When upgrading to an aftermarket head unit, you get two options in terms of size: Single-DIN and Double-DIN.
Single-DIN stereos are 2-inches high and 7-inches wide. They come with physical buttons and mostly feature a simplistic design. They’re usually not feature-rich and are preferred by those with a tight budget.
On the other hand, double-DIN head units are 4-inches high and 7-inches wide. This extra height gives them a little tablet-like look, and that’s why they usually feature touchscreens instead of physical buttons.
If you’ve ever researched about head units, you’ll know that the market is saturated. There are a lot of different manufacturers that release tons of products year after year.
This saturation makes it difficult for you to differentiate between these head units as their features are almost the same.
To help you out, I have compiled a list of the best double DIN head units in the market.
I recently published a roundup about the best single DIN head units. We’ll do a similar thing for double-DIN head units today.
Pioneer DMH-341EX – Best Double DIN Head Unit Under 300
- 6.8" Capacitive Touchscreen
- Amazon Alexa Built-in when Paired with Pioneer Vozsis App
- Smartphone Compatible
The DMH-341EX is an entry-level head unit by Pioneer. It’s ideal for those who want to upgrade to an aftermarket double DIN stereo without spending much.
Its chassis is slightly less deep than standard double DIN units, which increases the compatibility with newer vehicles.
It has a fairly simple frontside for a modern car stereo: a 6.75-inch, capacitive WVGA touchscreen with four buttons on its left side.
On the backside, you get an AM/FM antenna input, microphone input, SWC input (module to be bought separately), 5V USB input @1.5 Amps (for phone charging), RCA outputs connector, etc.
It is a digital media receiver – meaning CDs/DVDs are not supported.
Specs-wise, you get 14 Watts RMS power (CTA-2006) and 20-20,000Hz RMS power bandwidth.
What I Liked
The first thing I liked about this head unit is the support for high-res (24-bit 192KB) FLAC audio files.
You also get built-in high-pass and low-pass filters, fade/balance controls, and a 13-band graphic EQ for sound processing.
The EQ settings allow you to adjust frequency bands or choose between different presets such as Flat, Super Bass, Natural, etc.
In crossover settings, the customization options are front HPF, Rear HPF, and subwoofer LPF. By default, these options would be off. But you can turn them on by tapping on the + sign. The ranges for these filters are 25-250Hz.
However, the main highlight is the Weblink. This feature allows you to mirror your phone and then use different apps on the car stereo screen.
All you need to do is download the weblink app on your smartphone. I watched some YT videos through this app. The scrolling was a bit sluggish, but the videos ran smoothly.
You can also use it to have Apple/Google maps on your stereo screen for navigation.
The other apps you can use are OpenWeather App, Zomato, Yelp, and Alexa digital voice assistant.
What I Didn’t
The most obvious downside of this radio is no Apple Carplay/Android Auto functionality. The weblink app allows you to use some Apps, but it shouldn’t be considered a full smartphone integration.
Then, there are the pre-amp RCA outputs. These outputs only give you 2V voltage. It is what you usually get in factory radios.
Also, you can only select between a few themes for the background.
Lastly, there is no time alignment which can be a big issue if you’re an audiophile.
Despite some shortcomings, the Pioneer DMH-341EX has plenty of features to offer.
And while it is true that many Chinese car stereos offer Android Auto in this price range, most of them are painfully slow and get overheated pretty quickly.
On the other hand, Pioneer is well-known for making reliable car stereos that deliver excellent sound quality.
Sony XAV-AX3200 – Best Double DIN Head Unit for Android Auto
- Resistive touchscreen with anti-glare
- Compact rear chassis for easy installation
- Built in Rear Camera Input; Camera sold separately
The Sony XAV-3200 is slightly more expensive than the Pioneer DMH-341EX. It is ideal for those who want a double DIN head unit with Apple carplay/Android Auto in the midrange price category.
In terms of features, the AX3200 is a slightly downgraded version of the more expensive AX5600.
It looks different than most of other double DIN units. While its 6.9-inch screen is double DIN, the chassis has a single-DIN height. This shallow design allows you to manage all the wirings/interfaces easily.
Below the touchscreen, you get different physical buttons such as home, volume up/down, track up/down, etc.
On the backside, there are 6 RCA pre-outs, A/V input, SWC input (you’ll also need an SWC adapter), etc.
As for the specs, you get 20 Watt CTA-2006 RMS power, 55 Watt Peak Output, and 20-20,000Hz RMS power bandwidth.
