sync your smartphone to the system via CarPlay or Android Auto, and a standard Bluetooth connection can handle the rest. Simply put, no matter what you drive, you can bring your ride into the 21st century.
Because safety is always an issue when having entertainment in the car, you have to be parked to utilize all of the various features that the AVH has to offer. Thus, if you were hoping to keep the kids entranced with a movie during a long road trip, you will have to find other accommodations.
Also, as is the case with most car audio companies, the software for the AVH isn’t necessarily high-end. It does its job well most of the time, but there may be instances where you may lament the lagging speed.
Finally, because the screen is an extension of the unit (instead of built into the dashboard), that may be an issue depending on your vehicle’s make and model. You can’t tuck the screen away altogether, so there is a small chance that it could be more cumbersome than anything. Overall, we highly recommend figuring that out before installing so that you know what to expect.
Cars these days are turning into motorized computers, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on whether you love or loathe modern technology. For our money, we appreciate the speed and convenience of syncing your vehicle to your smartphone, as well as all of the other entertainment features that come with the package.
So, if you’re firmly in team high-tech, then you will love the AVH-3400. That being said, if you can install a double-din head unit into your vehicle, that will probably be the smarter move, as the motorized screen isn’t exactly a step up from one that fits flush against the rest of the dash.
Overall, this unit has everything you could need in a car entertainment system, so what more can we say about it?
- Fits in almost any car
- Fast and easy installation
- Large seven-inch touchscreen
- Motorized and customizable display
- Easy to use menu settings
- Play DVDs and CDs
- Hands-free calling and voice control
- Android and Apple compatible
- The car must be in park to access entertainment features
- In rare cases, the menu screen may be slow
- Depending on dash setup, the display may be in the way while driving
2. Boss Audio Systems 612UA
The Boss Audio Systems 612UA is a powerful multimedia car stereo with MP3 capability, USB input, AUX Input, and an AM/FM radio receiver to make up for it not having a CD player.
- Dimensions: 4 9” x 7” x 2”
- Weight: 1.3 Lbs.
- Power output: 50 Watts x 4 maximum
- Output Wattage: 200 Watts
- Built-in EQ with Presets
- Balance/Fader/Bass/Treble customization
- No CD or DVD Player
- Plays USB, MP3, WMA, FM/AM, and Digital Media from smartphones
- Compatible with audio out from smartphones and MP3 Players
- USB port allows you to enjoy your music and audio book files
- MP3 file format supported
- AM/FM tuner
- Auxiliary jack input provides audio input from smartphones and MP3 players
- Front and rear pre-amp outputs
- 3-year manufacturer’s warranty included (through Amazon)
Convenient auxiliary inputs on the front of the unit allow you to connect to the audio output of an external device such as an MP3 Player or smartphone.
Built-in Preset EQ
Preset EQ allows you to choose from pre-programmed EQ settings for a variety of music styles. Easily adjust the EQ settings to your own personal tastes.
ID3 Tag technology allows the audio file to store and display data such as title, artist, album, track number and more.
No CD mechanism
Ideal for people who take their music with them digitally. Boss units can play digital media files directly from a variety of devices including SD Cards, USB Flash drives, digital media players, and smartphones.
Pre-Amp outputs allow you to expand your system by adding up to two amps and/or signal processors.
The selectable tuner function allows you to adjust the radio’s tuner to receive radio broadcasts in the US or Europe.
Built-in 1-Amp charger allows you to charge your USB connected device thru a convenient USB port on the unit’s faceplate.
A faceplate USB port supports USB flash drives up to 32 GB and can be used for music playback and photo and video viewing (on source units equipped with a monitor).
Even though the 612UA does not have a built-in CD player, it more than makes up for it by loading a wealth of digital music options including MP3 capability, USB input, AUX Input, and an AM/FM tuner. A built-in equalizer allows you to choose from pre-programmed EQ settings or easily adjust the sound to your own tastes.
