Car Audio New

The 5 Best Audio Head Units to Improve the Sound Quality of Your Favorite Music

best audio head units

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A new audio head unit is an ideal way of upgrading the sound experience in your vehicle. While vehicles are manufactured with a basic audio head, you can have a more extensive range of option if you have a different unit installed and correctly connected to your sound system. A few of the best audio head units on the market are listed below. Your vehicle’s build as well as your preferences will determine what’s best for you.

When you browse through audio head units, you need to know the characteristics to look for. For a basic sound setup in your car, you can install a head unit yourself. If you’re installing additional sound equipment, such as subwoofers and new speakers, you may need the assistance of a professional because the wiring that ensures quality sound can become quite tricky.

Best Audio Head Units: Quick Look

Audio Head Unit NameQualityPriceRating
Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single Din In-dash CD Receiver A$$
Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo with HD Radio A+$$$
Sony CDXG3100UPA+$$
Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD ReceiverA+$$
Pyle PLR36M In-Dash Head Unit Receiver A-$

What else is there to consider?

1. What does it look like?

Car manufacturers take care to create sleek and beautiful interiors for drivers. This means you don’t only have a fast ride but a luxurious one as well. Your audio head unit shouldn’t downgrade your car’s looks. Manufacturers know this, so you can have a sound system that looks and sounds great. Keep in mind everything has a cost, so the better it looks, the pricier it becomes.

2. What does it enable me to do?

In a technologically advanced age, there are many ways to obtain your sound. Do you want to listen to news or play your new favorite songs? Your audio head unit must allow you to play through the system in order to be a practical choice for your specific scenario.

3. Decide What’s Important to You:

  • Radio: Does it play AM and FM radio? It helps if you can pre-program your favorite stations to make it easier and safer to change channels.
  • CD player: If you have a lot of your favorite bands’ music, you’ll want to listen to it on the road.
  • Aux: A 3.5 auxiliary input enables you to listen to music and recordings from your smart phone.
  • GPS: There are applications available that can enable your audio head unit to guide your driving. Most smartphones have more up-to-date versions, so you should decide how important this function is for you.
  • Pandora/iHeart: Internet radio stations have many followers; if you’re one of them, this function can be a make-or-break requirement.

Apart from what you can listen to, you also want to have control over your system’s setup, so you need to make sure you have options in areas such as:

  • What colors the display is—if this is something that can affect your eyes
  • How much control you have over the subwoofers and speakers’ output

4. How easy is it to use?

A big frustration can ensue if you can’t easily operate your audio head unit. To be safe on the roads, you need to easily be able to do what you want on the system. Buttons should be big enough and the functions should be easy to understand.

5. What size is it?

Audio head units are designed according to two different standardized sizes:

  • Single DIN: The faceplate is 180 mm x 50mm
  • 2 DIN (or double DIN): The faceplate 180 mm x 100mm

You can see the 2 DIN’s dimensions are twice as high as the single DIN. This refers to the amount of space the unit will take up in your vehicle. If you only have space for a single DIN, then you won’t be able to install a double DIN. The size of the unit doesn’t influence the efficacy or power of the unit.

6. What output does it have?

The audio head unit controls the amount of power the vehicle’s amplifier pushes through to the speakers and subwoofers. You need to buy a head unit that can handle the amount of power you want to have in your car, or you’ll need additional modifications done, which means more expenses.

5 Best Audio Head Unit’s

Audio Head Unit NameQualityPriceRating
Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single Din In-dash CD Receiver A$$
Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo with HD Radio A+$$$
Sony CDXG3100UPA+$$
Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD ReceiverA+$$
Pyle PLR36M In-Dash Head Unit Receiver A-$

Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single Din In-dash CD Receiver with Mixtrax, USB, Pandora, Internet Radio Ready

Pioneer MVH-85UB Digital Media Car Stereo Receiver...

The Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single Din In-dash CD Receiver. It has won accolades from my customers online. It has USB and AUX inputs and comes with detachable face with an anti-rust design. Users can choose phone as a source for this unit. Its Mixtrax technology is really something that makes it stand out among its competitors.


  • The detachable face can be taken with you so burglars can’t steal it if they break into your car.
  • A range of inputs such as USB, CD, and Aux is available. This means you can listen from external drives as well as music on your cell phone.
  • Custom settings allow you many choices to tailor your experience. This includes switching the USB’s function between charging or using the device for music.
  • Aesthetic value rates high because it has a very sleek look.
  • Functionality is made easy through a large display.
  • When compared to other units, this is better priced.


  • The unit can’t be connected to your steering wheel controls for volume or channel changes.

Check Price at Amazon

Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo with HD Radio, Premium LCD Display & SiriusXM Ready


Alpine CDE-HD149BT Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo...

