The Best Single Din Head Units in the Market Today

A car head unit works as the central control unit of any car stereo system. It’s where you play your music and radio stations from. Even if you’re streaming music from your smartphone, it’ll still go through the head unit before getting to the speakers. As such, the head unit is the brain and heart of a complete and functional car stereo system. However, factory head units are less functional and deliver low-quality sound. Thus, it’ll only help to install an aftermarket head unit to get improved sound in your car.

Head units are either single din or double din in design. Single din is a standard that outlines a specific height and width of a head unit. The standard ensures that different manufacturers design head units with similar height and width for a universal fit. Single din head units are a popular choice for they fit easily in most dashboards. As such, they’re compatible with most vehicles. Moreover, they’re more functional in terms of features than factory head units. With that said, here’s a review and buying guide of the best single din head units in the market today.

Quick Comparison Table

Background of the Review

Many car owners don’t know where to start when upgrading their car stereo. The best place to start is investing in the heart and brain of a car stereo, and this means getting the best head unit. However, it’s quite challenging for most car owners to choose the best head unit. Consequently, we get many questions about the best single din head unit. We decided to review the best single dins in the market today to assist every car owner out there who are planning to shop for a new single din car stereo.

We managed to gather 7 of the best single dins upon comparing dozens of different single din models available today. Our list of 7 single dins is based on the head units that have the best features and least shortcomings. We gathered reviews from current users and analyzed their features from the information we gathered from different manufacturers. As such, you can rest assured that you’ll get the best head unit from our review to suit your car stereo needs. Read on for the reviews.

Our Top Seven Single Din Head Unit

Although there’re dozens of single din car stereo units available today, they’re not made equal. While they all share the same height and width, their features are quite different. Nevertheless, here’re the top 7 single dins in the market today, including their unique features, what stands out, and their shortcomings.

1. Pioneer Single DIN DEH-S1100UB

The brand name Pioneer features in almost all car stereo components. It leads in manufacturing different car stereo systems, making it one of the most dominant sound system manufacturers. As such, it’s no wonder that the Pioneer DEH-S1100UB single din leads in our review. Here’s why we ranked it in the top position:

Unique Features

  • Detachable faceplate- The DEH-S1100UB Pioneer single din comes with a detachable faceplate. You can detach the faceplate and carry it with you in case you’re in a public space where the safety of your car stereo is questionable. Detaching the faceplate means that a potential burglar wouldn’t find any value in stealing the base unit left with your head unit. This minimizes theft.
  • Front USB Port- Support for USB playback is a major benefit that comes with this head unit. Moreover, the USB port is located at the front. You can easily plug and play music from USB devices such as flash disks and USB memory card readers. You can also charge your smartphone from the USB port.
  • CD player- If you’re still holding on to some music files burnt into compact discs, you’ll easily play them with this head unit. Its CD player supports playback on different CD formats including CD, CD-R, and CD-RW. Thus, you can still go old-school with this single din.
  • Multiple music file formats playback- There’s nothing as great as having a head unit that supports playback of multiple music file formats. This single din can playback all common music file formats including WAV, WMA, and MP3. As such, you won’t have to worry about converting between different music file formats before getting them played on your head unit.
  • AUX input- The AUX input that comes with the head unit means that you can easily connect it to other audio sources. For instance, you can connect it to your smartphone or any other audio source with an AUX port using a 3.5 mm male-to-male AUX cable.

Pros

  • RDS tuner
  • Bass boost
  • AUX input
  • Rotary volume control
  • Compatible with Android devices

Cons

  • The controls are a bit challenging to navigate
  • The display is not bright enough to view clearly during a sunny day

Verdict:

The Pioneer Single DIN DEH-S1100UB is packed with all the greatest features you would want in a single din. It’s a great choice for anyone who wants a head unit that is compatible with Android smartphones.