3. Kenwood KMM-BT322
Sometimes, your car stereo doesn’t need a large display and all the bells and whistles. Your needs are simple: you want a high quality audio interface to stream digital audio from your smartphone or tablet storage, and the primary concern is the ability to connect instantly and stream your music without having to jump through ten different menu options.
If you are one of those car audio enthusiasts that isn’t looking to install a miniature home theater in their car, Kenwood’s KMM-BT322 is going to be your new best friend.
This car stereo head unit has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s ready to connect to powerful dual and mono-block amplifiers for earth-shattering decibel levels, but still sounds great connected to your factory car speakers. You can tweak the sound of your audio to your heart’s content using the band pass filters and 13-band equalizer.
The KMMBT322 may not have CarPlay or Android Auto, but it is fully compatible with audio playback via USB or Bluetooth for any audio files stored on your device memory for Android or iOS. Bottom line, this is an easily installed unit that lets you plug it in or pair it up and start your music quickly and easily.
Here’s my review of this nifty little head unity, as well as my take on the pros and cons of installing one in your car.
- Power Output: 22 watts RMS (50 watts peak) x 4 channels
- Preamp Output: 6 channels, 2.5 volt front, rear and subwoofer
- Sub Preamp: Yes
- Android Auto: No
- Apple CarPlay: No
- Digital media receiver (does not play CDs)
- Built-in MOSFET amplifier (22 watts RMS/50 peak x 4 channels)
- Kenwood App Remote lets you control receiver settings with your smartphone
- Built-in Bluetooth for music streaming and hands-free calling
- MP3, WAV, AAC, WMA, and FLAC music file playback support
- iPhone and Android control support for Spotify and Pandora
- High visibility, variable color illumination 1.5 line LCD display.
There is no integrated navigation system on this head unit, but it will play audio prompts for your smartphone Apple Maps or Google Maps over your car stereo speakers. You may want to consider some kind of separate mounting system to use your smartphone safely while driving.
Magnetic vent clips or adhesive on dash phone mounts work well and don’t require you to drill into your dashboard console or otherwise modify your car from factory standard.
While there is no support for Apple CarPlay or Android auto, the KMM-BT322 can interface with and control your iPod/iPad/iPhone using an optional USB-to-iOS device cable. You can also connect to this stereo using Bluetooth and control all settings and playback using the Kenwood iOS or Android App. Using the app also allows your music song ID to display on the faceplate, so even if your phone is tucked away in a console compartment you can still see what’s playing.
Smartphone Integration Specs
- iPod/iPhone USB or Bluetooth audio streaming
- Head unit audio control and recharging for Android devices version 4.1 and higher
- Android Open Accessory protocol (AOA) allows the selection and playback of audio on your Android device memory storage
- Siri Eyes Free control for iPhone 7 and newer models
- Connect two phones/devices simultaneously
The Kenwood JMM-BT322 is purpose built for high quality audio from your smartphone, media player or tablet. USB connections provide the best quality audio, and the Bluetooth streaming allows for the most convenient connection and controls via the Kenwood mobile app.
- Drive EQ automatically balances audio and volume to compensate for road and engine noise while driving
- Integrated Sound Reconstruction compensates for audio loss on compressed digital audio files
- 8 EQ curve presets and 13 customizable EQ bands
- Digital time alignment for audio streaming
- Low-pass filter and sub level control for tweaking your bass response when connected to an external subwoofer kit
- Multiple speaker presets matched to custom car speaker types
If you are planning on a more powerful audio experience in the future, the KMM-BT322 has you covered. The integrated 6-channel preamp out is configured for front, rear and subwoofer connections on more powerful dual block or monoblock power amplifiers, allowing you to drive thunderous subwoofer kits and custom 2-way and 3-way door speakers. You can also install a Sirius XM satellite radio tuner (sold separately) for high definition audio anywhere there is open sky.
