When it comes to car audio, it can be a bit tough putting it all together. There are quite a few factors to take into consideration when piecing the gear into a complete car audio sound system to make sure it works properly. The most important part of your system by far in our opinion is the stereo — it’s what merely completes the entire package. To our advantage, many are not only affordable, but very high quality nowadays with the advancement of technology. Today we found the top 10 best to help your search.
If you haven’t already grabbed your new car speakers, car subwoofer or car amplifier, be sure to read our shopping guides to help you with those endeavors as well. And if you are installing your own car audio system, it will take some time learn. Today however, we took the time to find the backbone of your car audio system — the top 10 best car stereo receivers to make the whole thing actually work.
Selecting the Best Car Stereo
- Pricing – Your budget is the most important factor of buying a car stereo, and the range we’ve found in the 10 best isn’t too daunting. We’ve seen some extremely solid stereo receivers priced at under $100, while many (with extra features and bells and whistles) go above and beyond that if it’s what you’re looking for. We found the best car stereo within numerous price points to give you some options.
- Bluetooth? About 8 out of 10 models in here have Bluetooth functionality. Even almost 5 years ago, having BT in your stereo was a bit of a rarity, but luckily nowadays it’s quite common. Is this important to you? Our best Bluetooth car stereo guide also highlights this type of model.
- CD compatibility? With the widespread and ever-growing popularity of our smart phones, streaming services and Bluetooth technology, the good ol’ (can’t believe we’re using that phrase with them) compact discs are becoming so unwanted, many manufacturers aren’t even building CD players into their decks anymore! Some popular car stereos don’t even provide CD\DVD compatibility, so we made sure to state if they did or not, in case you wanted it (we still use our CD players in case of emergencies if we have Bluetooth or cell service problems, or if we want to throw it back and play that old mix our ex-girlfriend made us in 2007).
- Make sure it fits – Very important here! Car stereo sound systems can get tricky. Make sure the receiver you’re looking at fits your car. Amazon has a nice option to select your car model to see, but we also recommend literally measuring it just to double check. Yes, we’ve purchased new receivers before without doing so and it literally did not fit!
- Single or double DIN? This means that you’ll have to determine what type of mounting kit you’ll need. The smaller stereos you’ll see below are single-DIN, while the bigger models (that are twice the height) are double-DIN. If you’re installing your car stereo yourself, you’ll need to follow some crucial steps. If you’re getting it professionally installed, they can definitely help you out more with this.
- Extra features? Touch screen, video, phone call support, voice recognition, USB control, DVD receiving, HDMI inputs, and more — some may find these overkill, while others quite essential. Which are important to you and worth the price increase? We highlight the main features of each model.
The Top 10 Best Car Stereo Receivers
This is one of the best car stereos for the money based on its super high ratings and the essential features it brings our car audio systems. With it, there is no need to plug anything in anymore because your favorite music, podcasts and music services can be streamed wirelessly from your phone with the Bluetooth tech built-in. You’re also equipped with USB direct control of your smart devices (which in most cars will also charge it), support for Pandora and Spotify, as well as some Siri Eyes free voice recognition if you’re into that sort of thing.
Like the other best stereos for cars, the receiver also has an FM and AM tuner. It has a built-in MOSFET amplifier and uses a multi-line display with different color illumination options. When a phone call comes in, it is easy to talk hands-free as well. The awesome Pioneer DEH-S4100BT is recommended for those who wanted an answer for the best car stereo receiver that provides only the essential features (it also supports CDs) without much fancy tech that falls within an amazing price-point.
Here’s a solid single DIN with the essential Bluetooth, USB charging and talk assistant features all for just about under $50. Jensen is also a trusted brand here. The LCD is 7 character (isn’t touch), and we have a Siri or Google Voice assist button.
Hook up via Bluetooth to use all of your favorite streaming apps or music players on your phone / smart device. What’s also nifty is being able to customize settings if you’re into tweaking 2 band tone control (treble or bass) as well as some EQ curves if you want. The JENSEN MPR210 is a very affordable and effective single DIN car stereo receiver.
BOSS Audio 625UAB
The 625UAB is considered by many to be the best car stereo if you’re on a super strict budget. It has quite a few different (and essential) features, which include 4 Max Power, 50 watts, treble, bass, fader and balance. It does not support a DVD or CD player, but it plays audio via SD or USB, smartphones, FM/AM and WMA. It is compatible with MP3 players as well. The stereo has SD and USB inputs, a wireless remote, a detachable panel and a front pre-amp output.
The Bluetooth audio streaming can play music from Pandora or Spotify wirelessly. This is one of the best stereos for cars for those wanting to find a simple solution and it will help you pump out digital music quite easily. Grab the BOSS 625UAB if you didn’t want to break your wallet and don’t need any bells and whistles alongside your car stereo receiver.
