Got a relatively modern car with a thick dash stereo/head unit? Here are some of the best Double DIN car radio upgrades available on the aftermarket.
The double-DIN head unit is the pinnacle of dashboard electronics for aftermarket car radios. In cars with the DIN standard aperture, a single-DIN space always used to be the most common design. However, bigger vehicles and especially Japanese imports and vans started to sport the Double DIN, double width platform, and over time the Single DIN went out of fashion across the board. The physical volume of the unit that can fit in a Double DIN hole is impressive. It means that radios can have a lot more features and electronics packed inside. They can also get luxurious with the size of their front displays; there can even be a screen, without it needing to be an expensively motorized hideaway like in premium a single-DIN effort.
That whole DIN thing is a set of standards to help car makers and their suppliers. The Euro-standard, it covers stuff like the wiring loom plugs for power/speaker wires, so the trade uses the term ‘DIN’ to refer to these plugs and these head unit sizes.
A long time ago, car radios all had to be removable, in the days before face-off decks. There were car radio racks at restaurants, where you’d park your radio while you ate. The double DIN started in Japan, where they simply didn’t have the same crime levels. Folks didn’t steal radios from cars in Japan. A white-hot fueled-by-theft insurance replacement business supported a huge chain of UK shops. They had a central office with forty telephone operators. Nowadays, many cars have their radios embedded deeply into the fabric of the car, so that you cannot replace them. They are not DIN-sized, not even a separate module. Thus, you can now buy into a fresh double-DIN head unit for your ride with less worry about theft.
We have some top quality units here, from entry level to fabulous, all with that double-DIN luxury.
How we chose these products
Although I haven’t experienced each of these products first-hand, I’ve got a good knack for extracting the meaning out of long spec sheets. As such, I’ve compiled this shortlist based on the tech and capabilities that will really make a difference once installed into your car.
Adam is one of the world’s leading voices in car audio tech. With decades of experience in the field, you can be sure to trust his recommendations in the following article.
Best Double DIN Car Radio
Blaupunkt Palma 200 DAB BT
RRP: £110.00. Not available in the US. Buy it here.
Blaupunkt are famed for their Euro-minimalist car radio fascias. They once made a lot of awfully cheap OEM radios that were made down to a price, but their tuners were always really good. So when Blau had a little flex in the direction of posh, it still looked plain and unfussy. The Palma has a big liquid crystal nine-digit display and just a few buttons.
There are two radio tuners: Blaupunkt’s tremendous old FM tuner with features like dual sensitivity and interference cancellation and a DAB+ one as well. It will Bluetooth-stream and hook up for your phone for hands free calling. The microphone to do that is built in – I reckon it is behind the tiny hole top left. There’s an oblong door bottom right that opens up which reveals the SD card slot, the USB socket and the 3.5mm aux audio input jack. Around the back, there’s a second antenna socket for the DAB+ aerial and single pair of RCA outputs. You could expand a system from this unit using these by feeding a single-input amplifier.
Although the files it can read are limited compared to some – just MP3 and WMA, it has some real smarts. The ability to read your files fast and pull out the one you want, quickly. You can stream anything you own and can play to Bluetooth, but this is about your own jukebox, served rapidly. One USB stick or just one decent SDHC card can hold a serious heap of music, after all. You get a bit of EQ via X-Bass plus “Pop, Rock and Classic” (or flat) settings, and bass/treble controls. A shallow-body unit, it will fit lesser dash spaces, like certain BMWs.
- Double DIN mech-free FM/DAB+ radio with USB/Aux and SDHC card playback
- Onboard Power: 4x40W @4ohms
- Single pair RCA outputs at 1.5V
- Bluetooth streaming; fast-reads MP3 and WMA files
RRP: $/£344.90. Buy it here.
A lot more sophistication for the money, this JVC jumps upwards in features and tech. Another shallow-chassis radio that manages to cram all the good stuff into a shorter case. It’s got a 6.8in WVGA capacitive touch screen on the front, but it’s what’s behind those cool user interfaces for our phones that is so clever. The Bluetooth allows dialing by voice recognition – if your phone supports it – and the microphone is supplied on a long wire. So, instead of shouting louder, your installer places the mic in the headlining near your face.