2. Alpine CDE-HD149BT

Alpine continues to manufacture car stereo units with support for control from smartphones and wireless connectivity. The Alpine CDE-HD149BT is specially designed for compatibility with portable devices. It features modern technologies that make it compatible with both iPhone and Android devices. Here’s why the Alpine CDE-HD149BT ranks highly on our review:

Unique Features

  • HD radio tuner- If you love listening to radio, this head unit actually brings radio to you in improved quality. You’ll get to enjoy listening to HD radio stations, thanks to the inbuilt HD radio tuner that comes with this head unit. As such, you’ll get the best quality radio reception available today.
  • Preamp output- The head unit comes with a dedicated preamp output. You can connect a car subwoofer directly to this head unit via its RCA preamp output. As such, you’ll leave the car amplifier for the speakers and connect your sub to the head unit.
  • Inbuilt equalizer- You can further enhance your sound experience by taking advantage of the equalizer that comes with this single din. As such, you can customize the sound output the way you want. For instance, if you want more bass or more highs, you can set the equalizer accordingly.
  • LCD display- Another great feature of this single din is its LCD display. It displays details in white text, making it easier to see the details. Thus, you’ll easily control the head unit and read out the displayed data during a sunny day.
  • IPhone/iPod playback- The head unit supports audio playback from iPhone and iPod devices. It supports audio integration through an iPod USB cable. It also supports the Pandora music streaming application which can be connected to the head unit via Bluetooth.

Pros

  • USB port
  • CD player
  • AM/FM tuner
  • Rear AUX input
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

  • Higher price range
  • Bluetooth pairing is limited to three devices at a time

Verdict:

If you’re looking for a head unit with limitless connectivity options, then look no further than the Alpine CDE-HD149BT single din. Thus, consider it in your shopping list.

3. Kenwood KDC-168U

Kenwood is yet another top brand name that is never left behind when it comes to the top car stereo components. The Kenwood KDC-168U is featured in our list based on its numerous attractive features and benefits. There’s a lot to boast about this single din stereo including:

Unique Features

  • Bluetooth connectivity- Today, everyone loves going wireless. The same case applies to car receivers. Luckily, this head unit features Bluetooth connectivity. You can connect your smartphone and stream music via Bluetooth. You can also make and receive calls hands free via Bluetooth.
  • Supports iHeart Radio and Pandora- If you own an iPhone, then you can connect it to this head unit via USB and enjoy streaming music from Pandora or listen to iHeart Radio. As such, the head unit allows you to carry your iOS smartphone music and radio to your car.
  • Remote control- You can easily control the head unit using the provided remote. This makes it easier to keep your eyes on the road. You won’t have to stretch your arms to reach the head unit controls. Moreover, your passenger at the back seat can control the head unit from the comfort of their seat.
  • 3-band graphic EQ- The head unit comes with a 3-band graphic equalizer and 8 equalizer curves. As such, you’ll be able to reconstruct the sound from your audio sources to your liking. This way, you’ll make your sound experience more enjoyable.
  • Inbuilt MOSFET amp- Another great feature that comes with this Kenwood single din is its inbuilt MOSFET amplifier. The amplifier has 4 channels, each with a power rating of 22 watts RMS and 50 watts peak power. The amp is powerful enough to drive decent speakers and a subwoofer.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Loudness and bass boost and controls
  • Kenwood sound construction technology
  • 13-digit LCD display with red button lights
  • Subwoofer level control and low-pass filter

Cons

  • Takes some time to switch between functions
  • The lowest volume level may be too loud for some people

Verdict:

Need a powerful head unit that can power your car speakers and subwoofer directly? Then consider the powerful Kenwood KDC-168U.

4. BOSS Audio Systems 616UAB

The Boss Audio Systems 616UAB single din is specially built for affordability. It packs so many great features, all at an affordable price tag. As such, we included it in our review for budget-conscious car owners who want a quality head unit at an affordable price. Here’re its greatest features:

Unique Features

  • Inbuilt microphone- One of the most amazing features about this stereo is its inbuilt microphone. It makes it easier to make and receive hands free calls. You’ll only connect your smartphone via Bluetooth and allow the head unit to do the rest. As such, it gives the driver a safer driving experience.
  • Illuminated buttons- The control buttons of the head unit are illuminated. This makes it easier to control the head unit at night. You won’t struggle to tell which button is for controlling what. The illumination on the buttons can also be dimmed to reduce the brightness to your liking.
  • Dimmable illuminated display- The LED display of this head unit is illuminated for a better view during day time. It’s bright enough for clear visibility of the displayed text even on a sunny day. Moreover, you can dim the display to reduce glare.
  • Instant mute button- Want to mute the sound from your car stereo within the press of a single button? This head unit comes with a dedicated mute button that allows you to mute the sound instantly. As such, you can mute and unmute the sound quickly without having to use the volume control knob.
  • Front and rear preamp outputs- The head unit features preamp outputs that are located both at the front and the rear. This means that you can add two subwoofers directly to the head unit or add one subwoofer and an extra speaker. You can also plug in your portable speaker on the front preamp output. 

