What do you look for when choosing the best aftermarket car stereo brands? Do you know if you want a Single DIN or Double DIN configuration? As a warm-up for the rest of this article, you might want to take a gander at our review of the best double din head units, as well as our review of the best single din head units.
Or, to make a long story short, Pioneer, JVC, and Clarion are the forerunners in this area, and their products are always a good bet.
I feel like finding a brand you like is sometimes more important than finding a single product. It’s like vehicles – sometimes you find a manufacturer you like, and you can trust that they’ll make rides that jive with your tastes.
If you are an audiophile, and sound quality means anything to you, we would recommend ditching your factory-installed car stereo because unless you buy a car equipped with an expensive, brand-name factory stereo option, your sound quality isn’t going to be anything to write home about, and a lot more goes into that.
So, I wanted to share a bit of knowledge with you guys today. First, I wanted to talk about some of the best aftermarket car stereo brands, so you have a good starting point when you go out to buy one.
Disclaimer on Our Best Aftermarket Car Stereo Brands
This is not by any means a list of all of the best aftermarket car stereo brands. There are tons and tons of amazing, high-quality stereos on the market. Simply too many to possibly cover. However, we did want to give you a few well-known brands to start with.
These brands represent different price points, sizes, and features. With any luck, you’ll find something that meets your needs and unobtrusively fits your vehicle.
Any of the following car stereo receivers would be great buys. Much of it comes down to personal preference. Like with any product, you can get an impressive head unit if you’re willing to shell out a few extra bucks, but they’re really are great products in every price range.
When it comes down to finding a good car stereo brand to recommend for people shopping for a car stereo, Pioneer immediately comes to mind. We had the opportunity to install a few Pioneer head units for our customers, and truth to be said, they were outstanding even though their price tag is (and always has been) fairly steep.
Pioneer head units are actually one of the most expensive head units out there and the most expensive that we will review. However, when you pick one of these up, you will know where the extra money went.
These head units cost an arm and a leg. If you want to go balls-to-the-wall and actually purchase one of these works of art, you’ll be looking at a $200-$500 price tag (More features = More money). However, you’ll be getting a fine piece of craftsmanship that will make a day-and-night difference in terms of sound quality, user experience, and features. P.S. Pioneer single din head units seem to be relatively cheap than their double din head units.
Pioneer AVH series is one of the best head units on the market. Most forums agree. We personally think it’s the best, all things considered. Most importantly, this head unit offers a rich blend of features and cool entertainment options. Pioneer likes to brag about its patented “Mixtrax” technology, which basically creates a Non-Stop MIX with a range of DJ-inspired effects, making your ride more pleasurable. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make you feel special. It’s just one of the cool bells and whistles on this thing.
Additionally, Pioneer AVH head units come with more great features, which account for a lot of the cost. These features include a beautiful 7″ WVGA motorized touchscreen display, built-in Bluetooth® for hands-free calling and audio streaming, AppRadio Mode for iPhone® and Android™ devices as well as HD Radio™ tuner. It also comes with an elegant, user-friendly customizable display that allows you to easily change your receiver’s appearance to match your vehicle’s dash by choosing various display colors and up to 112 key panel illumination options.
And that’s what we love most about it. Moreover, you can connect your vehicle’s steering wheel audio controls to this Pioneer stereo for more convenience and safety on the road. Of course, at around $500, the price isn’t anything to sneeze at (given the features and specs you’ll get in return ), but this is a very well-engineered car stereo that you won’t be disappointed with.
Clarion is another contender on our lineup of one of the best aftermarket car stereo brands. Clarion is a brand that we haven’t discussed much on our site. However, they have made a name for themselves in this industry. They were established in 1940, and they have been making quality sound products ever since. However, we’ve found that their car stereos are much more consistently good quality than their other products. So how do their car stereos measure up?
Clarion car stereos are relatively cheaper than pioneers, which is why they made this list. And with most of their single din head units under $100, you can get a really decent receiver. Clarion double DIN head units, on the other hand, are a bit expensive. However, they come with more options to keep you entertained on the road, no matter how long or short your journey is.
The Features were surprisingly pretty cool. The receiver we tried (Clarion NX602) offers a rich blend of features, including an integrated Bluetooth for conducting calls without taking your hands off the steering wheel, remote control for more convenience and ease of use, a 6.2″ touchscreen designed to offer intuitive operation, and please the eye, as well as 6-channel preamp outputs for more flexibility (and complexity adding amps and subs).
Moreover, the built-in low and high-pass filters ensure your receiver sends your speakers only the frequencies they’re best equipped to handle. Furthermore, this head unit comes with a built-in iGo Primo® mapping; it detects where you are and helps you get where you’re going. It’s preloaded with up to 15 million “points of interest,” including gas stations, motels/hotels, restaurants,… and more.
The maps cover all 50 states as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. With such a nice feature, YES, it’s worth the drive to the middle of nowhere. Additionally, you can keep yourself entertained watching DVDs upfront while you’re parked or hook up a video screen in the back so the back-seat passengers can watch movies as you drive. Moreover, thanks to Clarion’s “2-Zone” mode,back-seat passengers can watch a movie while you and your co-pilot enjoy music upfront.
The only downside with Clarion is that they only have a few options to choose from for each type of receiver (double and single DIN).
Kenwood is a really cool company that provides everything from speakers and subwoofers to amplifiers and receivers. Kenwood has a reputation for making high-end, well-made products, and we have done a few reviews on their products before, mostly their speakers and amplifiers, because that’s what we think they do best.
They’re definitely known for being a bit expensive, but you still get a great quality for a slightly low price in this case.
Kenwood head units(Single-DIN) are reasonably priced when compared to the other brands. However, these car stereo receivers do not forfeit quality for the price. On the other hand, Kenwood double DIN head units cost a pretty penny, and they come with plenty of features that make them a great approach head unit.
The head unit has been designed with user experience in mind. As a result, it provides an excellent array of features aimed at making the unit easier and quicker to use. For instance, Kenwood’s Simple Secure Pairing system automatically detects and pairs phones near the receiver eliminating distractions to focus on the road ahead.
When it comes to music, Kenwood head units can stream music wirelessly from just about any phone. Moreover, the head unit provides easy access to and control over some apps such as PANDORA, Aha Radio,iHeartRadio.You can also easily expand your entertainment options by adding SiriusXM’s add-on tuner and enjoy satellite radio.
Additionally, this car stereo receiver comes with 6-preamp outputs for exceptional sound system building flexibility (adding outboard signal processors and amplifiers). It also features both variable Low and High-Pass filters for even greater system flexibility.
JVC has a reputation as one of the world’s elite audio products manufacturers. And they are indeed one of the oldest audio companies around. They have been in business for at least 80 years. They have mastered the art of providing their clientele with the finest car stereo receivers at the fairest prices.
JVC’s KW-R910BT (in the picture) is one of the more economically sound out of all the JVC double DIN head units. While most double DIN head units are priced at over $200 easily, the KW-R910BT can be purchased for around $117, respectively. However, the KW-R910BT does not forfeit quality for the price. On the contrary, this receiver packs many desirable features at a very affordable price, making it a great choice for people on a budget.
This head unit comes with various features as standard, from basic features such as a CD receiver and USB input to more advanced features such as Pandora® and Bluetooth for hands-free calling, music streaming, and app control. One of the only consistent bad reviews this head unit gets is that its display gets a bit washed out in direct sunlight. However, this particular model has been praised for its slender and sleek design, coupled with its excellent set of features.