If you’re in the market to improve your everyday drive, then a double DIN unit is something you should be looking at. Units general come with anything between 6 inches and 10 inches of screen size and are largely touch screen. It’s like having a tablet in your car, with a host of audio playback options plus GPS for navigation and access to your phone calls and messages, if you connect that way.
Now here’s the tough part, picking which one you should go with. There are plenty of choices out there on the market and there is a wide range of criteria that you can consider when making your decision. We think that sound quality has to be up there as one of the most important factors to think about. Afterall, what is a road trip without the best music?
Check out our double DIN head unit review for our pick of six of the best when it comes to sound quality:
Best sound quality: Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX In Dash Multimedia Receiver with 7″ WVGA Clear Resistive Touchscreen Display
In the search for the best double DIN unit for sound quality, we start with the Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX In Dash Multimedia Receiver with 7″ WVGA Clear Resistive Touchscreen Display. It’s quite a mouthful, but this unit packs quite a punch.
First up, you get a seven-inch motorised display, which can be detached and stored safely in the provided pouch. Next up, you get several built-in modes of connectivity. These include Bluetooth and Siri eyes free. The unit also connects to two phones at once so you and your driving partner can make and answer phone calls, as well as stream audio. The unit also has built-in controls for iPhones, iPads and iPods. There are two USB ports in the unit – one for Apple devices and one for Android – meaning you don’t have to rely on Bluetooth for connecting your phones.
If you don’t want to play music off your phone, you can use one of the many other options that come standard with the Pioneer. You get the classic DVD and CD player, as well as a car radio app so you can tune into your favourite local stations. In addition, the unit also has Spotify so you can make your ultimate driving playlists and then log in to get them whenever you hit the road.
And now for the most important element of this review: the sound quality. Pioneer is known for high-end products with excellent sound quality and this one is no different. It offers built-in amplification that keeps sound true. This model also has a 13-band graphic equaliser that can hold two custom curves. The sound quality is pretty good over Bluetooth if you’re streaming from your phone, but it really comes to life when you plug your phone in or use one of the native ways to play music or other audio content.
As an added bonus, when you get this unit from Amazon, you also get a magnet phone holder so that you can keep your phone handy when driving. You also get an HD backup camera to make reversing and parking that much easier. The rear view from the camera will come up on your unit’s display.
Best overall: Sony XAV-AX5000 Car Stereo Double DIN Radio
Up next, but honestly in no particular order, we are looking at the Sony XAV-AX5000 Car Stereo Double DIN Radio with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, 7″ Screen + SXV300AZV1 Connect Vehicle Tuner Kit for Satellite Radio with Installation Tool. Another mouthful, but also another powerful and reasonably priced unit. In this bundle offer, you get the Sony unit plus a Connect Vehicle Tuner Kit for Satellite Radio. It also comes with a free three-month streaming subscription through Prime. This added extra is great for those who love their music and want as much access to their favourite tunes and opportunities to explore new songs and artists – all without running down the battery of your phone through streaming.
When it comes to sound, this unit has a feature that a lot of drivers love: physical channel buttons and a physical volume dial. This seems super old school, but it really works. You have to look at a touch screen to press those “buttons” and that can be quite distracting while driving. Having something physical that you can find by feel is a lot safer while out on the road. A physical sound dial also gives you great control while driving.
The actual sound quality of any audio played through the Sony unit is exceptional. Whether you’re using your phone to stream or you’ve plugged your audio source directly into the unit, it offers an excellent listening experience. What’s more, this unit has become a favourite with those who want to pair a double DIN with Android or with iPhone. This Sony is compatible with both Android Auto and Apple Carplay, making it a universally flexible option.
Sony has been making audio-visual tech for years, so it’s hardly surprising that this double DIN head unit has exceptional sound quality. It’s also a highly responsive unit, allowing you to adjust sound levels for both playback and phone calls with ease. You can go all the way from -8 dB up to 18 dB to get the detail you want out of the audio you’re listening to. There is a 10-band equaliser built into the unit, which gives you plenty of control to increase and decrease various frequencies to get just the right sound for your audio playback. The unit also syncs quickly with your phone after starting your car, so you can start playing music or audiobooks quickly and easily.
