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It’s interesting to consider which of the many best car stereos currently available is actually the best choice. There are those of us old enough to remember a time when you bought a car, and it did not have a radio. In fact, we can remember a time when a car heater was advertised as an optional extra.
But, perhaps we were just living on the dark side of the moon because car radios came into existence in 1930. Motorola was the first. However, even in the late 60s and early 70s, we still had to buy them as an extra and have them fitted. Now, of course, it is a standard feature. In some cases, a selling point.
Some new car manufacturers have a standard system they fit. The higher-spec of the car usually, the better the system. And some of the more upmarket manufacturers even allow you to choose the system you want.
We went from nothing to radio, to radio-cassette, and then to radio and cd. Now we also have a radio, a DVD, USB Stick, Bluetooth streaming and the list goes on with some very sophisticated systems on the market. So let’s have a look at some of the best car stereos currently available and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 10 Best Car Stereos For The Money 2021 Reviews
- 1 Kenwood Excelon Dmx905s
- 2 Alpine Ilx-F309 HALO9 9Inch AM/FM/Audio/Video Receiver
- 3 Alpine Cde-Hd149bt Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo
- 4 ATOTO A6 Double Din Android Car Navigation Stereo With Dual Bluetooth
- 5 Pioneer DEH-S5100BT In-Dash Stereo Receiver
- 6 Pioneer AVH-210EX In-Dash 2-DIN 6.2Inch Touchscreen DVD Receiver
- 7 Pioneer Multimedia Double-Din In-Dash 6.2inch Dvd Receiver
- 8 Pioneer Single Single-Din Car Stereo Receiver
- 9 Sony Mex-N5300bt Car Stereo Receiver
- 10 Boss Audio Systems Bv9358b Car Dvd Player Am Fm Radio Receiver
- Best Car Stereo Buyers Guide
- So, What Are The Best Car Stereos?
Top 10 Best Car Stereos For The Money 2021 Reviews
1 Kenwood Excelon Dmx905s
Kenwood has been a big name in-car audio for quite a while now. Established in 1946, they began to make a name for themselves in the 60s. There major competition at the time was Trio, who had a head start. Kenwood caught up and eventually surpassed them. Trio bought Kenwood and renamed itself Kenwood. They are now based in Tokyo.
The Excelon DMX905S is a multimedia system from Kenwood that has some very good features but also some interesting omissions. We are particularly surprised that it doesn’t play CDs or DVDs, which our thinking is rather a strange omission. Possibly the absence of a DVD is not so much a problem, but a CD is something that some will want.
It has a touch screen facility but no remote control. A navigation system is also not included. If you need navigation, you have to use the facility on your phone or another device via AA/Carplay.
This then appears to be what might be called a very basic model. It does, though, have some good features. It will speak to you in Spanish, Italian, or a number of other languages. And it has built-in Bluetooth enabling you to use the phone hands-free. There is also a camera on board, which is always a good feature to have.
Keeps you informed…
It is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible and has some relevant connections through Weblink, to sites like Youtube or Yelp. It is also fitted with Waze, which gives you up to date weather, traffic, and other information.
This is quite a simple system that is not over-complicated to use. That is a good thing if you are in a car. The screen is very well-designed and laid out for ease of use. It is not an expensive multimedia unit, but it does lack some facilities that some might feel important. However, it is reasonably priced, so it makes it an attractive unit.
- Nice screen and easy to read operations.
- Some quality features.
- Waze for up to date information.
- No Sat Nav built-in.
- No CD or DVD.
2 Alpine Ilx-F309 HALO9 9Inch AM/FM/Audio/Video Receiver
Founded in 1967 in Japan, Alpine is another company with a big reputation in-car audio. And it is a subsidiary of the Japanese-owned Alps Electric company.
It has a very innovative design in that it does not need a formal size to fit into and simply fits on any surface as an external unit. Therefore, it is not limited to which vehicles it will operate in. It uses a 1-DIN design that sits in front of the dashboard. The big asset, of course, is that it gives you such a big screen to use, 9 inches to be precise.
This is an audio and video and AM/FM receiver, and it is a mech-less design, which means it has no CD player built-in. Instead, it hosts plenty of compatibility options. It has Bluetooth that allows audio streaming and an HD radio tuner.
It is designed to connect your iPhone or Android device through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And it is Sirius XM ready giving you a satellite radio option, as well as featuring Google assistant.
Links and information from your phone are displayed on the screen and controlled from there. Controls and options are selected via the unit’s touch screen. The screen will display the usual messages and phone information. I will also handle maps and info about the music being played.
