As technology continues to expand, it becomes cheaper and easier to outfit factory audio systems of a high quality in automobiles. Moreover, the rise in smart device proliferation also pushes vehicle manufacturers to provide a robust system that can connect with ever-evolving technology.
However, just because a factory automotive audio system may be adequate does not mean that it is excellent. While many people will focus on speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers, one of the more overlooked audio components is the head unit. This piece of equipment has also evolved with concurrent technology and now features impressive double DIN models.
Some of The Best Double DIN Head Units of 2019
Unfortunately, this is still a relatively new development, so put together a list of the 5 double DIN head units that matched our quality criteria. There is a helpful buyer’s guide on the bottom, so you can check more details on technologies and so right there.
Read Our Review
Read Our Review
A Mid-Budget Gem
|Sony XAV-AX5000||Read Our Review|
Top Sound Quality
|Kenwood Excelon DNX994S||Read Our Review|
The Most Versatile Playback
|Pioneer AVH4200NEX||Read Our Review|
More for The Money
|Boss Audio Systems BVCP9675||Read Our Review|
|JVC KW-V940BW||Read Our Review|
Some New Techs
|Kenwood DDX775BH||Read Our Review|
A Newcomer To eXcelon Line
|Kenwood Excelon DDX6905S||Read Our Review|
|Pioneer MVH-S600BS||Read Our Review|
|Clarion NX807||Read Our Review|
1. Alpine iLX-207 – Best Double DIN Head Unit for Apple Products
Alpine is one of the older “big three” brands of high end automotive electronics. However, the brand has taken a bit of a hit in recent memory in a large part due to the fact that they now manufacture more factory automotive audio systems for luxury vehicles than they do truly high end automotive electronics. Still, Alpine understands what it takes to make high end audio equipment–especially for the future–and that philosophy is on display with the iLX-207.
One of the Top for Today
The iLX-207 is easily the most comfortable and comprehensive head unit when comes to Apple products. For one, this head unit can connect with virtually any Apple smart device. The iPhone, iPad, and even iPod are all acceptable inputs for the iLX-207. Only the iWatch is omitted, but that is liable to be fixed with a firmware update as well. However, this impressive Apple connectivity is a bit hampered by the need for a physical connection.
Despite the “Bluetooth” advertisement, if you actually want to get the full functionality out of the iLX-207, you will need to connect your smart device via the USB cord. You can still get some of the more basic functions like answering phone calls from bluetooth, but you will not be able to use the full suite of apps without connecting directly to the head unit–usually in the glove box.
Another issue with the iLX-207 is its audio quality. Its RMS wattage is one of the lower that we reviewed, and while it advertises a 4V preamp output, a number of people report that its actual performance is more in live with a 2V as their subwoofers would regularly not pick up the signal from the amp. This is all the more surprising considering that the iLX-207 is also a fairly pricey head unit.
2. Sony XAV-AX200 – Clear and Responsive Apple Carplay and Android Auto + Google Maps & Waze
Sony has excellent taste in design, so the XAV AX200 is very stylish double-DINs, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The AX200 has a built in DVD/CD player, which limits it to a 6.4-inch display. At the same time, the AX5000 is a media player and has no disc slot, so it can get away with a seven-inch bezel-less display.
The AX200’s display is clear resistive, and the AX5000’s display is a smartphone capacitive touchscreen. But the AX200’s smaller display allows room for a rotary dial. It adjusts volume, and enables voice control, with either Siri or Google Assistant. The AX5000 does not have one.
Unique Simple Model
Sony provides the AX200 with a Sirius XM SXV300 V1 tuner, and a three-month subscription to Sirius XM, all free.
Whereas, you have to purchase the tuner separately for the AX5000, if you want Sirius XM. The AX5000 has a single-DIN chassis, making it easier to install and tuck wires in back behind the dash. Normally, the DVD player would force the AX200 to have a full double-DIN chassis, but this is the first double-DIN DVD stereo whose chassis isn’t the full four-inch double-DIN height, and is instead three inches in height.
