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Best Car Stereos

There’s lots of reasons why you might be looking for a replacement stereo for your vehicle. Maybe your current car stereo doesn’t offer the technology you want or perhaps the stock stereo which came with the vehicle stopped working. Whatever the reason, there are hundreds of available options which can make the shopping process quite daunting to even begin. Fortunately, we've narrowed down the field to select car stereos which offer some of the best options currently available. To learn more about choosing the right car stereo for your needs, check out our car stereo buyer’s guide down below.

Sony DSXS310BTX Digital Media Receiver with Pandora Stream

A digital receiver such as the DSX-S310BTX does away with the CD player entirely to focus on more modern digital media. Sony has chosen to use this space previously held by the CD receiver to install a swing-out tray that can hold an iPod or other device. Called the 'Tune Tray', it also has an internal USB input, so everything is contained inside. There is also a front-panel USB input that can be used, and either method of connection allows you to use the display to control your device. The DSX-S310BTX has built-in Bluetooth for handsfree phone calls or wireless streaming, including Pandora Internet Radio (done from the app on your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry smartphone). The built-in 24-bit DAC and 17 watt RMS 4-channel amplifier help ensure that sound quality is always up to par. This receiver is also a great starting point for expansion due to the 4-volt, 6-channel preamp outputs. If you listen primarily to digital music and don't need a CD player in your car anymore, the Sony DSX-S310BTX is worth a look.

Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

As a part of Kenwood's Excelon lineup, the KDC-X797 already boasts stand-out performance. In addition to high sound quality from physical sources, this stereo focuses on connectivity with smartphones or an iPod. Dedicated control buttons mean you can connect your iPod or smartphone using the front-mounted USB port, then rely solely on the stereo to control your music. The built-in controls also make using Pandora Internet Radio, Aha Radio, and iHeart Radio much easier and safer so you can keep your eyes on the road. The addition of integrated Bluetooth allows iPhone users to use voice commands through Siri to look up numbers without taking your eyes off the road. The KDC-X797 will also play AAC files from discs, alongside MP3 and WMA files. The built-in amplifier puts out 22 watts RMS x 4, with a peak of 50 watts. Sound quality is impressively clear, and those looking to create a custom system will find the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs useful.

Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

As Clarion's top-of-the-line single-DIN CD receiver, the CZ702 offers plenty of features and performance. The less expected part is that you get all of that at a very reasonable price, making this one of the better-balanced choices out there. The CZ702 comes with built-in Bluetooth, allowing for hands-free communication as well as wireless music streaming. The front-panel auxiliary input and rear-mounted USB input also allow you to connect your devices easily. The buttons on the stereo become iPod/iPhone controls when your device is plugged in, allowing you to put your device away and keep your eyes primarily on the road. The internal amplifier puts out 19 watts RMS through 4 channels, with a peak of 50 watts. The excellent sound quality is enough for a great basic setup, while those wanting to build up their own system will be happy that the CZ702 is equipped with 6-channel, 5-volt preamp outputs. Despite all this, the Clarion CZ702 is very reasonably priced. The MSRP is around $250, but this stereo can easily be found for under $200 online.

Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

At first glance, it's definitely the giant 7-inch screen that stands out about the double-DIN-sized Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. This screen allows you to experience select apps such as Pandora Internet Radio in your car in a new way, displaying them on the capacitive touchscreen so you can use the receiver much like you would your smartphone. You can even pop a DVD in and watch and movie if you'll be sitting in the car without moving for a while. To make sure everything works seamlessly, you'll need to purchase a connection kit made specifically for your smartphone model (iPhone 5, iPhone 4/4S, and some Android phones are supported). The cables included in the kit connect to the rear-panel USB input, where you'll also find a rear-view camera input. The AppRadio 3 also has an external GPS antenna included for boosting signal while using GPS apps. Once connected, you can use the AppRadio 3 to do anything from setting reminders and changing songs using Siri through your stereo's built-in microphone (if you have an iPhone, of course), to using MirrorLink for in-dash control to access map services with some Android phones. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and allows you to talk handsfree, stream audio, and access your phone book from the touchscreen. Of course, you can't forget about the actual sound quality of the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. A built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS over 4 channels (50 watt peak), and although the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs don't leave a huge amount of room for expansion, performance is excellent on its own.