- Compatible with SiriusXM tuner kits (sold separately)
- Front USB and AUX 3.5 mm inputs
- 6-channel preamp (2.5-volt front, rear, sub)-works with optional wireless remote controls (sold separately)
- Compatible with most factory steering wheel audio controls (adapter/wiring kit not included)
- Removable theft-deterrent faceplate
- Multi-language display (English, Spanish)
- Microphone included for audio calls, Siri and Google Assistant voice command
I love this stereo because it is extremely simple in its functions, works well out of the box, and sounds amazing with minimal tweaking playing sound over factory car speakers.
It has no video playback, no CD capability, and no touch screen interface. Those are great if you aren’t concerned with any of that for your car stereo needs, but if you want to impress your passengers with the looks of your car stereo as well as the sound, the KMM-BT322 is not the head unit for you.
- Offers great sound and power for minimal cost
- Fast, easy connectivity
- Full Android and iOS Support via Kenwood mobile app
- All the connections you need to upgrade to a powerful amplified subwoofer and custom speaker system.
- Display capabilities are extremely limited
- No CD or video playback support
- It’s not going to turn any heads at car audio shows or car stereo competitions
4. JVC KD-R690S
JVC’s KD-TD71BT CD receiver provides a powerful head unit with simple-to-use controls, giving you the ability to fully customize your music listening experience. Enhanced Bluetooth capabilities provide expanded wireless convenience for Internet and satellite radio, plus the ability to play your personal music library from a variety of sources.
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 7-3/16″ x 2-1/8″ x 6-3/16″ (182 x 53 x 156mm)
- Weight2.6 lbs. (1.2kg)
- Aux input 1 (front)
- Rapid charge 1.5 amp charging port
- Line output terminals: 1 pair (rear/subwoofer selectable)
- Pre-output level: 2.5V
- Subwoofer output with level/frequency control
- Subwoofer output level: 2.5V
- AM/FM tuner with presets: 18FM + 6AM
- Maximum power output: 50W x 4 / 50W x 2 +subwoofer (4 ohms) 50W x 1
- 13-Band graphic EQ with 11 presets
- Back-up memory
- Detachable face panel
- Steering remote control ready
- Android and iPhone compatible
- Automatic phone pairing
- Bluetooth compatibility, control, and hands-free calling
Amazon Alexa compatibility allows you to talk to Amazon Alexa on your JVC receiver so you can play music, place calls, listen to audiobooks, check the weather, get directions, and much more without taking your hands off the wheel.
Complete Bluetooth compatibility and control gives you hands-free calling, audio streaming, voice dialing, and access to your phone’s phonebook.
A 13-band graphic equalizer and JVC K2 technology provide powerful flexibility for customizing your sound.
Convenient inputs and outputs: INPUTS: front-panel auxiliary input, front and rear USB ports. OUTPUTS: 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer)
Audio Streaming and Control
Built-in Bluetooth audio allows you to listen and control music stored on your smartphone wirelessly. Easily and quickly search your music files, random play, repeat, and browse. Integrated JVC technology gives you all the information contained in the digital file at a glance.
Remote control app
The “JVC Remote App” allows you to conveniently control the receiver functions and fully customize your listening experience using your smartphone! (A separate JVC handheld remote control is optionally available and pre-configured with the head unit for “plug and play” convenience.)
Factory steering wheel control functions are pre-configured and made available with a third-party adapter (sold separately).
JVC’s KD-TD71BT CD receiver gives you a powerful single DIN head unit loaded with features and sound-shaping technology. Alexa voice remote plus the JVC remote app and an optional handheld remote control let you control all the features and functions of this powerhouse stereo without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel.
5. Pioneer DEH-150MP
This is a pretty solid car radio with a number of good characteristics.
Perhaps the best of its features is its compressed audio enhancement, which is supposed to restore compressed music files back to higher quality as they are played.
It also is compatible with essentially all music file formats.
Aside from that, this head unit is fairly ordinary in both appearance and function. It has the usual AM/FM capability, a CD player, and can play MP3, WAV, and WMA media files.