Choice of Camera Inputs
Sony has put three camera inputs in the AX200, one being a dedicated backup camera input. You can connect additional cameras, and select which input you want to view directly on the screen. The AX5000 only has one camera input. The AX200 also runs a steeper price tag than the AX5000, thanks to its disc slot, three camera inputs, and the included XM tuner. The final difference is that the AX200 has one USB input, and the AX5000 has two.
The wildly popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrate your smartphone via a USB connection. Both integrate voice control, and transfer control of several music, messaging, navigation, and audio apps to the radio. Apple CarPlay works with Apple Maps, and now, thanks to iOS 12, with Google Maps and Waze. Android Auto works with Google Maps and Waze as well. However, video apps like YouTube and Netflix do not transfer.
High DVD and Audio Quality
Bluetooth provides hands-free calling, and wireless music streaming. Although the screen is not HD, the DVD movies still look really great on the display. The XAV AX200 has five vibrant, preset wallpapers to choose from, plus you can upload your own with a USB thumb drive. For high audio performance, Sony fitted the receiver with a four by 55-watt dynamic reality amp, two fine-tuned DSO dynamic stage organizers make up for irregularities and shoddy speaker locations.
The 10 band EQ helps with controlling frequency response. For additional control and optimization, there is a high pass and low pass filter, subwoofer phase and level, plus balance and fader. Via a USB thumb drive, the stereo offers mass storage device control for audio and video, compatible with PSM, MP3, WMA, AAC, and FLAC audio files, and MPG4, SP/ABC, H264, WMV, FLV, and MKV XVID video files.
The Functions of Connections
Connections in the back include radio antenna, two pairs of four-volt RCA pre-amp outputs for front and rear, plus a single four-volt subwoofer output, video outputs, three camera inputs, Sirius XM, wiring harness for powered ground and speaker, TomTom Navigation, Bluetooth microphone, wired remote input, and one USB pigtail.
3. Sony XAV-AX5000 – A Mid-Budget Gem
The XAV-AX5000 features a beautiful bezel-less panel allowing for a seamless display, and a 6.95 inch capacitive touch screen is one of the best I’ve felt. Capacitive screens are more comparable to Smart phone screens. They feel like glass, they’re extremely responsive, and offer pinch and zoom controls on maps, unlike clear resistive screens. Although it’s not HD, the display still offers razor sharp clarity, vibrant bright colors, and excellent contrast. The screen is an active matrix LCD, so it holds up great against sunlight and off access viewing.
No Disc Slot and Bezel-Less Screen
You’ll notice right away that the stereo lacks a disc slot, they’re kind of pointless today. And, because it has no disc slot, the XAV-AX5000 features a single DIN chassis behind it’s double DIN display allowing for an easier installation and hiding wires and connections behind the dash, but no, it won’t fit in single DIN applications, only double DINs.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Supported
Overall design of the XAV-AX5000 is still great. The home volume sequence are all you really need. One downside is that the stereo features only white key illumination, plus, the option button is also a voice recognition button for voice control.
Sony made the XAV-AX5000 Sirius XM ready with the SXV-300-V1 tuner. It’s also steering wheel controlled ready with the ASW-C1 interface. Links are in the bio. The stereo has five colorful built in preset wallpapers to choose from. For high audio performance, Sony fitted the receiver with 4 x 55 watt dynamic reality amplifier. DSO, Dynamic Stage Organizer, makes up for irregularities in shotty speaker locations. The 10 band EQ helps with controlling frequency response.
For additional control and optimization, there’s a high end low pass filter, subwoofer face and level, plus balance and fader. It even adds some extra bass. Via a USB thumb drive, the stereo offers mass storage device control for audio and video, compatible with PCM, MP3, WMA, AAC audio files, and MPEG4, H264, WMV, FLV, MKV, and XVID video files.
And, what would a radio be without it’s accessories? The XAV comes with a bluetooth microphone, wiring harness, and wireless remote. Connections in the back include radio antenna, two pairs of two volt RCA premium outputs for front and rear, and a single subwoofer output, backup camera input, bluetooth microphone, wired remote input, Sirius XM, wiring harness for power gun and speaker, TomTom navigation, and dual USB pigtails.