This is another great single-din unit that is popular with the crowds. Alpine Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo comes with a built-in 9-band parametric equalizer for your convenience. It is totally compatible with iPhone and iPod. It comes with radio data system and CD-R/RW playback capability.


  • A 1-year warranty is given on all parts.
  • A detachable faceplate can be taken with you when you leave your car.
  • Screen can be set to one of four colors. This is especially handy during night time driving.
  • A range of inputs are available including:
  • USB
  • CD
  • 3.5 Aux for devices such as cell phones
  • If you’re interested in great sound, you can hook up your vehicle’s subwoofer to a dedicated output.
  • It has an easy installation process.


  • Various failures of functions, such as Bluetooth have been reported. While this doesn’t happen across the board, you may want to have a professional technician install the unit and confirm all is working as it should.

Check Price at Amazon

Sony CDXG3100UP CD Single with Mega Bass Dynamic Amp

Sony CDXG3100UP CD Single with Mega Bass Dynamic...

We all know Sony. It is one of the biggest names in music equipment industry. The Sony CDXG3100UP CD Single with Mega Bass Dynamic Amp provides 2-Volt rear and SUB-RCA preamp outputs. It comes with steering wheel remote control input and a very useful wireless remote for your convenience. It works very well with both iOS and Android and offers quick-browser and jump mode search features. It provides very advance sound with EQ5 and mega bass.


  • A wireless remote is included as standard, unlike other audio head units where this is an additional expense.
  • This unit can easily be connected to your steering wheel control buttons.
  • Various inputs can be used for your choice of music such as a CD player and USB as well as an auxiliary input for your smart phone. You can link it to Pandora to listen to your Internet radio choices.
  • You can easily connect a subwoofer and control its level.
  • Great sound is generated through its system which includes an LPT crossover and a Dynamic Reality amp delivering 55 watts x 4 power to your speakers.


  • It’s not the most affordable unit in its class.
  • Some individuals find the interface’s buttons too small to operate easily.
  • When your phone is connected to the system, you can only change and select on the audio head unit—not on your device such as iPhone.

Check Price at Amazon

Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD Receiver – made for iPhone

Kenwood KDC-MP375BT Car Single DIN In-Dash CD MP3...

The Kenwood KDC-255U In-Dash USB/CD Receiver – made for iPhone has made an impressive impact in the audio world. This single-din unit comes with detachable faceplate for users’ convenience. It has front USB and AUX ports and comes with Pandora link as well. It can play both CD and MP3 very well and is worth every penny.


  • Your choice of music is facilitated through a range of inputs, which includes a CD player and USB port. You can also connect to Pandora.
  • You can choose the color of the display so it doesn’t negatively affect your eyes while driving.
  • iPhone users love this item as it supports iPhone features.


  • This audio head unit only offers one RCA output while other similar units feature up to three outputs.
  • No Bluetooth feature is available in the original unit. This needs to be ordered additionally.

Check Price at Amazon

Pyle PLR36M In-Dash Head Unit Receiver with Built-In Stereo Speakers – MP3/SC/USB, Aux 3.5 inputs, AM/FM Radio

Pyle PLR36M In-Dash Head Unit Receiver with Built...

The Pyle PLR36M In-Dash Head Unit Receiver with Built-In Stereo Speakers enjoys excellent ratings from satisfied customers. It offers the ability to connect with external devices and comes with AM/FM radio with digital LCD display. It is a versatile stereo radio receiver that comes with USB and SD memory card reading capability. It has dual built-in stereo speakers and features a convenient remote control. It also offers 30 radio station memory presets.


  • You can program up to 30 radio stations on the unit’s pre-set menu; this means a wide range of choice without a struggle to manually look for a specific station.
  • Remote control is included for easy usage.
  • Buttons illuminate in blue. This color is ideal for both night and day driving.
  • Face can be detached for security reasons.
  • It’s easy to install.


  • The sound it produces isn’t very loud so you may need an additional amplifier if you’re looking for high volumes.

Check Price at Amazon

When all is said and done…

Your choice of head unit has to be the item that fulfills all of your requirements. While most of the units mentioned here are more or less the same, there are significant details that can guide you.

The Pioneer DEH-X2800UI Single Din In-dash CD Receiver is an excellent audio head unit in its price range and fulfills most people’s requirements. A major drawback, however, is you can’t connect it to your steering wheel controls. For drivers who rely on these controls for safety reasons—not wanting to look down to the head unit while driving—this unit will not suffice.

If you’re a buyer who is particular about the volume and quality of sound your system produces, your outlook is more focused. GarageChief recommends the Sony CDXG3100UP CD Single with Mega Bass Dynamic Amp because this nifty unit supports the components you more than likely want to make part of your vehicle’s sound system, such as a subwoofer. So, take your pick and enjoy an enhanced sound experience customized for you!

Last update on 2019-10-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API