What I Liked
The first pro is the clean UI.
The home screen consists of two parts: The upper portion displays the current time and has a Carplay/Android Auto icon on the left. The remaining icons are arranged horizontally in the lower portion.
The touchscreen has the auto-dimming feature that reduces its brightness when your turn on the vehicle headlights. It saves you from readjusting the brightness frequently.
If we talk about sound processing, you get the EXTRA BASS (a bass booster), a 10-band EQ (from 32Hz-16KHz), and some usual EQ presets. In the crossover section, you can set HPF/LPF and reverse the subwoofer phase.
There’s also an additional feature called the DSO. You can find it below the crossover option. This feature creates an illusion of speakers on the dashboard to give you better sound staging.
You can also go to variable volume settings and set different volume levels for media, voice control, navigation, phone calls, etc.
Lastly, there’s Android Auto/Apple Carplay. This stereo supports wired versions of these technologies. You can use them to access apps like Pandora, Audible, iHeart, Waze, Whatsapp, etc. They also enable you to give voice-based navigation commands.
In case you don’t want to use any of them, there’s a weblink app available for screen mirroring. Unlike in Pioneer DMH-341EX, the youtube scrolling with weblink is snappy.
In addition to this, you can also ‘broadcast’ your phone to the stereo screen. The broadcast allows you to use any app on your phone (except the likes of Netflix and Hulu) from the stereo screen.
What I Didn’t
Like the Pioneer DMH-341EX, the pre-amp RCA outputs have only 2V voltage. The main issue with such voltage is that you have to set your amp gain higher. It causes sound clipping when the volume level is high.
Another thing I didn’t like about this head unit is the resistive touchscreen as it causes some glaring.
Also, the crossover points are not as granular as in other head units.
There’s no major flaw apart from the display. The pros outweigh the cons by a good margin as you get an affordable head unit with the solid build quality. Add the features mentioned above, and you get a pretty good deal. I would particularly recommend it for android smartphone users.
Kenwood DMX907S – Best Double DIN Head Unit for Apple Carplay
- Apple CarPlay is a safer way to use your iPhone in the car. Simply talk to Siri or touch...
- Android Auto was designed with safety in mind, helping you to minimize distractions and...
- The Kenwood DMX907S is equipped with built-in Bluetooth 5.0 allowing you to make and...
The last head unit in this roundup is Kenwood DMX907S.
Design-wise, it is similar to the other head unit discussed so far. You get a 6.95-inch capacitive touchscreen with 800×480 screen resolution. This touchscreen has a single row of buttons on the bottom and thin bezels on the remaining three sides.
What I Liked
The first thing I like about this head unit is the fast and responsive UI. It has different widgets on the home screen that you can customize – just like your smartphone.
During testing, I managed to boot it and load the UI within 12-15 seconds.
If you need only a single reason to choose this head unit, then that would be its advanced-level sound processing. Not only do you get a 16-band EQ and standard presets, their are many additional features in the form of Position/DTA, volume offset, zone control, and crossover with variable slope.
The wired + wireless Android Auto/Carplay functionality is a nice bonus. But keep in mind that the GPS antenna (comes in accessories) must be connected to the head unit during the installation if you want to to use this feature.
Both wired and wireless versions have their pros and cons. Having both of them available allows you to pick one according to your taste.
You also get a lot of input and output options on the rear side. These include dual rear USB, four camera inputs, rear analog A/V input, and 6-channel preamp RCA output.
Those RCA pre-outs come with a 5V voltage – a massive upgrade from the 2V RCAs in other head units.
What I Didn’t
My main concern regarding this head unit is its non-HD screen. Its brightness is also average and becomes almost unreadable under direct sunlight – especially if you look at it from wider angles.
The other issue with the screen is that it gets a lot of fingerprints.
There is no built-in navigation either, but you can instead use Google/Apple Maps for this purpose.
Except for some downsides, the Kenwood DMX907S has everything you can expect in a modern head unit. I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for wireless Apple Carplay or Android Auto connectivity.
Things to Look for When Buying a Double DIN Head Unit
The first thing you need to check in a car stereo is its compatibility with your vehicle. Unfortunately, factory stereos in newer vehicles are difficult to replace since you have a lot of other vehicle systems integrated into them. And replacing it would mean losing those features.
To solve this issue, you can use an online compatibility tool, such as the one by crutchfield.com. Go to that page, enter your vehicle details, and it will give you a list of all the compatible stereos.