JVC KDX200 Digital Media Receiver

If you're ready to ditch your CD collection but don't have a lot to spend on a new stereo unit for your car, you're likely to be impressed by the JVC KD-X200. The KD-X200 does not play CDs (being a digital media receiver) but it supports MP3, WMA, and WAV formats, so you're not limited to MP3s only. A built-in MOSFET amplifier puts out 20 watts RMS x 4 channels, and works in conjunction with a 24-bit DAC to ensure that sound quality is always up to par. While 2-channel, 2.5-volt preamp outputs don't leave much open in the way of expanding to a complete system, they can be switched over to subwoofer mode to add a little extra punch to your sound. The KD-X200 has built-in iPod control, as well as 2-way iPhone/iPod control, meaning that you aren't limited to only using the receiver when your iPhone or iPod is hooked up. You can also control Pandora Internet Radio from your iPhone. Android phones are supported as well - when connected to the stereo, you can use the touchscreen on the phone as a remote control to perform functions such as changing songs. While Bluetooth is not built-in, there is an optional adapter available to add that capability. A front USB port and a front auxiliary input allows you to hook up other devices as needed. At an extremely budget-friendly price of under $100, the JVC KD-X200 is an excellent choice for those looking to move away from CDs and depend on their smartphone for in-car listening.

Alpine CDE-141 CD/MP3 Car Stereo Receiver with Front Aux Input and USB

The CDE-141 helps to bring Alpine's excellent sound quality within reach, as this entry-level stereo features a price tag under $150. While this means that this stereo comes mostly with basic features (leaving out options such as Bluetooth), it's equipped with front-panel auxiliary and USB inputs that can connect devices such as your iPhone/iPod. The stereo buttons can be used to directly control a connected iPhone/iPod using Alpine's App Direct Mode. An 18 watt RMS built-in amplifier and a 3-band parametric equalizer presents ample performance; the high and low pass filters and a subwoofer phase switch allow plenty of flexibility with output. If you're looking to expand your system using this stereo as a base, the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs fall a bit short, so you may want to look into a slightly more expensive option like the CDE-147BT . However, for a basic car stereo with top-notch sound, the Alpine CDE-141 is hard to beat.

Clarion CZ302 Bluetooth CD/USB/MP3/WMA Receiver

Clarion's CZ302 might not cost much, but that doesn't mean that you'll need to forgo features such as Bluetooth just because you're on a budget. Clarion has a tendency to somehow manage to include lots of features on their receivers regardless of the price, so it's no surprise that they've done the same with this affordable entry-level model. The CZ302 is equipped with Parrot Bluetooth, which means crystal clear quality for handsfree talking and wireless music streaming. Front-panel auxiliary and USB inputs mean that you can also hook up your devices directly, and with an iPod/iPhone, the stereo buttons can then be used to search for songs, control your Pandora Internet Radio app (you can even rate songs from the dash), and achieve all the basic functions you'd expect. This stereo is also compatible with SiriusXM if you decide to add satellite radio to your car. Sound quality is clean, with a built-in amplifier that puts out 19 watts RMS over 4 channels. Those wanting to expand might be disappointed by the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs, though this is not to say expansion is not a possibility. Overall, it's difficult to find many options in this price range that offer great performance along with sharing features from receivers that cost much more.

Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

Often, getting a car stereo at a very affordable price means having to give up features that many of us consider to be fairly basic, such as Bluetooth. With the UTE-42BT, Alpine took a different approach, taking into consideration how many people have been making the switch away from CDs when it comes to playing music. This stereo gets rid of the CD slot completely, relying solely on digital media. If you're still using CDs in your car, this is definitely not a good option. The UTE-42BT does, however, include built-in Bluetooth so you can have handsfree conversations or use wireless streaming in your car. Front-panel USB and auxiliary inputs mean you can connect devices to the stereo directly, and if you plug in an iPod or iPhone, you can use the stereo's buttons to access and control your music so you don't need to take out your phone while driving. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS x 4 channels to ensure good sound quality, although expansion options are somewhat limited with the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs.

Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD Receiver

With how ubiquitous smartphones and MP3 players have become, car stereos have had to adjust in order to be able to work seamlessly with this more modern technology. On the front panel of Kenwood's KDC-255U you'll find both a USB and auxiliary input, giving options to connect devices easily. This allows for features such as controlling Pandora Internet Radio (with the app installed on your iPhone) through the receiver instead of needing to get out your smartphone while driving. Sound quality is good considering the price; the built-in 4-channel amplifier features 22 watts RMS of output. Overall sound output itself can be adjusted using the System Q Sound Control, with 8 EQ curves and a 3-band equalizer. Variable color illumination allows you to customize the appearance of the stereo to match your taste, as well. For a stereo that costs less than $100, Kenwood's KDC-255U offers plenty of performance.

JVC KD-R330 In Dash CD/MP3 Player

Despite a price tag under $100, JVC has managed to put the kind of features you'd expect on a more expensive model into its entry-level KD-R330. Though it does lack any USB connectivity, front and rear auxiliary inputs do allow for connecting MP3 players and smartphones to the stereo. The KD-R330 does not have Bluetooth built in, either, but an optional Bluetooth adapter is available if you want to add that connectivity. The integrated amplifier puts out an impressive 20 watts RMS x 4, while the 4-channel, 2.5-volt preamp outputs give some options for expanding your car's sound system beyond just the head unit. The JVC KD-R330 combines an impressive amount of features and performance considering the extremely budget-friendly price, making it an excellent choice if you're looking to upgrade but are limited by cost.

Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

Alpine has earned its reputation for offering top-notch car stereo gear, and the CDE-147BT does not disappoint. This midrange stereo is part of Alpine's 2013 TuneIt line of Bluetooth-equipped receivers, designed to work seamlessly with smartphones. The TuneIt app allows the user to adjust sound settings via your iPhone or Android smartphone by creating a user profile that can be customized for your specific vehicle, or by picking from existing settings. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS through 4 channels, and output can be adjusted using a 9-band parametric equalizer with 11 presets. Those wishing to expand their system will appreciate the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs that Alpine thoughtfully included. A USB input is found at the back of the unit, and Pandora internet radio streaming is now supported via both the iPhone and the Android app. Quad Illumination allows you to pick from 4 different colors for visual customization of the receiver. The CDE-147BT combines clean sound quality with excellent features, making it stand out from the competition.

Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

At first glance, it's definitely the giant 7-inch screen that stands out about the double-DIN-sized Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. This screen allows you to experience select apps such as Pandora Internet Radio in your car in a new way, displaying them on the capacitive touchscreen so you can use the receiver much like you would your smartphone. You can even pop a DVD in and watch and movie if you'll be sitting in the car without moving for a while. To make sure everything works seamlessly, you'll need to purchase a connection kit made specifically for your smartphone model (iPhone 5, iPhone 4/4S, and some Android phones are supported). The cables included in the kit connect to the rear-panel USB input, where you'll also find a rear-view camera input. The AppRadio 3 also has an external GPS antenna included for boosting signal while using GPS apps. Once connected, you can use the AppRadio 3 to do anything from setting reminders and changing songs using Siri through your stereo's built-in microphone (if you have an iPhone, of course), to using MirrorLink for in-dash control to access map services with some Android phones. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and allows you to talk handsfree, stream audio, and access your phone book from the touchscreen. Of course, you can't forget about the actual sound quality of the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. A built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS over 4 channels (50 watt peak), and although the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs don't leave a huge amount of room for expansion, performance is excellent on its own.

Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

Pioneer's DEH-X8500BH highlights how much effort Pioneer puts into the audio performance of their stereos, while also checking all the boxes when it comes to the features expected from a modern receiver. The built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS through 4 channels (50 watts peak); the stereo automatically improves the sound quality from compressed files, so the source can better match the output. Though public awareness of HD Radio broadcasts may not be all that high, the DEH-X8500BH also has a built-in HD Radio tuner. Also built-in is Bluetooth, which allows for handsfree talking and wireless music streaming, while also allowing for voice control of your connected iPhone so you never have to take your eyes off the road. A front auxiliary input and rear USB input allow you to connect devices such as an iPod, while the stereo also supports MP3, WMA, and AAC files from discs. Pandora Internet Radio control is offered through your iPhone, and by hooking up your Android device to the USB port, you can access the music files and play them in your car. Audio enthusiasts will appreciate the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs that make building an even better system possible. All in all, the Pioneer DEH-X8500BH combines high performance, features, and expandability at a reasonable price.

Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

Kenwood's DPX500BT offers lots of features and connectivity - as well as plenty of performance - in a sleek and modern double-DIN design. The built-in Bluetooth is useful for handfree calls and wireless audio streaming, but is also easy to set up because of its automatic detection and pairing for smartphones. You can also control Siri through the built-in microphone when the stereo is paired with a Siri-enabled iPhone. The DPX500BT offers Pandora Internet Radio control for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry smartphones, while offering Aha Radio and iHeart Radio control for iPhone and Android only. You can also control an iPod through the USB input, which is found on the front panel along with an auxiliary port for more connection options. In terms of more music source options, this stereo is compatible with the SiriusXM satellite radio tuner, as well as MP3, WMA, and AAC formats. The built-in amplifier puts out 22 watts RMS over 4 channels, and numerous sound control features allow you to customize output. While the 6-channel, 2.5-volt preamp outputs are not ideal for building a high-end sound system, they do provide some options for expansion.

Alpine UTE-42BT Car Flash Audio Player

Often, getting a car stereo at a very affordable price means having to give up features that many of us consider to be fairly basic, such as Bluetooth. With the UTE-42BT, Alpine took a different approach, taking into consideration how many people have been making the switch away from CDs when it comes to playing music. This stereo gets rid of the CD slot completely, relying solely on digital media. If you're still using CDs in your car, this is definitely not a good option. The UTE-42BT does, however, include built-in Bluetooth so you can have handsfree conversations or use wireless streaming in your car. Front-panel USB and auxiliary inputs mean you can connect devices to the stereo directly, and if you plug in an iPod or iPhone, you can use the stereo's buttons to access and control your music so you don't need to take out your phone while driving. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS x 4 channels to ensure good sound quality, although expansion options are somewhat limited with the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs.

Pioneer Stage 4 DEX-P99RS CD Player

Pioneer has revamped its entire lineup of car audio products, forming a new category called 'Stage 4' for only its highest-performing offerings. The DEX-P99RS is such a product, with a massive price tag which will inevitably drive away all but the most dedicated audiophiles. The lack of an internal amplifier and the copper-plated chassis are both marks of a super high-end platform, as is the 32-bit digital signal processor and carefully shielded internal circuits. The outside design looks clean, simple and unassuming, incorporating a clear display and a pair of dials for various playback adjustments. The use of an external amplifier is required due to the 'deadhead' design, and the four digital-to-analog converters and shielded circuitry ensure only the cleanest signals are sent out. Installing the Pioneer DEX-P99RS with a proper audiophile-grade audio system with quality components will result in an experience that must be heard to be believed.

Pioneer DEH-80PRS Mobile CD Receiver

As one of the absolute best high-end car stereo units available without getting into pro-grade stereos (and prices) like the Pioneer DEX-P99RS, the Pioneer DEH-80PRS combines top-notch internals with lots of sound controls and expandability options. The DEX-80PRS focuses primarily on putting out excellent sound, but Pioneer hasn't forgotten about features. This receiver comes with built-in Bluetooth for handsfree talking and wireless music streaming, as well as built-in iPod control and Pandora control using your iPhone. App Mode also offers limited control of select other apps, and a 3-line LCD display makes everything easy to read. Two rear USB inputs, front and rear auxiliary inputs, and an SD slot provide lots of connectivity options, and the DEX-80PRS supports discs with multiple formats, such as MP3, WMA, and AAC. Extremely high quality internal components and attention to detail contribute to the outstanding sound quality, and advanced sound controls mean you can very precisely fine tune the output. Best of all, the 6-channel, 5-volt preamp outputs provide many options for further customization.