4. Kenwood Excelon DNX994S – A Top Sound Quality Double DIN Unit
Kenwood is another product that qualifies as one of the “big three” manufacturers of automotive audio equipment. However, the brand’s heyday in this market peaked in the 80s. Since then, the audio equipment for vehicles took a backseat to Kenwood’s home audio systems which unfortunately impacted the brand’s ability to R&D automotive electronics.
That however has changed as Kenwood has once again turned its attention towards producing high end automotive audio systems. As such, it should come as little surprise that the Excelon DNX994S nabbed for audio on our list. For one, this is easily the best head unit for factory speaker systems.
When it Sounds Great
However, it is the wealth of additional audio management features that truly sets the Excelon DNX994S apart from its competition in terms of audio quality. First, this head unit provides high and low pass filters which, while not uncommon, are a necessary feature for high-end audio quality. Moreover, it features a 13 band EQ with a sensor that adjusts and compensates for the white noise of driving.
A True High-End
Still, it is the other sound management features that truly put the Excelon DNX994S on another level. For one, this is the only head unit reviewed that includes digital time alignment, so the sound from different speakers is synced to reach your ears simultaneously. Moreover, the Excelon DNX994S offers a number of features that allow you to sculpt the sound most to your liking. The space enhancer, sound realizer, and sound elevation systems are far more accurate and precise in sculpting the soundscape than simple balance and fade settings found on other head units.
Unfortunately, Kenwood seems to be getting lapped when it comes to embracing the future as a number of its other features are found to be lacking. For instance, when using a navigation system, you either must rely on the Excelon DNX994S’ native software–which is at least Garmin and INRIX–or the functionality is severely limited to the point that you merely receive a chime as a notification. Moreover, the Excelon DNX994S cannot run both an MP3 player and either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto simultaneously.
5. Pioneer AVH4200NEX – The Most Versatile Playback
The last of the “big three,” Pioneer is far more of a general electronics brand than it is specifically an automotive or even general audio brand. However, the company made its name in automotive audio systems and has been one of the most innovative companies in that market being the first to offer pretty much everything from CD players to GPS navigation to video players including DVD, plasma, and OEL technology.
In that vein, the AVH4200NEX continues this trend by pushing the boundaries of what a double DIN head unit can accomplish all at one time. One of the main ways it does this is through a litany of acceptable formats and inputs. In terms of inputs, this is another head unit we reviewed which can read USB, memory cards, CDs, and DVDs. However, unlike other head units that can read DVDs, the AVH4200NEX takes it a step further in terms of what it can do with that signal.
Stereo and Video
Moreover, for those of you with rear assist and lane correction systems, this is also one of the few double DIN head units to offer connections to two separate camera lines. To top matters off, this also happens to be a fairly inexpensive head unit when compared to the overall market. However, there are some serious flaws with the AVH4200NEX that you will have to consider carefully before opting for this system.
Specifically, this head unit falls into the trap that a number of older head units did: unreliability. The software of the AVH4200NEX is buggy. If you provide a command, it may or may not recognize it the first time and this is while using the head unit’s controls. If you attempt to control the AVH4200NEX from your smart device, your chances of encountering a bug glitch rise precipitously.
To make matters worse, even if the head unit recognizes a command, it takes a fair amount of time to execute it. This is likely due to an older processor trying to run newer and more consumptive–apps, but it still leads to a situation where you may have to wait a few seconds before the command is even recognized. This slower processing also shows up in terms of start up where startup times of 30 seconds to a minute are not unheard of.
6. Boss Audio Systems BVCP9675 – Just Get More for The Money
Boss Audio Systems is the only brand on our list that specializes exclusively in audio systems. Moreover, it is also the youngest brand on our list first founded in the late 80s. This odd positioning as a more niche market manufacturer has led to a few interesting developments. However, the most notable one for consumers is the fact that the absence of a brand name with a storied pedigree reduces the amount they can sell their products for.