A thirteen band graphic EQ with seven presets and three user memories and time alignment, means real audio smarts. There are also crossovers in there to play with.
You get a nest of rear connections. FM and DAB+ antenna sockets. Two sets of Fr/Rr RCA audio outputs plus a yellow RCA video output for headrest screens. There’s another yellow composite RCA, which is a reversing camera video input, and a final single subwoofer RCA output socket on a cord, for a bass amplifier. The box also contains over a meter of cable and a USB A socket, for Apple Car Play/Android Auto via wired phone connection.
Lastly, as well as the microphone socket, a 3.5mm socket that’s not just audio, like an ‘aux’ socket. It’s a full A/V input. The sort that would come from a camcorder, 3.5mm tip-ring-ring-ring-sleeve, with video too. Said cord would have three RCA plugs on the end, in red, white and yellow. All that and trigger wires to allow it to operate your steering wheel control system. The USB charges at a goodly 1.5A rate.
- Double DIN mech-free with 6.8in touch screen, Android Auto and Apple Car Play
- Onboard Power: 4x50W @4ohms
- Two pairs RCA outputs plus Subwoofer RCA socket on a cord at 2.0V, two RCA camera inputs
- Reads MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC audio files. Plays WMV and MPEG 1/2 /4 and AVI
RRP: $/£399.00. Buy it here.
The AVH-Z3200DAB starts with a CD/DVD mechanism slot at the top, so you can play normal discs. Then it can display JPEG images, or DivX video files as well as play all audio formats. It can read MP3, WMA and AAC files from your own discs. Then, after eating all disc-kind to retro-compatibility, it has a rear USB socket-ended extension wire. You connect the included male-to-female cord and then offer up the USB-A socket where you wish, to connect your phone. It can deal with both Android and iOS telephones, but only has Apple Car play – no Android Auto. Android Auto requires a 6.8 screen or bigger. The resistive touch screen is a 6.2 inch having given some real estate over to the disc slot.
The audio quality is quietly understated but this bristles with hub-power. To start, there are three sets of RCAs at a fat 4.0V of signal to drive amplifiers with vigour. Then, you get more RCA connections for optional front and rear cameras, and a 3.5mm jack socket audio input. It can be part of one heck of a system.
The control within offers a thirteen-band graphic EQ with an auto EQ feature. You can adjust the audio curve to fit your car. Auto Time Alignment is possible when you use the supplied wired microphone to set up. You can also do Time-Alignment manually. It’s all about perceived position of the music; tiny delays to speakers depending upon where you are sat, versus being in the middle. There is a highpass and lowpass crossover and even a three-way active crossover network you can apply to the outputs. This is for running high end active speaker systems with multiple amplifier channels.
- Double DIN fronted CD/DVD deck with 6.2in touch screen, FM/DAB+ radio, USB/Aux, Apple Car Play
- Onboard Power: 4x50W @4ohms
- Fr/Rr/Subwoofer RCA outputs at 4.0V; 3.5mm rear Aux audio input, Fr/Rr RCA cam inputs, RCA AV out
- Bluetooth streaming; reads MP3, WMA, AAC and FLAC audio files; plays DVD, DivX and MPEG1/2/4
RRP: $/£540.00. Buy it here.
Strictly, this is a slightly cheeky ‘Double-DIN’. For while it requires that size slot in the dash to live, the behind portion is only a single-DIN chassis. When seen naked, XAV-AX5650 has single DIN sized guts with a big screen on the front. It thus fills a whole double-DIN fascia and it means you can have a whopping 6.95in screen. A beautiful unit, the screen is bezel-free so it looks like it was born in your dash, once installed. The big new thing on this is the HDMI connector on the rear, on the lower screen housing. You can connect a FireTV stick or other telly box. Another cool feature is Weblink™ – a system to mirror your phone’s display on the screen. This works for both Android and iPhone.
The RCAs run at 5.0V which is huge. This is about producing a far better signal to noise ratio than a regular level output signal, which means you can have an expert adjust the gain structure of your amplifiers for very high quality sound. You get a ten band graphic EQ and the Sony Extra Bass control. DSO means ‘Dynamic Stage Optimizer’ and is a digital signal processor which lifts the perceived stereo image to seem like it is in front of you.