Kenwood KDCX997 eXcelon Sing DIN In-Dash Car Stereo with Built In Bluetooth

The Kenwood Excelon KDC-X997 offers high-end sound quality, plenty of features, and expandability options for a price that might surprise you. Though the MSRP is higher, you can usually find this stereo for under $250, making it quite the bargain considering all the performance it offers. Features include HD Radio, Bluetooth, iPod/iPhone control using the USB input, and Siri control when using your iPhone. Pandora Internet Radio, iHeart Radio, and Aha Radio can also be controlled using your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry smartphone. The KDC-X997 is compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio, and also supports discs with multiple formats such as MP3, WMA, and AAC. The built-in amplifier puts out a strong 22 watts RMS over 4 channels, and advanced audio features such as digital time alignment give you enough sound control to really get output sounding how you want. The 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs offer plenty of options in terms of expandability, meaning you can take advantage of the relatively low price of this receiver to add more components and really customize your sound system.

Pioneer AVHX8500BHS Double-DIN Multimedia DVD Receiver With Bluetooth And HD Radio

Pioneer's AVH-X8500BHS offers plenty of performance and features to fit a double-DIN opening, with its detachable 7" touchscreen and motorized faceplate. The built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS through 4 channels, and a plethora of sound output controls allow you to fine-tune your system to how you like it. This stereo also includes support for HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio, expanding your choices for high quality sound. Bluetooth capability allows for handsfree talking and wireless streaming, and the AVH-X8500BHS also offers Pandora internet radio control with both iPhone and Android devices. With the purchase of additional cables, AppRadio mode allows for launching and controlling compatible apps from the stereo itself. Taking full advantage of the larger double-DIN space, the AVH-X8500BHS also accepts CDs, DVDs, SD cards, and USB devices for both video and audio. The inputs and outputs also provide plenty of streaming, with rear A/V inputs, dual rear USB ports, a rear-view camera input, an HDMI input for AppRadio mode, video outputs, and 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs. The dual-zone A/V means that you can play a movie in the back while playing your music up front, making trips with kids much easier. With plenty of features and performance, the Pioneer AVH-X8500BHS is a top choice if you're looking for a double-DIN stereo that takes full advantage of the extra available space.

Kenwood DPX500BT Double DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

Kenwood's DPX500BT offers lots of features and connectivity - as well as plenty of performance - in a sleek and modern double-DIN design. The built-in Bluetooth is useful for handfree calls and wireless audio streaming, but is also easy to set up because of its automatic detection and pairing for smartphones. You can also control Siri through the built-in microphone when the stereo is paired with a Siri-enabled iPhone. The DPX500BT offers Pandora Internet Radio control for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry smartphones, while offering Aha Radio and iHeart Radio control for iPhone and Android only. You can also control an iPod through the USB input, which is found on the front panel along with an auxiliary port for more connection options. In terms of more music source options, this stereo is compatible with the SiriusXM satellite radio tuner, as well as MP3, WMA, and AAC formats. The built-in amplifier puts out 22 watts RMS over 4 channels, and numerous sound control features allow you to customize output. While the 6-channel, 2.5-volt preamp outputs are not ideal for building a high-end sound system, they do provide some options for expansion.

Pioneer FH-X700BT In-Dash Double DIN CD/MP3/USB Car Stereo Receiver

The Pioneer FH-X700BT sports a minimalist, futuristic look that does not show off what it is capable of. The clean design is refreshing, especially when you consider that so many head units these days are packed full of buttons that you can barely distinguish from one another. The large control knob is mounted centrally and is flanked by large, easy-to-read buttons to control its features. First of all, the 'BT' in the name stands for the built-in Bluetooth, which will allow you to connect your phone for a handsfree conversation in your car, as well as use Siri with voice control through the stereo's Bluetooth microphone. The FH-700BT supports MP3, WMA, and AAC files from a CD, and offers built-in iPod controls as well as Pandora control through your iPhone. Android control is also available through the USB port. Front-panel auxiliary and USB ports also allow you to connect your smartphone or other device directly, and your music will sound great thanks to the FH-X700BT's internal amplifier that will drive powerful signals to your speakers. The included 4-channel, 2-volt outputs are a decent starting point for building up a more complete system, and variable color illumination with separate control for the display and the buttons allows you to customize the look. The Pioneer FH-X700BT is a head unit that you can be proud to have in your car thanks to its good looks, ease of use, and high overall performance.

