For those that are in a hurry my recommendation for the best double DIN head unit is the Pioneer MVH1400NEX.
The first head unit I ever installed had a CD player as its main feature. It had something that resembled a dot matrix screen that was green. It could also change to amber too! Car audio has come a long way since then. Now we can mirror mobile phones to large LED screens. We can even stream music and video via cellular networks.
I’ve always wondered how long it would take car makers to catch up to the mobile phone industry. Their proprietary systems always lagged behind other technology by at least 5 years. Things are changing now with the advent of CarPlay and Android Auto.
I simply want to plug in my phone and not even use the factory radio. CarPlay has almost everything I need. Navigation, streaming audio, siri, and even access to my calendar and text messages.
What if you have an old radio that’s missing hands free features? There are hundreds of aftermarket options to add what your factory radio is missing. If you want to learn, you can install a car stereo yourself or have a professional do it.
If you’re here you already know that you need not a single DIN but double DIN head unit. Just double check that your radio is at least 4” H x 7” W. But which one is the best? I’ll give you the information you need to choose the right one.
What to Look For in a Double DIN Head Unit
My advice is to rank these features on how important they are to you. Perhaps you don’t want to pay for satellite radio but you want Bluetooth so passengers can stream music. Rank them in order of preference and you’ll have a list of features to measure a head unit against.
- Touchscreen display – Long gone are the days of awkward menu systems that are hard to follow and don’t make sense. Just touch and go.
- CarPlay and Android Auto – This is one of my highest ranking features. These mobile interfaces provide a level of convenience that is hard to match.
- Music Streaming – The head unit may have built in apps like Spotify, iHeart Radio, Pandora.
- Backup Camera – Why not put that large screen to work and display a backup camera when you put the car in reverse? It’s a great feature to add if your car doesn’t already have it.
- Bluetooth – You may want to be able to stream via Bluetooth or even for voice calls over your stereo.
- Satellite Radio – Do you subscribe to satellite radio? It’s a convenient way to have the same stations on long road trips.
- Aux Input – Maybe you want to plug in an iPod or your mobile phone for music.
- High Resolution Format support – FLAC is an example of a lossless format. It’s quality is higher than MP3. Look for a head unit that supports this if it’s important to you.
- HD Radio – Some radio stations broadcast in higher than FM quality. It’s a very audible difference over normal broadcasts.
What else should I know about Head Units?
My recommendation is to look for a quality radio that has a responsive UI (user interface). I’ve noticed some operating systems can slow down over time. That applies to phones, cars, computers, almost any device now.
A car stereo is something I expect to work at all times without issues. It’s a big inconvenience if you can’t turn down the volume because the UI is lagging. This is my opinion but something you may want to consider. If that’s not important to you, that’s fine too!
It’s important to balance features and how they relate to price.
Pioneer MVH1400NEX 6.2 inches
The 6.2” touchscreen display reminds me of a mobile phone screen. Buyers enjoy the bright screen because they can see it easily during daylight. Most users purchased this Pioneer because of the CarPlay support. Some mention the stock Spotify app is excellent.
Audiophiles enjoy the ability to play FLAC files for lossless music. If you’re going to install an amp and a subwoofer you’ll find all the connectivity that you need on the back. Users also like the ability to independently control the subwoofer volume and crossover points.
Some buyers dislike a safety feature that locks functionality when the car is not in park. This prohibits the driver from watching videos and distractions while driving. But it also locks out certain settings like Bluetooth features. Some buyers installed a bypass to get around this. Keep safety in mind if you decide to do this and don’t watch videos while driving.
The one downside is that you may be left out if you’re an Android user. It doesn’t support Android Auto unfortunately. You can connect to Android phones and play music, but you won’t be able to use Android Auto.
- The head unit gives you access to Siri for hands-free messaging.
- The bright display is easy to see during the daytime.
- It has a backup camera feature which is a great add on if your car doesn’t have this already.
- You can set crossovers by each channel. This means you can adjust the bass and treble of front and rear speakers independently.
- Some users mentioned a short delay or lag while listening to Bluetooth
- The biggest fault for Android users is no Android Auto support. This may not apply if you’re an Apple user.
- Do you love a physical volume control? If so, this head unit may not be for you because it lacks this.
Boss Audio Systems BV9364B DVD Player
This is going to be your value option if you’re working on a limited budget. Buyers purchase this head unit because of the features at its pricepoint. Many call it a good value. A large majority of users bought this head unit only to play DVD’s in the car. Keep in mind that it won’t play movies while the car is moving.
Buyers enjoy the USB inputs on the front because it can charge your phone. This is very helpful when you have passengers and you run out of phone charging receptacles.
Many said the UI is very responsive well designed. The quality of DVD movies also exceeded the expectations. They were more than satisfied with how it looked when playing movies.
Some buyers disliked the boot and startup time which takes about 8 seconds.
Users also complained about volume problems. They said the volume will make big jumps with one click of the know. This could be related to the quality of the install but it seemed to be a minority of users.
- This radio is a good value for the features when you consider price.
- DVD playback quality is excellent.
- It has two USB inputs on the front and can charge a mobile phone.
- It has plenty of connectivity options and RCA outputs if you want to connect an amp and subwoofer.
- Display can be hard to see during the daylight. Try adjusting the brightness to your liking.