The dual corded USB ports hanging from the rear mean flexibility: you can plug in your phone and still have a spare place for a USB stick. If you don’t add amplification, the onboard Sony 4x55W MOSFET chip amp is one of the bigger ones around, so it will still sound good.
- Double DIN mech-free with 6.95in capacitive touch screen, Android Auto and Apple Car Play
- Onboard Power: 4x55W @4ohms
- Fr/Rr paired and single Sub RCA 5.0V outputs, rear cam input, 2x corded rear USB ports, HDMI socket
- Bluetooth streaming; reads MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC audio, MPEG4, AVC, WMV, MKV, XviD video
RRP: $1339.95 / £999.99. Buy it here.
A bit of a jump to luxury. Alpine are legends in high end car audio and this is pure Alpine DNA. For one, you can actually take the faceplate with you when you leave the car, being removable. For another, this has its own navigation inside as well as a bonkers set of audio controls, a long way above most other brands. And all in another not-really-double-DIN chassis. Like the Pioneer, the guts all go in a single DIN chassis backstage as it were.
The EQ is a sophisticated nine band parametric. You choose the parameter, as in the frequency the adjustment is set at and also any boost or cut. The subwoofer output can be controlled not just for frequency but also phase. You get a choice of crossovers. Eleven frequencies to choose from, either lowpass or highpass and you can adjust how hard they work. The steeper the ‘slope’ the harder the filter. Choose from 6dB, 12dB, 18dB or a whopping 24dB slope. That’s a brick wall and gives you real power over peaks and troughs on your car’s cabin effect; the way our cabins amplify the bass end by acoustics.
The time alignment is posh. It has 0.0 to 9.9 ms adjustment in 0.1ms steps. Translated, at a millisecond per foot, sound arrives at different times at your ears from speakers at different distances. If you hold up a speaker by the tiny bit because it is closer to your ears, then you hear true stereo. Your ears perceive sounds as directly in front of you if they arrive at the same time – it’s called psychoacoustics and Alpine are past masters of it.
- Double DIN fronted CD/DVD with 7in capacitive touch screen, FM/DAB+ radio, USB playback
- Onboard Power: 4x50W @4ohms
- Three pairs of RCA outputs at 4.0V; HDMI input and output
- Bluetooth streaming; reads MP3, WMA, AAC, DivX files; onboard GPS
RRP: $/£1499.99. Buy it here.
Kenwood know car audio and they know sound quality. This unit is their new daddy-piece. It has a huge 10.1in touch screen on a floating mount. The main unit is a double-DIN and the screen is on a three-position moveable mount. It’s a chunk of kit. They are justifiably proud of the new range in general but this is the top one. It’s one heck of a price for a Kenwood. It can decode and play more digital audio formats than you are likely to have heard of. The RCAs are at a serious 5.0V and the control features for iPhone and USB playback are comprehensive.
The unit has specialized navigation software from Garmin. It means that this luxury unit will be the cherry on the top of expensive motorhomes. That’s because the navigation can be set for bigger vehicles. It won’t direct your camper up certain roads in the Lake District. Whereas Apple Car Play and Android Auto are normally only accessed by connecting your phone to a USB cord, this unit will do both wirelessly by WiFi. To do this with other units is an Android or Apple add-on box. Very posh indeed.
You get a thirteen band EQ, a time alignment system and a digital sound processor inside. There’s an optional steering wheel remote control available and you can input information from your vehicle by another multi-pin. This means you can have information from your vehicle’s parking sensors and so forth included. An absolute tour de force.
- Double DIN fronted CD/DVD with 10.1in floating panel touch screen, FM/DAB+ radio, USB/SD playback
- Onboard Power: 4x50W @4ohms
- Fr/Rr/Sub RCA outputs at 5.0V; rear USB socket, HDMI input, 3x camera inputs, AV input and output, dashcam input
- Bluetooth streaming; reads MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and DSD audio. MPEG1/2/4, WMV, H264, MKV, JPEG, BMP and PNG stills!