Single vs. Double Din Head Units

Have you been looking into getting a new car stereo, only to be baffled by discussions of “DIN” size? You’re not the only one. Here’s a brief explanation to help you pick out a winner:

DIN comes from the German “Deutsches Institut für Normung,” or “German Institute for Standardization,” an organization that maintains internationally recognized technical standards uses by many global industries, including automaking and car stereo production. When applied to car stereo systems, DIN size refers to standard car stereo chassis measurements.

Single DIN & Double DIN: What’s the Difference?
Cars generally have two stereo system chassis sizes: single DIN and double DIN (if you’ve seen 1.5 DIN somewhere, this refers to an unusual and out of date size formerly used in some General Motors automobiles).

Single DIN stereos measure two inches tall by seven inches wide.
Double DIN stereos measure four inches by seven inches wide.

Your vehicle should be able to fit one or even both sizes of stereo. Surprisingly, it’s not always easy to tell which sizes will work just by eyeballing your dashboard, particularly if you’re driving a newer car. Your best bet is to look up the DIN size according to your car model.

Dimensions
Double DIN head units, at four inches by seven inches, are twice the height of two inch by seven inch single DIN head units, which begs the question: is bigger necessarily better when it comes to car stereos?

Attributes
To some extent, yes, bigger is better. Double Din head units usually offer more features than single DIN head units. Double DIN units can normally fit a touch screen that offers far more capabilities than a single DIN unit – which is not to say that single DIN units can’t be practical and functional as well.

Functionality
Single DIN head units work for a broad range of vehicle dashboards, are often simpler to use, and offer an aesthetically pleasing interface. Among their many fans are those who prefer not to be distracted by an overly complicated stereo interface while behind the wheel.

Double DIN head units occupy more real estate, but they make up for it by offering additional capabilities. These can include communication with your smartphone and a back-up camera to help avoid fender benders, among others.

Which is the best option for you?
Those worried by the idea of exchanging a double DIN stereo for a single DIN version shouldn’t freak out. Single DIN head units can often provide better sound quality, producing pre-amplifier output that works in conjunction with the vehicle’s amplifier to guarantee stellar sound.

In this department, double DIN stereos that don’t come with an in-built amplifier won’t offer any better sound than single DIN stereos. Their advantage lies primarily in their larger interface or touch screen. If you’re willing to spend on an upper echelon model, the result will be good quality, high-resolution video.

The only single DIN units that can compete with this feature are those that come with a collapsible, flip-open touchscreen that fits inside the stereo unit, subject to the cozier dimensions of the single DIN chassis. As always, what’s available to you will depend in part on how much you’re willing to spend.

Other Factors to Keep in Mind
When searching for a new stereo, it’s important to know what you want. What kind of audio sources would you like to use? If you still get use out of your CD collection, you’ll probably need a CD player, while other users might prefer an AV receiver with a color screen. Nowadays, many people prioritize having a USB port as an auxiliary input for their phone and battery charger.

Better yet is a stereo system with Bluetooth capabilities. Most of these units will allow the user to conveniently play content from their phone using applications like iHeartRadio, Pandora, or Spotify.

At present, AM/FM radio capabilities are still a given, but some listeners might even be willing to pay for satellite radio Sirius XM or the crystal-clear sound quality of HD radio. Make sure to keep all these factors in mind when searching for the perfect single or double DIN stereo!

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