Lots of drivers are less than thrilled with their vehicle, but if you have a problem with your car stereo, there’s no reason you need to be stuck with it. Many drivers have improved their automobile’s sound system by replacing their factory radio with an aftermarket double DIN head unit (car stereo dashboard interface). Often, such an installation can add capabilities that the vehicle did not have previously and add resale value.
In this article, you’ll find reviews of the best double DIN car stereos available. Among them may lie the piece of hardware that can change your driving experience for the better.
What do you mean, “Double DIN Head Unit”?
If the “Double DIN Head Unit” sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel badly. “DIN” is a German acronym derived from “Deutsches Institut für Normung,” translatable as “German Institute for Standardization.” This organization, a voting member of the International Standards Organization, set many of the technical manufacturing standards recognized by global industries, including automaking and car stereo production.
The DIN set standardized car stereo chassis measurements, adopted by the International Standards Organization in the 1980s. Single DIN refers to a head unit with a face plate measuring 2” by 7” (50mm by 180mm) and double DIN refers to one with a face plate measuring 4” by 7” (100mm by 180mm).
As you can tell, double DIN head units offer twice as much space vertically. That doesn’t just mean a larger radio display, but also room for touch screens hosting GPS navigation, video players, and allowing for control of a smart phone. A good touch screen head unit will help to greatly enhance your capabilities in the driver’s seat.
Assuming that you’re convinced of the added utility that a 2 DIN head unit can bring to your vehicle, the next step is to identify the one for you. The information contained in this guide is intended to help you do that, whether you pick one of the double DIN head units described here or not. Let us break down the important questions to consider:
The “form factor” of a head unit refers to its size – whether it is 1 DIN, 2 DIN, or one of those rare vehicles that has something in between. Chances are that your car is either single or double DIN. If the receptacle measures about 2” vertically, it’s single DIN; if it measures about 4”, it’s double DIN.
If you have a 2 DIN receptacle but you want a 1 DIN head unit, that’s no problem. You can have one installed along with a spacer that will occupy the other 2” of vertical space and even give you a convenient storage slot where you can put your sunglasses. If you have a single DIN receptacle, you’re probably not going to be able to fit a double DIN head unit in there, so make sure to figure out what you’ve got before buying.
Dollars and Sense
Supposing that your vehicle can support a double DIN head unit, your next question might be, “How much is one of these things going to cost me?” That depends on what features you want and how much you’re willing to spend. The good news is that there are double DIN head units for most budgets.
The most basic 2 DIN car stereos can cost as little as $50. Although these models generally have fewer features, there are some solid car stereos available at this price. On the other end of the spectrum are the fanciest head units, with price tags hitting four digits. Many of these are essentially integrated onboard computers, so it’s not surprising that they have corresponding price tags.
What Features Should You Be Looking For?
Nowadays, car stereos offer all sorts of bells and whistles that would have been previously unimaginable. Think of something you might want, and there’s a good chance you’ll find it. GPS navigation? Check. Video player? Sure. Voice integration? Why not?
Here’s a list of the attributes that are popular among vehicle owners who invest in aftermarket double DIN head units. Which ones most appeal to you?
The Touch Screen
If you’re imagining something full of plastic buttons and knobs, feel free to step into the twenty-first century and invest in a touch screen. This type of interface offers a more interactive experience and offers many more capabilities.
Link your smartphone to your head unit thanks to Bluetooth technology, and you’ll be able to easily make hands-free phone calls and integrate phone applications with your car stereo.
Break free of the limitations of AM/FM radio thanks to your new head unit’s easy integration with all of the major streaming services: Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.
Full Smartphone Integration
Thanks to apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, many head units with touch screens allow you to integrate and control your phone using their larger and better-situated interface. Safely managing messages and phone calls as well as using hands-free search functions like Siri becomes easier with this perk.
GPS Navigation on Your Dashboard
There’s no need for a Garmin stuck to the windshield when you have a head unit that has a GPS navigation app already set up for you, as many of the double DIN interfaces do.
Backup Camera Capabilities
Once you get used to a backup camera, you’ll find it hard to remember how you got along without one. Fortunately, some of the higher-end head units are designed to integrate with these devices, making it easier for you to get the latest in accident avoidance technology and never guess what’s below the rear window again.
Satellite Radio Support
For those who love radio but hate commercials, satellite radio is arguably the best option. If that’s how you feel, look for a double DIN head unit designed to integrate with satellite radio, otherwise you may end up having to find a special tuner to receive SiriusXM signals.
Auxiliary and USB Ports
A USB port can provide an alternative to a Bluetooth connection while charging your smartphone to boot. An auxiliary in port allows you to play tunes using a headphone jack. Some double DIN head units continue to include these options, so don’t worry if you still like to play music from your iPod.
EQ and Time Correction
Though some may call it a lost art, being able to manipulate the sound system’s equalizer and apply time correction is likely a prerequisite for sound quality obsessives and big-time music fans.
What’s the upside of having a double DIN head unit?
That should be clear by now, but to review: 2 DIN head units allow for a larger interface, enable the use of a touch screen, and normally have more capabilities. These can include ready-to-use GPS navigation, integration with your smart phone, hands-free communication and search, a screen for a backup camera, and more music sources.
Can all double DIN head units fit into my dashboard?
The face plate size of double DIN head units is standardized, so that shouldn’t be an issue. What can be a problem is the depth of the head unit, which varies based on car make and model. To be sure that the double DIN head unit you’re considering buying is going to fit, check for compatibility with the make and model of your vehicle. If it’s close, a skillful installation professional should be able to make it work.
Will installing a new double DIN head unit interfere with steering wheel controls?
Many 2 DIN head units are designed to function with steering wheel control buttons like next, previous, volume up, and volume down.
Products like the iDatalink Maestro hook up kit can ensure that your head unit functions correctly with your vehicle’s factory features. Whether there is a kit for your vehicle depends on the make and model.