A Price to Consider
As such, it should surprise no one that this is the least expensive double DIN head unit on our list. In fact, the difference in price between this head unit and the next lowest competitor is a difference of over $200. However, that will come with some advantages and disadvantages. For one, this head unit has a few issues with its screen.
However, as a manufacturer for vehicular audio systems, the BVCP9675 does get a few things right. For one, the 20 RMS watts are good for the second best on our list. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the preamp signal which only clocks in at 2V. This means you should pass on the BVCP9675 if you have a high end, aftermarket stereo system.
7. JVC KW-V940BW – A Smartphone-Ready Double DIN Unit
In case you have an iPhone, you can plug it in to the USB on the back and get CarPlay. If you have an Android phone, you can use Android Auto, and wire it in just like you did with CarPlay, or you can go wireless. You can use Android Auto without having to plug your phone into your radio, great for those short trips. In addition to Android Auto and CarPlay, it’s also got WebLink, which through the download of the JVC WebLink app to your smartphone, either type of phone, you’ll be able to do additional apps that you can’t do necessarily in CarPlay, for example, Yelp, Waze, or YouTube.
It’s quite easy to connect some phones with Bluetooth, you can do that as well. You can have two phones connected at the same time for Bluetooth, using a hands-free communication, which means either you or your passenger could receive or make a call from the radio on either of your phones without having to unpair one and pair the other one. You can have them both connected simultaneously.
If streaming music is your thing, especially on a road trip, you can have up to five phones paired with the radio for DJ mode, meaning all five of your passengers, including yourself, can play songs to the radio using Bluetooth without having to unpair and pair up a new phone.
Simple USB Connection
Also, you may connect a Sirius XM tuner to radio AM, FM. And, if you really are into high-res music, and you have a USB drive full of some high-res music files, including 11.2 MHz DSD files and 24/192 FLAC files, just throw that USB into the back. It’s got a cord that runs out, so you can reach the USB from where you’re sitting in your driver’s seat, just plug it in, and you’ll be able to play some really nice high-res music.
There is a wide options to tweak the sound on radio as well. There’s a 13 band EQ, so you can really tune in the highs, the lows, and the mids exactly the way you want them. If you are putting some low-res music in there, this thing has what they call Sound Lift, which will take low-res music and make it sound great. It will try to bring out all those highs and lows that get lost with all the compression. Also, if you’re planning on hooking up amplifiers, it’s got six channels of 4-volt preamp output, and so good strong signal to send out to your amplifiers.
Connection with the Computer
Depending on the vehicle you have, you might want to use what’s called an iDatalink Maestro. It’s an OEM integration adapter that allows the computer in your car to talk to the computer in your radio, and it makes it possible to do things like have some of your car’s gauges appear on your radio’s screen and retain some vehicle features that you couldn’t otherwise retain. This radio is compatible with the iDatalink Maestro through a port right on the back of the radio. It’s also one of JVC’s better radios, which is why they threw a two-year warranty on it.
A pretty nice, double-DIN DVD CarPlay, Android Auto, and all these other things radio.
8. Kenwood DDX775BH – Some Cool New Techs
This double din is a seven-inch, clear resistive DVD CD receiver, with built-in Bluetooth and HD radio. But it’s newest feature is WebLink, creating a portal to apps like Waze, YouTube, Yelp, music and weather, all displayed and controlled at the stereo. This is Kenwood’s answer to compete with CarPlay and Android Auto, without the royalties. The download Kenwood’s web link app on your phone is free. It works with both IOS and Android devices, via a USB connection.
Compatibility with the Apps
Once in the web link source, and plugged into the USB, a handful of apps come up. However, it’s not compatible with much. We can get access to YouTube, Waze, media player, which is the phone stored music, Yelp, and weather. YouTube, Waze, and Yelp need to be downloaded onto your phone first. You don’t need a pre-existing weather app, and music just takes your stored libraries.
The design looks like a folder from Windows 98 with optional metallic background. Its YouTube features seem a little hard to navigate, almost like it was in a beta phase. There are categories for videos to select, which didn’t exactly seem to lead to exactly planned variants. You can also search for videos with text, but there are no filters for ordering them. Finding videos is a slow process from the stereo. But video playback looks pretty good.