- SWC (Steering wheel controls) are sold separately.
- It doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto if that’s an important feature to you.
Alpine iLX-W650 7″ Mech-Less Receiver
I’ve had 3 Alpine receivers in the past and they’ve always been consistent for me in both physical and sound quality. Alpine has been in the car audio industry for many years and car audio enthusiasts trust the brand. This is the best double DIN head unit if sound quality and features are important to you.
Buyers enjoy the responsive UI and intuitive interface. It’s simple to navigate and change settings without complicated menus. CarPlay and Android Auto are both supported.
Some users prefer graphics and animations in the menus. Alpine chose to focus on audio quality instead of graphical features.
One example of that is time correction. Think about where you sit in relation to the car speakers. The front left is closer to you than the front right. Sound from the front left arrives to your ears a couple milliseconds before the front right. This feature corrects the placement of the speakers by adjusting the delay. The stereo imaging will now sound as if you’re sitting in the center of the speakers.
This is one example of many other audio features Alpine includes.
Some users wish the head unit showed RDS or song information for FM broadcasts. Others had problems getting the Android Auto to work. This could be an issue with their phones and may need to reset both the phone and radio.
- The body of the head unit is very shallow at 2.4” deep. This means it’s easier to install if you do this yourself.
- It has dedicated button areas for volume control if you value that.
- It’s compatible with most SWC (steering wheel controls) with an adapter.
- Do you still listen to CD’s? The format is going away but this head unit doesn’t have a CD player.
- Many accessories like the XM Radio and rear camera are sold separately as kits. I realize Alpine can’t include everything for everyone. But it’s something you need to consider if you need it.
ATOTO A6 Android Stereo
I now consider Chinese electronics in a new sub-category. You could describe the category low cost and rich in technical features.
I have one comment if you decide to go with a product in this category. It’s imperative that you’re extra diligent when choosing the manufacturer. There are many new companies that don’t have any history. You may run in to issues if you need support or have problems with your device.
My advice is to look for a manufacturer that gives support and you can contacted easily. Also look for one that frequently releases firmware updates. ATOTO meets both of these criteria.
Let’s get to the head unit.
ATOTO has embraced the Android operating system. They have adapted it to a head unit and filled it with features not found in the competition. Using Android as the platform opens up many possibilities with access to the Play Store.
Check out what information Torque can read from your car. You can have this on your Double DIN Head Unit.
Buyers enjoy the wifi tethering and bluetooth tethering abilities. They also like the built in Google Maps for navigation.
Some users had issues with FM and AM reception quality. They say the signal was weak and they couldn’t hear anything. Other uses had issues with the sound quality. The power output was weak and there was some distortion. This seems to be a small number of users but something to keep in mind. They may want to double check the antenna and wiring installation.
ATOTO has been responsive and has helped many users with any issues they reported.
With all new technology there will be bugs and issues to work out. Consider if you’re willing to accept this.
- Users report ATOTO has responsive support and consistent firmware releases.
- The head unit has a fast boot and startup time.
- You have access to the Google Play Store for a selection of apps tested with the radio
- It has 4 RCA outputs for amplifier connectivity and a separate subwoofer output
- One great feature is the ability to connect a Bluetooth OBDII adapter. You can then read OBDII codes and pull engine information to the stereo. Check out the Torque app in the Android store I mentioned above.
- Many accessories like the SWC (steering wheel controls) and rear view cameras are separate purchases.
- There are some odd quirks in the UI to get used to and work around.
- The manual could be improved and provide better installation instructions.
Kenwood DMX7705S Stereo
Kenwood is a Japanese company that has had a presence in the US since 1961. The company is well known for car audio and communications radios.
Users buy this head unit primarily for its Android Auto and CarPlay compatibility. They enjoy being able to operate it hands free. Others love the sound quality and imaging the DSP (digital signal processing) provided.
The touchscreen display is 6.95” in size but unfortunately it does not tilt mechanically. Some users reported the screen is difficult to see under direct sunlight and glare makes it hard to see. I checked the manual and you can adjust the brightness under the settings.
A unique feature is the ability to display vehicle info. You do need to buy a separate device called the iDatalink Maestro RR. It connects to your car’s computer and to display vehicle info. You can see battery voltage, tire pressure, engine information, and more.
- It has physical buttons for volume and track changes. Some users prefer this over soft buttons.
- CarPlay and Android Auto give hands free operation capabilities.
- You can connect a front and rear camera to help when parking.
- Another great feature for the audiophiles is the ability to play lossless FLAC and DSD files.
- The screen doesn’t tilt mechanically.
- CarPlay requires a USB cable, it’s not wireless.
I love how fast technology moves and the many benefits it gives provides us in our daily lives. Cars are no different now that there are more sensors collecting information. I love the ability to see information from the car in some of these head units. More information gives you the ability to make better decisions when driving.
Are you on a budget but still want all the features of a high end head unit? If so, my pick is the ATOTO A6 Double DIN Android Stereo. You need to be willing to accept some unrefined functionality. But this head unit shows the direction some of the industry is going. Android is a great platform and it will only continue to improve the features a head unit can give us.
What if you have a little more budget and want to buy from a brand with more history? If that’s you, my pick for the best double DIN head unit is the Pioneer MVH1400NEX. It has all the high end features for an audiophile and has a great quality screen.
Enjoy your music and happy listening!