RCA pre-amp outputs
There’s no point in buying a head unit if it’s incompatible with your amplifier. That’s why, make sure that your head unit has enough pre-amp outputs.
Since there are a lot of speakers/subs combos, it’s not possible to mention all of them here. But there are some general rules. For example, if you only have a single monoblock amplifier, you’ll need two RCA outputs. But if you’re using a 4-channel in addition to a mono amp, you’ll need 6 RCA outputs (two each for front speakers, rear speakers, and the sub).
In addition to this, you also need to pay attention to RCA outputs’ voltage. While standard head units give you 1.7-2V, some high-end models have 4-5V pre-amp voltage.
The main advantage of higher voltage is a cleaner and more powerful audio signal. It means you don’t have to set your amp gain too high (and introduce distortion in the process).
You also need to make sure that the head unit you’re buying comes with all accessories needed for the installation. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy them separately which will increase the overall cost.
These accessories generally include a wire harness, antenna adapter, and dash kit (optional). The wire harness is probably the most important as it allows you to install an aftermarket head unit without cutting the factory wiring.
Amid all the flashy features modern car stereos offer, we sometimes forget that their main purpose is producing high-quality sound signals.
No matter how vibrant touchscreen a car stereo has or how fast it loads CarPlay, it will suck if the sound quality is poor.
The main sound processing features in a car stereo are equalizer, crossover, time alignment, and DAC.
The equalizer allows you to tune the audio frequencies according to your liking. The frequency range is divided into different regions known as frequency bands. More bands mean more control over your audio signal.
There are two types of equalizers: graphic and parametric. The graphic EQs allow you to adjust the center frequency of these bands only, while the parametric EQs allow you to adjust the center frequency as well as the width of those frequency bands.
Next up, we have crossover. While it’s true that you can buy an amp with a built-in crossover, the head unit crossover settings allow you to adjust settings from your seat instead of going back to the amp over and over again.
The time alignment allows you to delay/speed up the sound coming towards you. So that the sound from every speaker reaches the driver’s seat at the same time.
Lastly, we have the DAC. It is an internal component of car stereos that converts the digital signal into analog. While choosing an aftermarket head unit, you must ensure the DAC must be of 24-bit 192KHz type.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the two main features people look for in car stereos these days.
Because they allow us to get turn-by-turn directions, receive or send messages/calls, and stream music from the phone, right from the car stereo screens. This way, you can stay focused on the road while using your phone (indirectly).
Many car stereos have recently started to offer wireless CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. While it does look better than wired connectivity, the wireless versions consume more battery from your phone.
On the other hand, wired connections will allow you to charge the phone through USB.
Capacitive vs. Resistive Touchscreen
The touchscreens we get in head units come in two types: Capacitive and Resistive touchscreen.
Capacitive touchscreens are very sensitive to touch and have a high contrast. These are the touchscreens we use in smartphones as well.
On the other hand, resistive touchscreens have multiple layers of glass and plastic. They’re less sensitive (require more pressure to register input), have a reduced contrast ratio, and can get easily scratched.
However, their main advantage is reduced cost. That’s why they’re found in cheap head units mostly.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who makes the best double DIN stereo?
Pioneer, Kenwood, Alpine, Sony, and JVC are the most reliable and trusted brands in the car stereo market. Therefore, you should go for their stereos unless there’s a great discount on any other model.
Does head unit improve sound quality?
Yes, a high-quality aftermarket head unit can increase sound quality to many folds with features like equalization and time correction. Many units also support hi-res music file formats such as FLAC, WAV, etc.
Why do aftermarket head units sound better?
Aftermarket head units generally feature a better DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) that produces a better and well-detailed audio signal.
How can I get better bass in my car?
The easiest way to increase bass is by adjusting the bass frequency bands through EQ. But if you’ve already done that and are still unsatisfied, you can add a dedicated subwoofer.
What does double DIN stand for?
Double DIN means a car stereo has double height (4 inches) compared to a standard DIN stereo (2 inches). The word DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung – the body that regularized car stereo sizes.
Can I put a double-DIN fit in my car?
If you have a single-din space in your vehicle, there’s no way to put a double-din head unit. But if that space is double-din, you can have single-din as well as double-din stereos installed in your vehicle.
Can I use my steering wheel controls with an aftermarket stereo?
Yes, you can. But you’ll need a separate steering wheel control interface for this purpose.
What does SWC mean on a radio?
The SWC stands for Steering Wheel Controls. These are the buttons on your vehicle’s steering wheel that can be used to control the head unit.