The media player music app uses the full album artwork for whatever is playing. Yelp is solid, too. It`s great for checking places out on the go or reading reviews. You can open up directions directly from it, to Google Maps or Waze. Waze works with a web link, and displays onto the stereo. However, it is slightly cropped on the receiver screen. You can also get local weather.
Display and Camera Inputs
Another new feature is in the display. The home screen allows you to move the layout of sources around, like apps on a smart phone.
This stereo features two camera inputs, one for back up and one for front camera. Kenwood removed the 3.5-millimeter AV input on the rear of the stereo. Screen mirroring is virtually impossible besides using one of those camera inputs, which don’t allow audio.
The display is motorized and offers six angle options. It is not detachable, but it opens up to reveal the disc slot.
Hands-Free Calling and Easy
Although it’s not an HD screen, DVDs still look great on the clear resistive screen. Bluetooth lets you avoid those costly texting while driving tickets, and lets you practice hands-free calling and go through your phone book. You can also wirelessly stream music from your libraries and music apps to the radio from your mobile device. Simply connect your iPhone with USB for auto Bluetooth pairing.
The DDX775BH also offers dual-phone connection. So you don’t have to fight over whose playlist is best. The built-in HD radio provides CD quality audio from your favorite stations. You can connect your smartphone via USB to enable a charge to your phone, plus get access to your music and app control over Pandora and Spotify. Each app has their own source on the stereo. For Android users, the USB provides Android rapid charge and Android music playback. USB displays album artwork onto the radio and offers higher-quality audio, as opposed to compressive Bluetooth audio.
Installing the iDatalink Maestro RR integrates your vehicle with factory amplified audio systems like Boise and Infinity, integrating factory steering wheel controls, satellite radio and USB. It also adds OBD to support with vehicle information, allowing you to check out gauges, tire pressure, adjust climate control, and to parking assist. For vehicles that doesn’t need the Maestro RR, the DDX775BH is steering wheel control ready, with the ASWC1 universal interface.
Compatibility with Audio and Music Files
This stereo is also Sirius XM ready, with the SXV 300v1 tuner. A USB thumb drive adds the ability to display photos and videos on the radio, as well as music files. For audio, the radio is compatible with playback of MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, and flac files. And for video, is compatible with MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H264 files, as well as JPEG images.
Rich Color Illumination
The keys have variable color illumination to set to any color you want, or use the scan option. Select a preset background, or customize it by uploading one yourself with a thumb drive. Audio customization allows you to select your vehicle type and speakers to adjust the high pass and low pass filters of the front, rear and sub woofers.
The customizable 13 band EQ offers several preset options. Plus, listening position and digital time alignment, fader, and balance position, volume offset and sound effects.
Wide Choice of Connections
The connections in the back include wiring harness for power ground and speakers, Sirius XM, iDatalink Maestro, Bluetooth microphone, video output, backup camera, three sets of four-volt pre-amp outputs for front, rear, or subwoofer, radio antenna, USB pigtail, and front camera pigtail. This stereo comes with a Bluetooth microphone, a wiring harness, and a parking brake extension.
9. Kenwood Excelon DDX6905S – A Newcomer To eXcelon Line
Kenwood’s brand new DDX6905S is a newcomer to their eXcelon line and boasts some cool new tech from Kenwood, making the DDX line unique in its own right. This double-DIN doesn’t have quite a seven-inch display, but the 6.8-inch clear resistive screen is pretty damn close. The DDX has all of the essentials. It’s a DVD/CD receiver with built-in Bluetooth and HD radio, but it has one of Kenwood’s newest features, WebLink, creating a portal to apps like Waze, YouTube, Yelp, Music, and Weather, all displayed and controlled at the stereo. Kenwood’s WebLink app works with iOS and Android via a USB connection. You can get access to YouTube, Waze, Media Player, which is the phone-stored music, Yelp, and Weather.