Best premium: Insane Audio DD2001 Universal Double DIN Head Unit
No roundup of the best double DIN head unit in 2020 would be complete without the Insane Audio DD2001 Universal Double DIN Multimedia Bluetooth in-Dash Receiver with On/Off Road Navigation and Hi-Def Touch Display. This is the granddaddy of units, and it has all the bells and whistles to back up the higher price tag. If you’re serious about the sounds you listen to in your car and making sure you’re fully connected, this is the one you want to go for. It’s made by Insane Audio, who are renowned for creating premium multimedia solutions for vehicles.
You’re totally spoiled for choice when it comes to playback options. The micro SD card reader is capable of processing up 400GB of data – that’s a lot of music and movies just there. On top of that, it’s compatible with both iPhone and Android. Syncing via Bluetooth or connecting via USB cable is quick and the connection is solid either way. The unit itself also has access to a host of streaming apps: Spotify, waze, Pandora, Netflix, just to name a few. It has onboard WiFi, so you are able to stream your songs and videos wherever you go – you just need to connect to a hotspot. Users will often download their playlists while at home on their WiFi and then hit the road with a huge selection of music to choose from.
This unit from Insane Audio is built to be tough. It can handle rocky terrain without skipping a beat of your favourite album or interfering with your video playback. It also has a combination of touch screen and physical buttons, making navigation and adjusting settings easy when you’re on the go. Thanks to the onboard WiFi and the Android operating system, you can download whatever apps you want onto the unit from the Google Play store. Weather apps, radio apps, games, email, ebook reader, or even meditation apps to keep you calm in traffic.As this product is made by Insane Audio, it stands to reason that the sound quality is excellent. It certainly delivers on that front. The built-in equaliser gives you complete control over how you want the playback to sound. It’s far more than just volume up or volume down, although that can easily be adjusted with the volume dial while you’re driving. The great thing about the touch screen sound settings is that you can quickly and easily change your levels depending on the music you’re listening to or the video you’re watching.
Best new comer: Pioneer AVH-1400NEX 6.2″ Double-Din in-Dash Nex DVD Receiver with Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Siriusxm Ready
For those who are a bit more budget conscious, we took a look at the Pioneer AVH-1400NEX 6.2″ Double-Din in-Dash Nex DVD Receiver with Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Siriusxm Ready. This is a great option for someone who is looking for a high-quality product that provides great sound in your car, but doesn’t need all the extra bells and whistles. Although it does have more than just audio playback options. You can still connect your phone to make and receive phone calls, and receive text messages. It also comes with a navigation app so you can drive around town, confident you know where you’re going.
This unit is far more paired down than the previous Pioneer unit we looked at and the unit itself is smaller with on a 6.2” screen. However, it still gives you plenty of options for playback. You can use Apple Carplay or Android Auto – depending on the phone you have. Alternatively, you can play radio stations through the onboard app. Other apps on the unit include Spotify, Pandora and Sirius XM Ready. Then there’s the USB port option where you can plug in a flash drive full of music for playback.
Sound quality on this unit is just as good as any of it’s more expensive counterparts. You also get three sets of preamp outputs – front, rear and subwoofer. The unit also has a parametric equaliser with selectable tone curves to create an excellent listening experience. If you are playing your audio from your phone, the sound quality when it is directly plugged in but also still very good when you stream via Bluetooth. You just need to make sure you keep your phone close to the unit and steady.
As an added extra, this package on Amazon comes with the backup camera that connects to the unit. You can use it and the screen on the unit to make reversing and parking that much easier. The camera can be placed securely on the back of your car and it transmits the image to the Double DIN unit whenever you are backing up. Another handy add-on in this package is the magnetic phone holder that allows you to store your phone conveniently on your dashboard while driving.
Best value: Sony XAV-AX100
The Sony XAV-AX100 6.4″ Car Play/Android Auto Media Receiver with Bluetooth is a simple device that gives you all the basics you could want from a Double DIN unit. The screen is a good size for viewing maps and navigating through your apps and playback options. The side panel with physical channel buttons and volume dial give you that added bit of control when you’re driving and don’t want to be looking at a touch screen to see what or where to press.