Pros

  • Has an equalizer
  • Extremely affordable
  • Switchable radio tuner
  • Quick and easy installation
  • Easy to understand and navigate through different functions

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a CD player
  • The display is relatively small
  • The dancing LED lights may distract some drivers

Verdict:

Want to replace your head unit but you’re working under a tight budget? The Boss Audio Systems 616UAB will be your best replacement single din stereo for it scores highly on affordability.

5. JVC KD-TD70BT

JVC has been around for many decades. As such, it’s a brand you can surely trust when it comes to both audio and video equipment. Its KD-TD70BT single din car stereo has made its way into our list based on its unique feature. Why don’t we look at some of its key features and benefits?

Unique Features

  • A wired mic is provided- The head unit comes with an external microphone. It’s wired in place and being an external mic, you’ll enjoy distortion-free and clearer audio experience when making phone calls via Bluetooth.
  • Compatible with both Android and iPhone devices- If you love carrying your smartphone music to your car, then this is yet another great head unit for you. It’s compatible with both Android and iPhone devices, in addition to iOS 8 software. Thus, you can stream music from apps such as Pandora and Spotify from your iOS or Android device and stream iHeartRadio from your iPhone.
  • Music sync effects- The head unit comes with unique music sync effects. This feature makes it possible for illumination on the LED display to change patterns depending on the rhythm of the currently playing music.
  • 13-band graphic equalizer- If you love playing around with different music settings to change various effects, then you’ll appreciate the 13-band graphic equalizer featured in this single din car stereo. The equalizer comes with 10 preset options and a single user option, alongside a volume link equalizer functionality. What more would you want for equalizing your car audio?
  • Remote control via Bluetooth- Yet another unique feature about this head unit is its AVRCP functionality. This functionality allows for remote control via Bluetooth. This remote technology means that you can send commands for skip, forward, play, and pause from external controllers such as Bluetooth headsets and smartphone apps.

Pros

  • Free earbuds
  • Faceplate casing
  • Phonebook access profile
  • 18 FM and 6 AM radio presets
  • Comes with a wired microphone

Cons

  • Its remote control is sold separately
  • Some button controls are a bit stiff
  • May be challenging to connect Bluetooth 

Verdict:

The JVC KD-TD70BT stands out in equalizer controls. Thus, this model is extremely suitable for anyone who likes fine-tuning their music for more entertainment.

6. Sony MEX-N5300BT

Almost everyone who has ever shopped for video and audio equipment has come across the brand name Sony. Sony has been around for very many years. Its MEX-N5300BT single din car stereo features unique technologies that its competitors can only dream about. Read on for its unique features.

Unique Features

  • Supports SiriusXM- This head unit is a great choice for anyone who likes tuning to their favorite satellite radio stations. It supports SiriusXM. SiriusXM is a satellite radio that is dedicated to broadcasting live sports, latest news, comedy shows, music, and more satellite radio entertainment.
  • Inbuilt 4-channel amp- The head unit comes with a powerful, inbuilt 4-channel amp. Each channel has a power rating of 40 watts RMS and 100 watts peak power. As such, it can power most speakers without using an external amplifier. Moreover, you can connect a subwoofer through one of its dedicated front or rear preamp RCA outputs.
  • NFC connectivity- Another notable, unique feature that makes it one of the best single din head unit is support for NFC connectivity. This is a form of wireless connectivity that allows you to connect your NFC capable smartphone to the head unit for wireless music streaming. NFC allows for faster and automatic pairing.
  • Inbuilt crossover- With this head unit, you can connect component speakers and be guaranteed that they will only reproduce their ideal frequency ranges for the best clarity. This is guaranteed by the inbuilt crossover in the Sony MEX-N5300BT stereo. The crossover features both high pass and low pass filters. 
  • ClearAudio+TM technology- The head unit features a combination of ClearAudio+TM and DSEE sound technologies. These sound technologies are incorporated in its design to ensure that it delivers rich sound with improved clarity.

