The head unit is arguably the most important thing in your car when it comes to delivering great sound. It is the control center of your audio and has command over your car speakers, amplifier and subs. Your speakers simply won’t sound as good as they could (or should) without a good head unit.
Head units come in a wide variety of designs, but a good head unit offers connectivity to your smartphone via voice or bluetooth, and potentially may also offer GPS navigation and integration with a rear view camera.
We’ve put together this guide of the best double din head units for your car stereo to help you navigate through a sea of options and concentrate on the best head units available today from heavyweights like Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC and others.
Touchscreen Double Din Head Units
Both these head units are very popular choices with hundreds of great reviews on Amazon because they get the basics right.
Connectivity: they both offer Bluetooth connectivity and integration with iPod and Android. Though a bit more expensive, the Pioneer AVH offers additional Apple compatibility as it supports control via iPod, iPad and iPhone.
DVD: They both have a DVD and CD receiver.
Audio: Both head units are able to stream audio and hands free calling simultaneously. And they both integrate with Siri, Spotify and Pandora along with support for a multitude of audio formats including MP3, MPEG, WAV, AAC and others.
Power: Both head units and offers 50W X 4.
Design: These double din head units offer touchscreen displays along with additional buttons to control playback. The displays are bright, but they are by no means the most impressive and customizable displays on the market.
This Pioneer Navigation Receiver offers built-in GPS navigation. Although most people rely on their smartphones for navigation in and out of the car, having built in GPS navigation for long trips or for preserving your smartphone battery life is a handy feature.
It too features a 6.2″ touchscreen with all the same connectivity, power, back up camera support as the aforementioned models.
The big difference, again, is the support for GPS navigation, even compatibility with Waze, which is a personal favorite of mine (to avoid those speed traps).
Users have also reported that it’s a bit easier to install if you’re doing it yourself, and it plays well with the steering wheel controls. This is highly dependent on your make and model of course.
Best Double Din Units with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Support
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are products developed by Apple and Android respectively to facilitate integration between its devices and different head units. In a nutshell, they help your smartphone talk to your head unit and be controlled by it (or vice versa).
For example, you can use Siri for voice control over the head unit. Your contacts will be uploaded to the head unit to facilitate direct hands free calling.
There is integration with all of your favorite music apps such as Spotify, Pandora and Apple podcasts.
All of this means more safety as your eyes are kept on the road, and a better user experience. Though many head units offer support for either Apple or Android, these head units specifically feature and were designed for integration with Apple Carplay and Android Auto so they a bit easier to setup.
Apple Carplay Din Unit
Android Auto Support Head Units
Apple users have several options for head units, but for the best double din units for Android users, honestly it’s a toss up between the Pioneer AVH-3300nex and the Sony XAVAX5000.
They both offer similar features and similar pricing, and are both Amazon choices since they have great reviews.
It comes down to a matter of personal preference of design. Some people love the flip out design of the Pioneer AVH, while others prefer the more compact Sony XAV unit.
Most importantly however, again, they both offer maps and music integration via dual USB ports. You can’t go wrong with either head unit.
What To Look for in A Car Stereo
There are often times more similarities than differences in head units. They have similar connectivity options and integration with various components such as smartphone devices, navigation units and rear view cameras.
Oftentimes, it’s more important to get the basics right as as size, price and installation and then whittle down your choices based on customer reviews and personal design preference. A few things to keep in mind.
Single Din vs Double Din
This is the size of the head unit. How big it is inside the dashboard of your vehicle. Though there are exceptions, generally speaking, large trucks and SUVs will generally have more space than a smaller vehicle such as a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
DIN size is a measurement standard used for car head units. In order to bring some standardization to the wide variety of vehicles dashboards, the industry decided on a dashboard being able to accommodate either a single or double din head unit. Simple
A double DIN unit is 2″ taller and most manufacturers who take advantage of this additional space incorporate touch screens, navigation and rear view camera integration.
A single unit DIN will fit in every car since it is 2″ smaller but may lack the bells and whistles offered by many double DIN head units.
Head Unit Power – Watts and RMS
A good head unit offers consistent power for your car speakers and can dramatically improve their sound quality. Rule of thumb, the higher the wattage, the more power to your car’s audio system.
The vast majority of car head units offer 50W X 4, with the range being 50-80 watts.
RMS stands for Root Square Mean and is a measurement of the continuous output. It can be the output of your amplifier and/or is also used to describe the maximum input your speakers can handle.
In short, it’s a number you’ll want to pay attention to because it is the number that your amplifier will continuously deliver, in terms of power, to your sound system, regardless how many watts the amplifier manufacturer claims to have. Peak power or max power numbers or meaningless if the RMS is low.
Generally speaking, all the head units we review of excellent RMS and can deliver ample power to most car stereo setups. However, if you’re powering subs then you should definitely invest in a separate amplifier as the head unit’s built in power will generally not suffice.
CD, DVD, Bluetooth Support
Be honest, do you have a CD player? A DVD player? Or do you stream movies and play music via streaming apps like many people?
If you do indeed still own DVDs and want to entertain the family with a kid’s movie, for example during long trips, then you should indeed invest in a receiver with a DVD player, and navigation to boot.
If not, save your money because, as mentioned before, head units are able to integrate with your smartphones via Apple Carplay and Android Auto support.
Head Unit Connectivity
Pretty much all head units worth their salt offer bluetooth connectivity. This allows your smartphone devices to stream audio to your head units.
One of the key differences between head units will be the additional connectivity options they offer. DO they have HDMI inputs? How many USB ports do they offer? Support for memory cards? Are there preamp outputs for easy connectivity to an external amplifier (for powering a subwoofer).
Touchscreen Head Unit Features
Resistive vs Capacitive technology. Touchscreens equipped with capacitive technology can sense electrical signals from your body so the screens are generally more responsive.
Resistive screens may require a bit of additional pressure when pressing the on screen commands, but the upside is that they are compatible with all surfaces. ie. your skin or even through gloves if it’s wintertime and you don’t want to take them off.
Keep the above in mind as far as design, power, navigation, connectivity, and integration with your favorite devices and apps. All of the aforementioned head units cover the basics and have stellar reviews.
Once you’ve found a head unit that’s within your budget, choose one best on your preference of design. This is largely subjective but important as ultimately you will be the one driving the decision (see what I did there?), and you should love the head unit that’s controlling your favorite tunes.