Kenwood DDX790 eXcelon Double DIN 6.95" In-Dash DVD Receiver

Along with a 7" touchscreen and a motorized faceplate, the Kenwood Excelon DDX790 offers an attractive blend of performance and features. This stereo accepts media from DVDs, CDs, and USB devices, while playing MP3, WMA, and AAC sound formats. The built-in amplifier puts out 22 watts RMS through 4 channels, and basic sound controls allow you to ensure that the output is just how you want it. Built-in Bluetooth capability means you can talk handsfree and well as stream audio; with your iPhone 4S or 5, you can also use Siri's voice control through the stereo. Pandora internet radio control is available with iPhone, Android, and Blackberry; while a satellite radio tuner is not included, the stereo is compatible with SiriusXM should you choose to add a tuner at a later date. iPod control can be achieved with the purchase of an additional cable, and using an iPhone 4 or 4S, you can even stream Netflix to watch videos on the screen. There are plenty of connectivity options, with dual rear A/V inputs, a rear USB input, and a rear-view camera input, as well as an A/V output and 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs. The Kenwood Excelon DDX79 is an excellent choice for those seeking a solid all-around performer that will fill up a double-DIN slot.

Pioneer AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 In-Dash iPhone and Android Compatible Car Receiver

At first glance, it's definitely the giant 7-inch screen that stands out about the double-DIN-sized Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. This screen allows you to experience select apps such as Pandora Internet Radio in your car in a new way, displaying them on the capacitive touchscreen so you can use the receiver much like you would your smartphone. You can even pop a DVD in and watch and movie if you'll be sitting in the car without moving for a while. To make sure everything works seamlessly, you'll need to purchase a connection kit made specifically for your smartphone model (iPhone 5, iPhone 4/4S, and some Android phones are supported). The cables included in the kit connect to the rear-panel USB input, where you'll also find a rear-view camera input. The AppRadio 3 also has an external GPS antenna included for boosting signal while using GPS apps. Once connected, you can use the AppRadio 3 to do anything from setting reminders and changing songs using Siri through your stereo's built-in microphone (if you have an iPhone, of course), to using MirrorLink for in-dash control to access map services with some Android phones. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and allows you to talk handsfree, stream audio, and access your phone book from the touchscreen. Of course, you can't forget about the actual sound quality of the Pioneer SPH-DA210 AppRadio 3. A built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS over 4 channels (50 watt peak), and although the 4-channel, 2-volt preamp outputs don't leave a huge amount of room for expansion, performance is excellent on its own.

Alpine CDE-147BT Car CD/MP3 Player

Alpine has earned its reputation for offering top-notch car stereo gear, and the CDE-147BT does not disappoint. This midrange stereo is part of Alpine's 2013 TuneIt line of Bluetooth-equipped receivers, designed to work seamlessly with smartphones. The TuneIt app allows the user to adjust sound settings via your iPhone or Android smartphone by creating a user profile that can be customized for your specific vehicle, or by picking from existing settings. The built-in amplifier puts out 18 watts RMS through 4 channels, and output can be adjusted using a 9-band parametric equalizer with 11 presets. Those wishing to expand their system will appreciate the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs that Alpine thoughtfully included. A USB input is found at the back of the unit, and Pandora internet radio streaming is now supported via both the iPhone and the Android app. Quad Illumination allows you to pick from 4 different colors for visual customization of the receiver. The CDE-147BT combines clean sound quality with excellent features, making it stand out from the competition.