Pros

  • High-charge USB port
  • Front and rear RCA preamp outputs
  • Hands-free Siri Control via iOS devices
  • Bluetooth auto-pairing for iPhone and iPod
  • 10-band equalizer with mega bass functionality

Cons

  • The interface looks a bit clunky
  • Tends to reset itself to factory mode frequently
  • Brings about an “output error” frequently to demand factory reset

Verdict:

The Sony MEX-N5300BT outdoes most of its competitor single din head units in its power. It’s your perfect option for powering component speakers and a sub without an external car amp.

7. Pyle PLTS78DUB

Pyle has designed the PLTS78DUB head unit as the ultimate multimedia car stereo. It’s specially designed to support multimedia playback, such that you’ll enjoy playing both video and audio. It’s actually the only head unit with support for video playback in our review. Read on to learn more about its benefits and features.

Unique Features

  • Fold-out touchscreen display- One of the best features about this head unit is its 7-inch touchscreen display. The screen allows for touchscreen control for more responsive control than using buttons. Moreover, the touchscreen allows you to watch the currently playing video. You can fold back the display whenever you don’t want to use it and fold it out when you want to use it.
  • Rearview camera support- Another feature that makes this head unit stand out is its support for rearview camera. It has a video input through which you can connect your rear camera or parking camera. The 7-inch display will allow you to view the space behind your car when reversing and parking. As such, it makes it easier to park your car in tight spaces.
  • Versatile multimedia support- This single din stereo supports both video and audio playback. You can use it to play both audio and video from a USB device, SD card, or the DVD player. It supports multiple file formats including MP3, MP4, MP5, JPEG, AVI, and WAV among other common video and audio formats.
  • DVD player- The head unit comes with a DVD player with multimedia disc support. As such, you can play both video and audio discs with this head unit, including disc types such as DVD, VCD, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, and all other common disc formats.
  • Multicolor receiver display- Another great feature about this head unit is its multicolor LED receiver display. The different colors make it possible to choose a display color of your choice. The colored illumination also makes the display text more visible, especially during the day time.

Pros

  • Inbuilt microphone
  • Touchscreen display
  • Video input for the rear camera
  • 30 preset AM/FM radio stations
  • Comes with power and wiring harness

Cons

  • A bit challenging to install
  • The volume is lower when playing videos than when playing audio
  • You have to reconnect Bluetooth manually after restarting your car

Verdict:

If you love enjoying both video and audio in your car, then this is the head unit to consider based on the fact that it comes with a touchscreen display for displaying video and touchscreen control.

Factors and Features to Consider When Choosing the Best Single Din Head Unit

Single din head units are not made equal. As you can see in the above review, each head unit has its own unique features, while certain features are common across most of them. Nevertheless, there’re certain features you’ll need to consider when making your choice. Knowing the factors and features to consider will assist you in choosing the model ideal for your needs. Here’re the main factors and features you should consider:

Support for multiple music file formats

Music files come in different formats. The best head unit for your car is the one that has the ability to playback multiple file formats. It should at least play the most common file formats such as MP3 and WAV. If the head unit supports video playback, it should support playback of the most common video formats such as MP4, AVI, and MPEG. This ensures that you’ll play most music files without the struggle of converting them to one specific file format. For instance, if the head unit only supports a single file format, then you’ll always have to look for music files that are in that specific format or struggle to convert them every time before playing them. Thus, confirm whether the head unit model you’re about to choose can play multiple file formats.

CD player

There’re several people out there who still like playing music from compact discs. If you really adore CD music, then you should consider choosing a head unit that has a CD player. Ensure the CD player can play the most common disc types such as CD, CD-R, and CD-RW. You can also consider a head unit that has a DVD player if you want to play video files from digital versatile discs. When making your choice, note that a CD player cannot play DVDs, but a DVD player automatically plays both CD and DVDs. However, a CD player is not a must-have feature for car owners who prefer modern options for music playback.