Here’s a very nice double DIN car stereo receiver if you want to save some money without a touch screen and just need the simple features of a double DIN. This one has an AM/FM tuner, a nice display (1.5 line), color illuminations (2-zone variable), compatible with Alexa, and can play USB memory devices.
In terms of some nerdy specs for those who care, the 13-band EQ and digital time alignment isn’t going to hurt. There’s a volume link EQ to help with compensation in case your frequency band gets interfered with the road, and you can also pair up to 5 smartphones via Bluetooth. Note that it doesn’t support CD’s (who still uses those, anyways?). As one of the best car stereo receivers out right now, the JVC KW-X840BTS is quite reliable.
We’ll go high-end for a second here. This particular car stereo receiver is one of the best due to it’s really nice quality if you can afford it. We have some Bluetooth built-in, back-up camera compatibility, a touch panel display (6.2″ WVGA with LED), AppRadio One (their latest technology for smart device control), and Spotify and Pandora in the unit itself. The dedicated controls for these apps are really nifty.
This one does come with some bells and whistles which may deter you but for those who think they’ll use the tech that’s built-in, it’ll be worth the money. Things like Mixtrax (an app that creates a nonstop mix of your music by itself with DJ effects and such), navigation system compatibility, and more. Grab the Pioneer AVH-X390BS if you like extra high-end features in a car stereo receiver.
The AV7225BH uses ‘DualMirror TM technology’ and it has both wireless and wired connectivity. The technology mirrors a screen of an iPod, iPhone and Android smart phone that can be connected using the HDMI to reach the receiver screen. The pictures from the mirrored devices are high quality, and this is because of the HDMI video converter that not many competitors have. There’s a built-in 6-band graphic EQ, 7 EQ presets, Bluetooth tech, an RDS Tuner and 340 watts of peak power.
This is one of the best car stereos with dual EQ software that maximizes the adjustability of the sound process, which means that the sound processor will be fine tuned to your liking. Like other best stereos for cars, the EQ frequencies can be adjusted in the ASP settings. The Axxera AV7225BH is a bit more rare when compared to others, but if you can find it for a cheap price, it’s especially great for those into the quality of their screen in front of them.
Kenwood Excelon Reference DMX1057XR
Now we’ll get into a beast just really quick in case you want something massive. The ‘eXcelon’ series by Kenwood is extremely nice, and well worth the money if you don’t mess around with your driving experience.
This thing can do the following: android auto and android auto wireless, wired and wireless Apple CarPlay, read and front camera ready (HD), built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HD radio, floating panel with a position adjustment (3-way), and a whopping 10.1″ HD monitor with touch. We also have some graphic EQ and digital time alignment, dual phone connectivity, parking guide lines, and more. The DMX1057XR is simply a beast, and the best car stereo receiver if you have a huge budget.
The Sony DSX-GS80 is considered to be a solid stereo receiver for your car and it comes with enough power to rival the more popular single-DINs that are priced a lot lower than this (since it has 4 x 100 Watts of power). You also have the ability to play FLAC files, dual Bluetooth connectivity (two smartphones simultaneously if you need), dual USB ports, as well as the capability to switch tracks from the wheel.
It has vibrant LED lights that splash colors for each track and a voice control function that can help to be safe behind the wheel. The Sony DSX-GS80 has all of the essential features of the best stereos for cars and a few additional features if you think they’re worth the price increase.
Pioneer Stage 4 DEH-80PRS
To top off our list, we have one of the nicest and top-of-the-line car stereo receivers out there right now. The Pioneer Stage 4 DEH-80PRS is a dual L/R receiver and has an amazing 31-band equalizer. It is equipped with an independent 4-way crossover with a slope setting, auto-EQ and auto-time alignment technology. This is the best car stereo if money didn’t exist, especially when it comes to reproducing original source materials in an authentic and natural manner. It’s for true audiophiles who can tell the difference between a $100 car stereo and something like this.
It offers powerful digital tools that allow the installer to do the setup right and tune up the system. It is one of the best stereos for cars with a time alignment feature that can estimate the delays for every speaker according to the position of the driver, and it will adjust the sound of the speaker output accordingly (this is to ensure that the sound will reach the ears of the driver in a genuine manner). Grabbing the Pioneer Stage 4 DEH-80PRS is like installing some of the best studio headphones that portrays accurate frequencies but for your entire car.
Hieha Double Din Car Stereo
Here what we have appears to be a random brand from Amazon, but the price is extremely budget-friendly and it provides us with the essential features needed if you wanted a simple and cheaper solution. The user reviews can also back up the claim that this isn’t some knock-off.
It’s a 7” LCD touch screen (colored) with some nice user interface control over the radio and other functions, such as volume, track switching, calls and more. Hook up via Bluetooth or aux, make calls hands-free, use a rear-view camera (you’ll obviously have to hook that up yourself or get a professional), and there’s also a wireless remote control on top of it all. Look in to the Hieha Double Din for a cheap but effective solution to the best car stereo receiver.