As with all Sony units, you get excellent sound quality on your music, podcasts and audiobooks. This unit uses a dynamic reality amp and gives you a fairly wide audio level adjustment option. You can go between -8 dB all the way up to 18 dB. The unit also has a 10-band graphic equaliser built in. The display gives you slides on the touchscreen that allow you to play around with 10 different frequencies. This puts the control in your hands to get just the right levels for the audio you’re listening to so you can make it sound the way you want it to.
The dynamic stage organiser app on the unit gives you a virtual speaker set on your dashboard. It does this by automatically adjusting how the sound is coming out of your car speakers and making sound like the audio is coming from right in front of you. Nothing better than making it feel like you’re at a rock concert when you’re actually stuck in rush hour traffic.
If you need more, the three pre-outs built into the system give you multiple opportunities to expand your speaker setup. You can plug amplifiers and subwoofers straight into the unit and place them where you want them in your car. Whether you want to feel the bass trembling through your seat or just want a true surround sound experience, you can make it work for you.
With this unit, you get all the best playback options. It’s compatible with both Android Auto and Apple Carplay, so you can connect your phone and play the music, podcasts or audio books that you love. There also doesn’t have to be any change from what you’re listening to when you’re at your computer or on your phone. You can choose to connect your phone via Bluetooth or via a cable for playback and phone calls. The unit also reads out your text messages and allows you to dictate audio to text for replies to messages.
And last but not least, in our quest for the best sounding double DIN head unit, we come to the BOSS Audio Systems BV9386NV Car GPS Navigation – Double Din, Bluetooth Audio and Hands-Free Calling, 6.2 Inch Touchscreen LCD, MP3, CD, DVD Player, USB, SD, AUX-A/V Inputs, AM/FM Radio Receiver. This is the simplest of all the units in this review, and has the lowest price tag. It might not have all the fancy bells and whistles, like being able to read email messages or navigate on a map app. However, it does have what you need for an excellent audio experience.
There are all the playback options you would expect on a double DIN unit: USB, SD card reader, aux input, CD or DVD, radio, and Bluetooth. You can connect your phone via Bluetooth or plug it straight in via USB or aux. These will allow you to play music, podcasts or audio books, as well as make and receive phone calls. All of this can be done without having to touch your phone once it’s been connected.
Another great feature for those who love their CDs – old school is totally cool – is the ESP (Electronic Skip Protection). The unit reads the information on the CD or DVD and buffers at least five seconds of music. This way, if the playback is interrupted for any reason, your music should continue playing the stored date while the system restores the disc to normal levels.You get more than just the basic options for adjust sound output, so you can create exactly the sound you want. There is a pre-set equaliser built into the unit that allows you to choose from a range of audio curves depending on the type of music that you’re listening to. This makes it quick and easy for you to make sure you’re getting the best experience even if your music tastes change while out on the road. You also get an RDS tuner and control over the balance, fader, treble and bass on the unit. The sound can be set to output through the front and rear speakers of your car, as well as having a sub pre amp output that allows you to expand your music system with another three amps or signal processors.
Double DIN units for older cars
People go for these upgrades so that they can bridge the gap between their cars and their smartphones. It also brings them into the modern era where cars are expected to give you so much more functionality and connectivity features.
The level of functionality that you get in your car once the upgrade is complete will depend entirely on the double DIN unit that you choose. Most of them come with navigation systems so you don’t need a GPS unit or to use your phone. Some have more features like climate control or vehicle engine monitoring. On the more advanced units, you can also get access to a wide range of apps such as email, a PDF reader and even games.
Upgrading to the best sounding double DIN head unit in a new car
Most modern cars will come with some kind of DIN unit – single or double – already installed but it is completely possible to upgrade your unit to one of the options we’ve just reviewed. You may need to talk to an expert about ensuring that your vehicle will be compatible with the unit you choose. The most important element to check is how things like your car steering wheel controls will work with the unit. If installed correctly, you should still be able to make or answer phone calls, adjust audio volume and search through content, all through your existing steering wheel controls.