USB Port

Today, USB port functionality is extremely important in almost all audio and video equipment. A USB port allows a user to plug and play flash drives for music playback. Thus, it’s important to ensure that the head unit you’re choosing comes with a USB port. Most importantly, the USB port should be positioned at the front panel for ease of use. The USB port will allow you to plug in your flash disk and USB card reader. You can also plug in your smartphone for connectivity with supported apps and even charging your smartphone. USB flash drives are more portable and have more storage capacity than traditional compact discs. Thus, this is a must-have feature.

AM/FM Radio

Sometimes you may want to catch some breaking news or live sports via your favorite radio station while driving. Thus, consider investing in a head unit that has an inbuilt AM/FM tuner. It should have several radio station presets for easier tuning without having to scan the stations afresh every time you turn on the radio. You can also consider a head unit that has a HD radio receiver or satellite radio receiver if you prefer them over the traditional AM/FM tuner. Here, the choice should be based on your personal preferences.

LCD Display

If you desire to have a functional single din receiver, then it should at least have an LCD display. The display should be clear enough even during day time. It should be illuminated to allow for more visibility even on a sunny day. It will further help if the brightness is adjustable since different users may have different visual capabilities. Also, ensure the display is large enough for the text displayed to be more visible.

Detachable faceplate

The security of your head unit should matter a lot. If you need to keep burglars away from your car, then ensure the head unit has a detachable faceplate. Once a potential burglar notices that your head unit doesn’t have a faceplate, they’ll hardly bother breaking into your car to steal it. However, a head unit with its faceplate on attracts burglars who target car stereo receivers. Thus, choose a single din stereo with a detachable faceplate such that you can detach it when leaving your car in insecure, public spaces such as public car parks, malls, streets, and unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Remote control

The ease of control of your head unit will determine your driving experience when driving and controlling your car stereo simultaneously. A remote control is easier to control different functionalities, unlike struggling with unresponsive buttons while driving. A remote control can also be used by your passenger to assist you in controlling the car stereo as you concentrate on driving.

Inbuilt amplifier and power output rating

An amplifier works by boosting weak signals to make them powerful enough to drive powerful speakers. A single din receiver that comes with an inbuilt amplifier will make it possible to connect component car speakers and a subwoofer without having to invest in an external car amplifier. Also, ensure the power output rating of the head unit is high enough to drive your car speakers, especially if you don’t have any plans of buying a standalone car amp soon.

Inbuilt equalizer and crossover

Want to play around with sound effects and audio frequency? Then consider choosing a single din stereo that comes with an inbuilt equalizer. The equalizer will allow you to make certain frequencies more prominent than others. For instance, you can make bass more prominent than treble or highs and the vice versa, or you can make them all feel balanced. Also, it’ll help to consider a receiver that has an inbuilt crossover for more accurate sound reproduction.

Wireless connectivity

Today’s digital age makes it almost mandatory to get connected wirelessly. On a similar note, it’ll help to invest in a head unit that has support for wireless connectivity. It should at least have support for Bluetooth connectivity. This will make it possible to stream music from your smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth.

Audio output options

Finally but not least, it’ll help to consider the type of audio output options that the single din car stereo has. It should at least have multiple channels to connect your car speakers. The more the channels, the more the speakers you’ll connect. It’s also important to go for a head unit that has at least one preamp output. A preamp output is specially designed for direct connection to a car subwoofer or an external car amplifier.

Final Words

As you can see, choosing the best single din receiver demands doing thorough research. You can’t pick any random head unit and expect guaranteed performance. Single din receivers are made differently. Thus, it’ll help to take some time to do intensive research and compare different models before making your final choice. Luckily, this review and buying guide will make it easier for you when choosing an aftermarket single din receiver. Thus, keep this review and buying guide in mind to stand better chances of grabbing the best single din head unit you can find in the market today.

Michael Evanchuk
 

Michael Evanchuk is a San Francisco-based sound engineer with 20 years’ experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. Evanchuk owns an auto stereo center, where he offers highly competitive car audio installation and repair services. He has written dozens of articles on different sound engineering topics, all of which have been published in leading journals, blogs, and websites. He enjoys swimming and boat riding during his leisure time.

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