Kenwood KDCX797 eXcelon Single DIN In-Dash Car Stereo Receiver

As a part of Kenwood's Excelon lineup, the KDC-X797 already boasts stand-out performance. In addition to high sound quality from physical sources, this stereo focuses on connectivity with smartphones or an iPod. Dedicated control buttons mean you can connect your iPod or smartphone using the front-mounted USB port, then rely solely on the stereo to control your music. The built-in controls also make using Pandora Internet Radio, Aha Radio, and iHeart Radio much easier and safer so you can keep your eyes on the road. The addition of integrated Bluetooth allows iPhone users to use voice commands through Siri to look up numbers without taking your eyes off the road. The KDC-X797 will also play AAC files from discs, alongside MP3 and WMA files. The built-in amplifier puts out 22 watts RMS x 4, with a peak of 50 watts. Sound quality is impressively clear, and those looking to create a custom system will find the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs useful.

Clarion CZ702 Vehicle CD Digital Music Player Receiver

As Clarion's top-of-the-line single-DIN CD receiver, the CZ702 offers plenty of features and performance. The less expected part is that you get all of that at a very reasonable price, making this one of the better-balanced choices out there. The CZ702 comes with built-in Bluetooth, allowing for hands-free communication as well as wireless music streaming. The front-panel auxiliary input and rear-mounted USB input also allow you to connect your devices easily. The buttons on the stereo become iPod/iPhone controls when your device is plugged in, allowing you to put your device away and keep your eyes primarily on the road. The internal amplifier puts out 19 watts RMS through 4 channels, with a peak of 50 watts. The excellent sound quality is enough for a great basic setup, while those wanting to build up their own system will be happy that the CZ702 is equipped with 6-channel, 5-volt preamp outputs. Despite all this, the Clarion CZ702 is very reasonably priced. The MSRP is around $250, but this stereo can easily be found for under $200 online.

JVC KD-R840BT In Dash CD/MP3 Player

JVC's KD-R840BT represents an excellent all-around performer when it comes to everything you want from your stereo, whether it's great base performance or the ability to expand your entire system. The built-in amplifier puts out 20 watts RMS x 4 channels, and the 24-bit digital-to-analog converter boosts sound quality. The KD-R840BT also features Bluetooth capability, which can be paired with 2 phones at once. The receiver is SiriusXM satellite radio ready; Pandora Internet Radio control is also included, which is usable with your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry smartphone. The KD-R840BT comes with 4.8-volt, 6-channel preamp outputs, allowing for expanding to a custom sound system. There are two USB inputs (front and rear), and a single front panel auxiliary input for connecting MP3 players or smartphones. The detachable face with a 5-zone color display helps you customize the receiver to your tastes and a reasonable price tag adds to the appeal.

Pioneer DEH-X8500BH Bluetooth Enabled Single-DIN In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver

Pioneer's DEH-X8500BH highlights how much effort Pioneer puts into the audio performance of their stereos, while also checking all the boxes when it comes to the features expected from a modern receiver. The built-in amplifier puts out 14 watts RMS through 4 channels (50 watts peak); the stereo automatically improves the sound quality from compressed files, so the source can better match the output. Though public awareness of HD Radio broadcasts may not be all that high, the DEH-X8500BH also has a built-in HD Radio tuner. Also built-in is Bluetooth, which allows for handsfree talking and wireless music streaming, while also allowing for voice control of your connected iPhone so you never have to take your eyes off the road. A front auxiliary input and rear USB input allow you to connect devices such as an iPod, while the stereo also supports MP3, WMA, and AAC files from discs. Pandora Internet Radio control is offered through your iPhone, and by hooking up your Android device to the USB port, you can access the music files and play them in your car. Audio enthusiasts will appreciate the 6-channel, 4-volt preamp outputs that make building an even better system possible. All in all, the Pioneer DEH-X8500BH combines high performance, features, and expandability at a reasonable price.

Buyer's Guide

 

Car Stereo Buying Guide

Known as a receiver, head unit, or deck, a car stereo forms the core of your car’s audio system and the portion you’ll be directly interacting with most. Swapping out your car stereo is an easy way to add more technology and features to your car. If you’re changing out your stock car stereo for a more modern replacement, the main elements you need to consider are the audio sources, features, and ability to expand upon your system. Picking a new car stereo doesn’t need to be complicated and we’ve put together this buyer’s guide to help you narrow down the choices which will work best for you.