The design looks like a folder from Windows ’98 with optional metallic background. Its YouTube feature seems a little hard to navigate, almost like it is in a beta phase. It’s hard to scroll through and find the content you’re looking for, but the video playback looks solid, and a video platform is designed to show you as much content as possible, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. YouTube on WebLink is an inefficient process from the stereo, but video playback looks really good.
The Media Player app uses the full album artwork for whatever is playing. Yelp is solid too, great for checking out places on the go and reading reviews. Plus, you can open up directions directly from it to Google Maps or Waze. Waze works with WebLink and displays on the stereo. However, it is slightly cropped on the receiver’s screen. Other than that, it works well. You also get Weather, which requires no app to download. YouTube, Waze, and Yelp need to be downloaded onto your phone beforehand.
Support of Many Apps
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring your smartphone apps to the stereo. They support tons of your apps, like phone calls, messaging, music apps, Spotify, Pandora, podcast, radio apps, navigation, and thanks to iOS 12, Apple CarPlay now supports Waze and Google Maps, like Android Auto does. After taking away the iPod AV auxiliary inputs on the last year’s model of stereos, Kenwood brought it back for the new DDX line. This will allow you to display an outside video source onto the stereo or even mirror a device with a QMV TOP-35AV1 and Beuler BU-HDMIV.
Easy Streaming and Dual Connection
The stereo has a solid boot time of 10 seconds. Bluetooth helps you avoid those costly texting while driving tickets and lets you practice hands-free calling and go through your phone book. You can also wirelessly stream music from your libraries and apps to the radio from your mobile device. Simply connect your iPhone with USB for auto Bluetooth pairing. The DDX6905S also offers dual-phone Bluetooth connection, so you don’t have to fight over whose playlist is best. The built-in HD radio provides CD-quality audio from your favorite stations. You can connect a USB thumb drive or your smart phone via USB, which enables a charge to your phone plus music and app control over Pandora and Spotify, each app having its own source on the stereo. For Android users, the USB provides Android rapid charge and Android music playback. USB displays album artwork onto the radio and offers higher-quality audio as opposed to compressed Bluetooth audio.
Connection with Radio Systems
Installing the iDatalink’s Maestro RR integrates your vehicle with factory amplified audio systems like Bose and Infinity. Integrated factory steering wheel controls satellite radio, and USB. It also adds OBD to support with vehicle information, allowing you to check out gauges, tire pressure, adjust climate control, and parking assist. For vehicles that don’t need the Maestro RR, the DDX6905S is steering wheel control ready with the ASWC-1, and satellite radio ready with the SXV300v1 tuner.
A USB thumb drive adds the ability to display photos and videos on the radio as well as music files. For audio, the radio is compatible with playback of MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, and FLAC files, and for video with playback of MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and H.264 files, as well as viewing JPEG images. The keys have variable color illumination to set to any color you want, or use the scan option, plus select a preset background or customize it by uploading one yourself with a thumb drive. Audio adjustments start with a customizable 13-band EQ with several optional presets.
Variety of Connections
The connections in the back include Bluetooth microphone, 3.5 millimeter AV output, five-volt RCA pre-amp outputs for front to rear end subwoofer, wiring harness for power, ground and speaker, 3.5 millimeter AV input, iData Link Maestro, SiriusXM, dual USB pigtails, video output, backup camera, front camera, and radio antenna. The stereo comes with two USB extensions for Android and iOS, wiring harness, Bluetooth microphone, and optional trim.
10. Pioneer MVH-S600BS – Media Receiver with Enhanced Audio Functions
The increasing popularity of digital and wireless music playback combined with the fact that absolutely nobody listens to CDs anymore, has pushed Pioneer to design their new MVH-S600BS, which is a double digital media receiver with no disc slot. (0. 13)
Lack of a CD-player allowed Pioneer to design a stereo with a very shallow depth, of about four inches, making installation and expandability inside the dash behind the stereo much easier.
The stereo itself is stylish. It has a convenient rotary dial that some of us can’t live without, and has unique display controls with dual zone color illumination, so you can select custom colors for key and display.