“Turn it up; I love this song “…
It is well-stocked with some good features, but it lacks one or two basic options, in our opinion. Call us old-fashioned if you like. But if you are driving and you want to change the volume, how do you do it? There is no old-fashioned volume control. So, eyes off the road to play with a touch screen. Not such a good idea, in our opinion.
It is quite an expensive unit but does deliver lots of features.
- Lots of connection options.
- A large ‘floating’ screen.
- Quite expensive.
- No easy volume control.
3 Alpine Cde-Hd149bt Single-Din Bluetooth Car Stereo
The next product on our list of the best car stereos is another option from Alpine. This unit is far more basic and offers far less by way of options. Some will say it does all that you need it to do, and it certainly does that. This unit is almost a throwback to the past. This is immediately apparent with its detachable face amount that you take with you when you leave the vehicle. Alpine provides a black carrying case.
The power rating is 50 watts across four channels or 18 watts per channel RMS. It has a subwoofer preamp and a built-in parametric equalizer with nine bands. The controls are all monitored and applied through the LCD screen. The screen takes up quite a large area of the unit and presents the information clearly.
The AM/FM tuner offers a number of presets. Six for AM and 12 for FM. A CD player is built-in. There is a rotating volume control on the front of the unit.
Perfect for those who want a basic system…
It is a neat little unit and totally reminiscent of units that we all thought were so technically advanced just a few years ago. Time and technology have moved on, but there will be some who just prefer a simple radio and CD Player — those who don’t want to communicate with NASA on re-entry.
It is not really very powerful at 18 watts per channel RMS. The price point, though, is very cost-effective for an Alpine unit. This makes it an attractive option and easily one of the best car stereos on the market.
- Simple to operate the unit.
- Cost-effective price.
- Some are going to want more technology and features.
This is a car stereo that has far too many features to discuss in brief. So it might be best just to consider the performance of the unit as a whole.
The first thing to talk about is the screen. To all intents and purposes, it looks like the screen on your phone or tablet. It is designed in a touch screen format, which is very responsive. The screen is bright and clear and of a large enough size to make operations easy to undertake.
A cinema in your car…
The screen is the area where this unit excels when you are watching videos. It has a similar quality to watching it on your iPad or other tablets — good quality for an in-car system. WiFi connections are reasonably quick, and there is no loss of signal.
Depending on the speakers you have installed in the car, it will produce a good sound. However, it has a built-in EQ system that, to be honest, is not so good. But some streaming sites have their own EQ facility. You can set the unit to neutral and use third part equalization, which will be infinitely better.
The Bluetooth connection is also good. It connects quickly, and any modifications required are easy to perform. GPS is good, and the connection and reaction time are both excellent. Google maps are installed as standard so you can download a map offline to use.
It hasn’t got a CD or DVD player built-in, but with all the features you probably don’t need one. AM/FM radio is there, of course, and there is a built-in microphone that has a reasonable quality. Waze is also built-in
This is an all bells and whistles unit that is well-designed and performs wonderfully. It is not the loudest of systems, but at the price point, it is great value and can easily be considered as one of the best car stereo systems around.
- Good connections and features.
- A very cost-effective unit.
- It is a little underpowered.
5 Pioneer DEH-S5100BT In-Dash Stereo Receiver
Pioneer needs little in the way of introduction. They have been involved in the electrical consumer market since their formation in 1938. They are a recognized brand, especially with in-car entertainment and have been for many years, and are known as one of the best car stereo brands.
The S5100 is a back to basics stereo system in many ways. It has its AM/FM tuner and also a built-in CD player. It is, though, Bluetooth compatible. This gives you hands-free calling and allows you to stream music from your favorite sites. There is a built-in mic for calls.
Built-in to the system is a Mosfet amplifier. This is an interesting addition. It stands for Metal Oxide Semiconductor field-effect transistor. For small amps, it is a good choice and improves performance. It has a rating of 14 watts RMS across four channels.
For playback, from USB, it utilizes the FLAC file format. This is a format where the file is compressed similar to an MP3 but without any loss in quality. This gives you an enhanced sound performance. There is a USB port on the front of the unit that will also charge your device.
Boost the low end…
You have access to the Pioneer Smart Sync app, which will bring your device information, messages, maps, and music to the unit. It is fitted with a bass boost if you like a bit more bottom end. There is a volume control located on the front, and information is shown on the LCD screen. It is easy to install and easy to use.
Some will consider this stereo a throwback to the past. But there will be others who are thankful for a simple to operate stereo with a CD that is also Bluetooth compatible. It might not be the best car stereo system in terms of its technology. But for its price, it is hard to beat for its sound and facilities.
- Nice simple design.
- Easy to use and install.
- Very affordable price.