One nice feature it has that is all too often missing from other car radio systems is an auxiliary input jack on the front of the unit.
The unit’s faceplate itself is also detachable to deter would-be thieves from bothering to pilfer a radio box without its controls.
The main downside to this unit is that it does not have Bluetooth capability, but on the other hand, that front aux jack makes it nice for using with older portable music and media devices.
Peak power output is 50 watts over 4 channels, with RMS: 14 watts over 4 channels.
- AM/FM radio
- Plays CDs, MP3s, WAV, and WMA format
- Compressed audio enhancement
- LED backlit LCD text display
- Front auxiliary jack
- Detachable theft-deterrent faceplate
- Remote control available
- 1 year warranty
- 24-bit digital analog converter
- No Bluetooth
- Installation instructions may be vague.
- Separate amp kit needed for subwoofers.
- Many buyers report AMP failures after 3-4 months.
- Display may be hard to read during daytime.
- Chinese import.
Whether you’re taking long trips across the continent, or just commuting to work five or six days a week, you want a vehicle stereo system that is going to deliver the best sound quality possible.
Probably the key characteristic of any car stereo system is the size of its head unit.
Head units generally come in one of two standard sizes, referred to as Single DIN and Double DIN.
As we noted in a prior review, DIN refers to the Deutsches Institut für Normung, which is the internationally recognized German national standards institute.
Nearly all car stereo manufacturers conform to their official standards when designing and building car stereos, and auto manufacturers do the same, making the appropriate space for them in the car’s center console.
Nearly all car stereo manufacturers conform to their official standards when designing and building car stereos, and auto manufacturers do the same, making the appropriate space for them in the car’s center console.
What do Single DIN and Double DIN actually refer to?
It has to do with the size of the head unit.
Single DIN units are 7 inches wide by 2 inches tall. Double DIN units are the size of two Single DIN units, still 7 inches wide, but 4 inches tall.
One very important consideration is that in order to accept a Double DIN unit, a car has to already be designed for it, since you obviously can’t fit a 7”x4” box into a 7”x2” hole.
In other words, a car with a slot for a Double DIN head unit can accept either size, but a car with a slot for a Single DIN unit can only ever accept that one size of unit.
You can downgrade from Double DIN to Single DIN at any time, but to upgrade from Single DIN to Double DIN would require rebuilding the whole center console.
What difference does it make as to whether you choose Single DIN or Double DIN?
Is one always better than another when it comes to sound quality? No, not necessarily.
There are a number of other important factors. With the exception of the fact that Double DIN units are more likely to have additional preamp lines, to connect to more amplifiers, the size of the head unit itself doesn’t affect the sound quality, but the quality of the head unit does.
Where it does make a difference is in the features and capabilities of the head unit itself.
Double DIN units often include features like touchscreen displays, which are seldom seen on Single DIN units due to their smaller size.
Such displays can be used for apps beyond just sound controls, like for maps and GPS, or to act as the car’s climate control system, as well as phone sync.
Most Single DIN units aren’t so versatile.
How to Choose a Single DIN Head Unit
When comparing Single DIN head units, there are several key features to look out for.
One such element is the power output.
Most of the Single Din units I compared had similar power levels. When pairing your car stereo to your speakers, you want to make sure that the RMS levels for both are the same, or the closest possible.
If you’re running with your factory speakers, you’ll notice a slight improvement in sound quality once you upgrade your car stereo, but once you get some new car speakers you’ll discover a whole new audio experience.
You also want to make sure that whatever unit you’re thinking of buying is capable of using the input sources you prefer. Do you still prefer the sound quality of CD’s over that of MP3s? Do you want to be able to plug in a flash drive loaded with several gigabytes of music?
Not all head units accept all input sources. CD players are likely to become less and less popular or necessary in future stereo unit models, and one of the units we reviewed (the Kenwood) doesn’t have one. Some units have SD card slots, others don’t.