Pioneer improved the ARC app and added new features like selecting the color illumination directly from the app, as well as audio and music functions. Enhanced Bluetooth provides hands free calling plus wireless music streaming. You can also play music connected with a USB cable via iPhone or Android. Both Bluetooth and USB provide music tags, but the USB also enables a charge to your phone at the same time. With a thumb drive the stereo can play back MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV and FLAC audio files.
Bluetooth and USB give you control over music apps like Spotify and Pandora and your music libraries.
MIXTRAX creates a non-stop playlist from your music libraries, plus offers DJ effects. The stereo is SiriusXM radio with the SXV v1 and steering wheel control ready with the ASWC1 interface.
Next to the front USB port is a 3.- millimeter auxiliary input for high-quality audio playback. The MVH-S600BS’ variable audio setting starts with a 13-band customizable graphic EQ with optional presets.
The rear connections include radio antennae, SiriusXM, wiring hearts for power gun and speaker, Bluetooth microphone, wired remote input and three sets of four-volt RCA preamp outputs for front, rear and sub-woofer. The radio comes with a wireless remote control, a wiring harness and Bluetooth microphone.
11. Clarion NX807 – Your Head Unit for Navigation
While Clarion may not have the same storied pedigree as an Alpine or a Kenwood, it has actually been manufacturing electronics for roughly the same amount of time as the other two brands. In fairness, a large part of this slow climb has been largely due to the fact that the brand began its career as a manufacturer of factory automotive stereo systems for consumer grade vehicles. However, that all changed in 2006 when the company began to market as much for high end automotive electronics as well as their factory offerings.
Simple, Shiny and Functional
Still, the NX807 should definitely be seen as a bit of a niche head unit. Interestingly, the NX807 is arguably one of the more comprehensive head units in terms of functionality. Specifically, the NX807 can manage more types of file formats from more varied of sources than almost any other head unit we reviewed. In real terms, this means that those of you whole entertainment systems in your vehicles can control the vast majority of them from this head unit instead of having to rely on three or more systems to run your in-vehicle entertainment system.
Whether you want to play your audio from a separate device, a memory card, or various types of discs, the NX807 has you covered. In fact, only one other head unit reviewed offered this same kind of versatility. Granted, this does not extend to actually being able to send a video signal to other screens within your vehicle, but it is fairly impressive nonetheless.
Robust Navigation System
Unfortunately, it seems as though Clarion simply tacked on a number of connecting features that allows different devices and file formats without actually improving the audio quality beyond what they already provide for their factory models. While the RMS wattage is not poor, it is not anything to brag about either. However it is the 2V preamp signal that is the worst offender. This means that a high end, aftermarket stereo system will do better with a more powerful head unit.
Best Double DIN Head Units – Buyer’s Guide
Despite the increasing number of features that double DIN head units are expected to perform, the most basic function of any head unit is to manage and boost the quality of your vehicle’s sound system. Keep in mind, few head units that are not specifically designed to do so are appropriate for an expansive stereo system. However, there can still be a great deal of function and versatility found for factory settings from a double DIN head unit.
RMS Watts. This is arguably the most important audio feature of any head unit that does not defer to a more elaborate and expensive audio setup. However, there are two different types of wattage: RMS and peak. Unfortunately, brands are often a bit disingenuous and will present peak wattage as a meaningful spec.
In truth, the peak wattage is only occasionally relevant. Moreover, the impact of peak wattage will depend heavily on the type of audio played. For instance, if your music does not feature a dynamic range of volume, then peak wattage is liable to be useless. Of course, even if the audio is dynamic in its mastering, peak wattage is still only periodically necessary.
The RMS wattage is a far more meaningful spec in terms of sound quality regardless of the audio played. The general power being delivered to the speakers is the RMS wattage. Essentially, this wattage determines the power over longer periods of time and through a larger range of volumes. As such, a larger RMS wattage will be far more noticeable than a larger peak wattage.
This is important for those of you with extensive stereo systems. Essentially, if the head unit will not be powering the speaker system, it will still need to send the audio signal to the amp that does power the speakers. However, the ability for the amp to decode and pass along the truest signal is determined by the head unit’s preamp.