- Some will want more technology.
6 Pioneer AVH-210EX In-Dash 2-DIN 6.2Inch Touchscreen DVD Receiver
Another budget level car stereo from Pioneer. It’s interesting how they produce a range of different types of systems to suit all user’s requirements. They all have one thing in common though. They are all good systems. There is one other thing that most of their units possess. They are all easy to use with the minimum of fuss. Pioneer doesn’t let you down.
This has been designed with one thing in mind. To create a simple to operate a stereo system for the car. This for people that essentially just want a radio and a CD/DVD player. They have gone a little further and added Bluetooth connectivity so you can use your phone hands-free. It is also possible to mount a backup camera via one of two video inputs.
It has a large 6.2 inches wide screen that operates as a touch screen. As such, it is responsive and quick to react to commands. The menu is clear and very visible, and easy to work your way around. The lighting on the front panel can be adjusted to suit your car interior.
With Pioneer, you are usually going to get a good sound. With this unit, the graphic equalizer helps you create the sound you want.
AM/FM reception is good, but there is no HD radio facility. Listening to satellite radio is an option if the Bluetooth connection is good. Receiving calls is easy through the screen, and you can use your steering wheel controls if you have them.
No MP4 compatibility…
It is a great unit at a very affordable price, but is there anything not so good? It doesn’t play MP4 files and only operates with the newer iPods and iPhones. There is no remote control unit. Perhaps the only design flaw is putting the USB port on the back. That means routing the cable. The stereo comes with a pair of Alphasonik earbuds.
Other than those issues, this is a good system from one of the best car stereo brands.
- Good size screen, making it easy to use.
- Very affordable price.
- It will be too basic for some people.
7 Pioneer Multimedia Double-Din In-Dash 6.2inch Dvd Receiver
The nest of our best car stereos is another unit from Pioneer. This is a Double-Din unit Multimedia unit that carries a few more options. Pioneer makes full use of the Double-Din layout to produce a screen that resembles the screen on your phone. At 6.2 inches wide, it is just quite a lot larger and easy to use.
It is a touch screen display that is very responsive. The screen has an LED backlight.
Crystal clear communication…
Bluetooth is built-in, so you can use it for audio streaming and for hands-free calling. The built-in mic is quite clear and gives a decent reproduction.
All the controls for the DVD and receiver are located in easy to see convenient places. Maybe the only difficult operation is the volume control. This is not a dial but a push button — one for up and one for down. For sound control, it has a five band EQ, and there is a back-up camera input.
Sirius XM ready…
Built-in to the system other than Bluetooth is Apple CarPlay, and it is Sirius XM ready. It can be used with iPhone or iPod through the USB connection. This will allow you to use most of your phone facilities. It does not, however, have GPS, so it will not display live directions on the screen.
It is a big unit and has a lot of nice features built-in. However, it is not complex to operate and gives a nice sound that you adjust with the EQ. It is still what most might call a basic unit, and it is really a DVD and radio with a few extra functions. But it works well and, at the price, it is very affordable.
- Big screen and easy to use
- It has some good built-in features for connections at an affordable price.
- A very basic system.
8 Pioneer Single Single-Din Car Stereo Receiver
Pioneer was one of the first manufacturers of car audio to bring in the idea of removable faceplates. They had their plus points, of course, but they only work with single-Din designs. Many of today’s multimedia stereos are double-Din.
This is a typical Pioneer single-Din car stereo system with a removable faceplate. It has a very simple single-line display that is backlit, and all the controls are placed on the front panel.
Many people prefer the single-Din design, but it can cause problems with the controls. This is evident on this unit. The controls are all there, but they are quite small. In certain circumstances, they are going to be difficult to read and operate.
Pump up the volume…
The volume control is well-designed and easy to use with its large dial. Next to it is the bass boost and EQ, both of which are well displayed. Other controls, though, a little more difficult. This is one of the benefits of a large screen Double-Din system.
The sound is good, though, as you would expect from a Pioneer system. The EQ allows you to shape your own sound. It has a peak power rating of 50 watts across four channels at 14 watts per channel RMS. Included is a remote control unit, which is definitely a help control-wise.
Everything you need…
It has a CD player and connections for MP3 and the AM/FM receiver, so all you need is there. The USB port is on the front panel, which is a good idea. It comes with Mixtrax and Arc Support
It is a very basic stereo system for the car and doesn’t try to be anything else. And it is set at a very affordable price point. This makes this unit an attractive option for someone just wanting a basic CD player with Radio.
- Very affordable price point.
- Good sound with EQ facility.
- Some will just want more options for connections.