It’s also important to be aware of the locations of the source input jacks the head unit does have. In some cases, USB and other input ports are located to the rear of the unit. That would suggest that to use them will require either some kind of wiring, or else leaving a USB drive permanently attached inside the dashboard, which seems weird.
Even if the head unit does accept all possible input sources, it may not be capable of playing all possible file types. There are a myriad of different file types in use for digital media files. MP3 and wma are among the most popular, along with iTunes’ MPEG-4, but these are by no means the only ones.
Make sure that the devices and sources you want to use along with your stereo all use compatible file types with the head unit’s software.
The number of Preamp outputs can determine how many amplifiers and other sound system components the head unit can be connected to. As soon as you upgrade your speakers, you’ll want to hook them up with either a four channel or a five channel amplifier (if you’re also using a subwoofer) to enjoy a whole new dimension of music.
On most Single DIN units, the display size is fairly limited by the smaller dimensions of the head unit as compared to a Double DIN unit.
As such, the main characteristics to consider for the display are its brightness and readability, as well as whether the interface is user-friendly in general. The controls are a related consideration. There’s a great deal of personal preference involved in this part, but some things are fairly universal. If the display isn’t bright enough to read at night, or in bright sunlight, or if it’s too dim to read at night, then something’s wrong.
Connectivity and Other Features
The vast majority of head units, even Single DIN, now come with Bluetooth capability, but there are still some that don’t, including one that we reviewed here. Different head units may or may not sync with smartphones in other ways, as well.There’s also the question of whether a head unit has access to satellite radio and the variety of online streaming radio apps.
At this point, we feel confident in saying that even after reviewing each of these Single DIN stereo head units, and considering all of their features, there is one that simply stands out.
The PIONEER AVH-X7800BT is really in a class all on its own. While technically a Single DIN head unit, just like all the rest we reviewed, its flip-out touchscreen display puts it in a class apart.
The touchscreen gives it all the capabilities of a good Double DIN head unit, and makes it much, much easier to control than any other Single DIN unit out there. For that reason, we consider it not only the best Single DIN Touchscreen unit, but the best Single DIN head unit overall. The presence of the Siri Eyes Free app also makes this the best Single DIN head unit for Apple / iOS product users.
Considering the strengths of the other four units we reviewed, we’ve also come to the following conclusions:
The Pioneer DEH-150MP is definitely the most economical choice of all the head units presented here. It has some features that may make it appealing to audiophiles, such as its Compressed Audio Enhancement, but let the buyer beware that the low price may suggest low quality.
Although the Alpine CDE-HD149BT comes in as one of the most expensive of the five units we reviewed, it’s for good reason. This unit is the best-designed and most versatile head unit we reviewed that isn’t a touchscreen. It has some flaws, but these are more like minor inconveniences than actual serious drawbacks. It offers more music playback options than even the top-rated Pioneer AVH-X7800BT, which lacks SiriusXM capability.
The Pioneer DEH-X6900BT gets our vote for being the most basic and simple head unit out of those we reviewed. It’s not the least expensive, but the second most economical. That makes it our pick for least risky head unit purchase, as long as all you really want is a just a car stereo head unit with an AM/FM radio. If you don’t care about streaming or satellite radio, or fancy smartphone apps, then this is your machine.
Lastly, the Kenwood KMMBT315U by all appearances is the best Single DIN head unit for Android compatibility among those we compared. Its many features seem specifically geared towards Android users, though it could be a good choice for iOS users, too. It’s sufficiently versatile in spite of having no CD player, as it has a number of other important standard features, like Bluetooth and satellite radio capability.
Our final recommendation for the overall best of these units we reviewed, again, is the PIONEER AVH-X7800BT, with its flip-out touchscreen. Even so, it’s not a perfect unit, and given that it’s definitely the most expensive of those we reviewed, you may find that one of the other units we reviewed here fits your unique needs more exactly. Choose the best for yourself!