This signal is determined by volts instead of watts because it is not actually manifested through the speakers directly. However, the stronger this signal, the better quality the signal the amp can send to the speakers–assuming the amp is equal. A low preamp signal voltage can lead to distortions of sound and lower quality audio.
Aside from the base power of either the speakers or the amp signal, the head unit can provide a number of signal modifications to help improve the audio quality or more accurately control it. These functions do not actually affect the hardware–whether speakers or amps–but simply alter the signal itself.
Low and high pass filters are one of the more common signal management. However, this is almost exclusively designed for use with a high-end stereo system. By routing the high and low-frequency signals to the appropriate speakers, the audio quality increases with less noise from a single speaker trying to play to wide of a range.
Bass boost is another common signal management, though this need not be applied to high-end speaker systems. In fact, this is far more appropriate for factory speakers that do not likely have an external amp powering them. This is one of the features that will likely test both the RMS and peak wattage of the head unit.
Other audio quality based signal management include the ability to craft the sound created. While this most commonly shows itself as an equalizer, there are other forms as well. For one, higher end head units will often be able to shape the sound created in three dimensions–locating it by depth, horizontally, and vertically. This is not simply switching the balance or fade either and instead alters the signal so that it almost acts as a ventriloquist such that the audio seems to emanate from a different point.
After the audio quality, the next most important function for a double DIN head unit will be its connectivity. To what kind and how many different devices can the head unit connect? While we have mostly become familiar with aux and USB connections and Bluetooth not far behind, the hardware compatibility of those connections is just as important as the input and output.
This is one of the most common and basic connection. Essentially, the aux ports the signal from the external device via the audio output–generally the headphones port–to the vehicle. Most vehicles come with this as a standard input, but progressing technology does not guarantee this feature. Specifically, more advanced head units may or may not recognize an aux signal as they begin to move towards USB and Bluetooth with HDMI replacing the aux.
This is by far one of the more common inputs for vehicles made after 2005. Once iPods hit the scene and revolutionized how we as a society listened to music, automotive manufacturers were quick to follow suit. These days it is almost impossible to find a new vehicle without a USB connection. The same can be said of double DIN head units as well.
While Bluetooth has been around for a while and has even been a feature in automobiles longer than the USB connection, it has only arguably been within the past decade or so that Bluetooth receivers have advanced enough that the signal remains reliable throughout use. However, since that time, Bluetooth has quickly become the preferred method of connection for high-end automotive systems–whether audio or otherwise.
A number of double DIN head units come equipped with either native proprietary software or bundled 3rd party software. However, these offerings are ultimately a bit limited and do not include the basic services of a provider like Verizon or AT&T. While some offer navigation support and others might provide streaming music apps, few can compete with the apps designed by Apple or Android.
As first on the scene, more double DIN head units are compatible with Apple CarPlay than they are Android Auto. Moreover, the various integration of this app with head units is often far more robust and will allow a wider range of apps to run through it. However, this is also one of the more restrictive car apps in that it often blocks out non-Apple apps for similar functions.
Because Android Auto took longer getting to market, fewer manufacturers have truly fleshed out its capabilities. This is actually a shame because far more people own Androids than they do Apple product–both in the US and internationally. Moreover, Android Auto plays much better with 3rd party apps than Apple CarPlay. Still, expect this compatibility to improve over time.
In the end, different people will prefer different features. As such, what makes the best double DIN head unit for you will follow for the next person. Ultimately, you will need to identify specifically what you want most from your head unit, and use that as the basis of your selection.
If you are an audiophile who is simply looking to get the best sounding head unit that also incorporates some of the new features of progressing technology, you would be hard pressed to find a better product than the Kenwood. With the best RMS wattage as well as the best preamp signal voltage, this is an ideal head unit for both factory and aftermarket stereo systems.
However, if you like to on the bleeding edge of technological developments, then the Pioneer is liable to suit you best. With its numerous formats and inputs, you can construct a full automotive entertainment system that can be run from a single control device–something no other head unit we reviewed can accomplish.