Determine your goals

Beyond just needing to know the size of the components needed to fit in your car, there’s plenty to consider:

 - Do you want the stereo have a low key appearance to discourage thieves?

 - Are you looking for both performance and style?

 - Do you want to make calls and stream music using Bluetooth?

 - Are you considering satellite radio and/or HD Radio?

 - Is being able to hook up your smartphone a requirement?

Consider the kind of music do you listen to and whether you like to turn the volume up regularly.

Budget and Installation
Determining your budget well ahead of time ensures you’ll never end up pushed outside of your monetary comfort zone. As well as the cost of the unit itself, you also need to factor in the installation costs. While you can install a car stereo yourself, many people choose to have it done by a professional or ask friends if they recommend any particular technicians. When choosing a shop, look for good reviews, check to see if the retailer is an authorized dealer for the brands they carry, as well as seeing if any manufacturer’s warranties are in place to protect your investment.

Audio/Media Input Sources
The car stereo you want will depend on what devices you use to store the majority of your music. Do you need a CD player, or do you prefer using your smartphone to manage all of your digital media? You’ll definitely want to look for the option to plug in a phone or other device, even if you don’t plan on using it much right away. This can include a USB port for playback from flash storage devices, as well as a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input for universal connectivity. Many modern car stereos now include Bluetooth for wireless music streaming as well as for making hands-free calls.

Smartphone/App Integration
If you have a newer iPhone with the lightning connector, ensure the head unit you’re considering has a USB port. Some stereos will have specific badges to denote compatibility with Apple devices. For other non-Apple smartphones, look instead for a stereo with a 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, or one using Bluetooth audio streaming.

If you frequently use streaming apps such as Pandora or Spotify, look for a car stereo which allows you to control those types of apps directly from the unit. This can include the ability to create custom stations, pause/skip, and safely access other features while driving. Some car stereos even have app mirroring such as Pioneer’s AppRadio although this is a relatively new, uncommon technology.

Satellite and HD Radio
HD Radio-capable stereos allow you to access high quality audio and digital sub channels for some stations. This not only increases your choice of available audio channels, but also allows you to enjoy higher quality audio. Some stereos include the use of iTunes tagging so you can save and purchase songs you’ve enjoyed listening to.

While satellite radio might not offer the audio quality of HD Radio, many listeners enjoy their choice of stations and exclusive programming, including a variety of talk radio, sports, live traffic, and other specialty programming. This content is only available to paid subscribers, and you’ll also need to ensure your vehicle is equipped with an appropriate antenna if applicable.

GPS and Navigation
Many modern car stereos include turn-by-turn navigation and traffic reporting capabilities which negates the need for a separate navigation unit. Look for flash memory-based maps for easy upgrades, which are usually made via an SD or microSD card. If you choose a receiver including app mirroring, you can use your smartphones navigation feature with the instructions appearing on the car stereos display screen and spoken instructions via the vehicle’s speakers.

Car Stereo Size

While the depth of each vehicle and car stereo unit varies, the primary choice comes down to single-DIN or double-DIN which refers to the size of the in-dash stereo unit.

Single-DIN
A single-DIN car stereo takes up much less space, making them easier to fit into more vehicles. Their low-key appearance makes them less visible to potential thieves, especially with models which feature detachable faceplates.

Double-DIN
These models take up more space with many featuring large touchscreen displays. These car stereos are more likely to offer app mirroring, DVD playback, GPS navigation, and other higher-end features.

Power

This refers to the car stereos built-in amplification which delivers power to your speakers; this feature can make a significant difference in the performance of your car’s speakers and the overall longevity of your system.

RMS Rating

The RMS/Watts rating indicates the system’s continuous power output, as opposed to its maximum capability. Look for a car stereo with a rating enough sufficient to power the speakers you’ve installed. If you decide to stick with your stock speakers, you’re less likely to run into any issues.

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