9 Sony Mex-N5300bt Car Stereo Receiver
Another stalwart of the car audio systems manufacturers. Founded in 1946 in Tokyo, it is hard to miss the name they are involved in so many areas. Audio-wise they have always been at the forefront of design and new technologies. They were the first to introduce portable personal sound in 1979 with the Sony Walkman.
They produce many high tech products, but they have always operated at all levels of whatever marketplace they are working in. So it is with this car stereo system. It is an AF/FM tuner with a CD player. The radio has RDS for the receipt of information in FM broadcasts. It has a Bluetooth facility that offers hands-free calling and, of course, the streaming of audio files.
Two is better than one…
You can pair two phones with this unit. The first gives access to the services on the phone, including music and navigation. The second phone can be paired at the same time. This can be used just for making and receiving calls.
The face has a basic but effective design with color illumination. The color can be changed. The face is removable. The controls are neatly laid out, but as with all phones of this spec are quite small for operation purposes. It has voice control features to allow you to issue commands to manage your music and make contacts and get directions.
Very affordable for a Sony…
The amplifier delivers 40 watts RMS. And the price point is set at a very affordable price. That makes it an attractive option for those seeking a basic unit with a few communication extras
Alphasonik Earbuds are included as an extra. A nice system from one of the best car stereo brands, but could it be the very best of the best car stereos we are reviewing? Read on to find out…
- Good basic unit with some helpful extra features.
- Affordable cost.
- Some will need more technology
10 Boss Audio Systems Bv9358b Car Dvd Player Am Fm Radio Receiver
Next up, we have a system from one of the big players in car audio. So, let’ take a look at what this has to offer…
They have included a lot of functions for what is an exceptionally low price point. You can listen to CDs or tune in to the AM/FM stations. Not enough? Ok, you can connect up a device to the USB/SD ports or just pop in a DVD and watch a movie.
It is Bluetooth compatible, so you can use hands-free to receive or make calls. The microphone built-in provides a good sound for those who are listening, and whoever is on the other end can be heard on the car speakers. There is also a backup camera facility built-in, but the camera will need to be bought separately.
The amp will deliver 80 watts of power. A quick check on the status of the speakers in the car might be a good idea. It has four channels that can be connected. You can create your own sound preferences with the controls. They include bass and treble adjustment, as well as balance and fader controls.
Keep the kids entertained…
There is a remote control included that will also perform these functions. There are some further options, and there is the capability to attach an extra video screen. This allows you to put the screen in the rear for children. If you have controls on your steering wheel, these can be incorporated for use with this unit.
The controls are easy to use either on the touch screen or on the sides of the unit. And to our delight, there is a large volume control.
A decent system, and considering its price point, this could well be the best car stereo system. It is not boasting a great sound or great efficiency. It is a total system that might not be the best at any of the individual aspects. But each aspect is more than acceptable and works well. For those that will accept a basic quality level who want all the features, this could be it.
- Good features with a lot of options.
- Great price point.
- Some may want a higher quality from a particular function.
Best Car Stereo Buyers Guide
Normally we would go through a set of alternatives and options for any product. With car radios, we are going to be different. So, let’s start with this decision first…
This will affect what you buy. Of course, it will. But there are so many systems out there and at a range of costs. We think it is best to decide on the budget first. Having decided just how much you want to spend reduces the options and saves a bit of time.
Exactly what do you want? Bluetooth probably goes without saying these days, but there are so many other communication options. Do you want Google assistant or Siri? Do you want to connect to the Apple and Android help formats? What about to be able to voice control?
Do you want to go ‘mech-less’ or do you want to use your own CDs? Do you want it to play DVDs, and in which format? What about the power rating? Are the speakers you have able to handle it? Most systems have four channels. Have you got adequate speaker coverage? And finally, do you want HD radio?
All the things you really need to consider. It’s not just a case of ‘I want a new radio for the car’ anymore. It used to be when life was simpler. Technology now brings us a plethora of options, some of which are good, others not so. You need to decide what you want or don’t need.
Firstly, where do you want the USB port? If it is on the back of a unit, it will take a little wiring work to make it operable. Secondly, if you want a large six-inch screen, can it be made to fit? Though there is one option, we looked at with a ‘floating’ screen.
And finally, you do need to consider installation. Who is actually going to fit it? If it is a DIY job, can you actually do it, or do you need extra equipment, wiring, professional help, etc.?
There are a lot of options, but there is certain to be something that suits everyone.
If movies are your main interest in terms of entertainment, then it may be worth checking out our reviews of the Best DVD Headrest Players, the Best Satellite Radios Sirius XM, the Best Double Din Head Units, and the Best Aftermarket Android Auto Car Stereos currently available.