The 10 Best Car Stereos

Updated June 18, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Car Stereos
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 39 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Take your music on the road with one of these modern car stereos that offer powerful output and high fidelity sound. Of course, most of today's models not only let you play the radio and CDs, but will link to almost any device for MP3 and streaming playback. They are also available with all kinds of other features, such as GPS systems, backup camera connectivity, and app functionality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best car stereo on Amazon.

10. Kenwood DPX502BT

The Kenwood DPX502BT plays WMA, AAC, MP3, FLAC, and WAV files, all with an ID3 tag that reads the title and album of each song played so you know exactly what you are listening to. It also features an external microphone for optimum voice pickup.
  • android rapid charge
  • digital sound reconstruction
  • screen is hard to see in full sun
Brand Kenwood
Model 0019048214508
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Pioneer MVH-X390BT

The Pioneer MVH-X390BT is capable of accessing a multitude of devices for streaming music. Conveniently, it comes with the ARC app, which allows your smartphone to become a touchscreen remote that will control certain functions on the unit.
  • voice access to siri on iphones
  • can connect to 2 phones at once
  • cannot change the backlighting color
Brand Pioneer
Model MVH-X390BT
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Alpine CDE-143BT

The Alpine CDE-143BT offers an impressive mixture of compatibility and functionality. With its powerful 50W x 4 channel amplifier, you'll be able to enjoy optimum sound, while playing music from a variety of sources, including Bluetooth and USB devices.
  • displays a caller's phone number
  • adjustable phone volume
  • poor bluetooth range
Brand Alpine CDE-143BT
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Joying Android 7

The Joying Android 7 is one of the most sophisticated units on the market. It comes with an advanced SoFIA Quad Core system, 2GB RAM, 32GB of memory, online and offline navigation support, Bluetooth, and a 7-inch HD multi-point touchscreen.
  • runs tons of google apps
  • like having a tablet in your dash
  • display is overly bright at night
Brand Joying
Model pending
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

6. Kenwood KMMBT318

Not only can you stream music from your phone to your receiver with the Kenwood KMMBT318 but it even allows you to adjust tonality and other receiver settings via your phone, so if you have an overbearing friend or child in the backseat, they can take full control.
  • can play lossless flac music files
  • built-in low pass filter
  • does not have a cd player
Brand Kenwood
Model KMM-BT318U
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. Sony MEX-XB100BT

The Sony MEX-XB100BT is a great choice for audiophiles who want to add a little extra kick to their sound system and don't want an overly complicated head unit packed with useless features. Its class-D amp pushes out 40 watts RMS per channel with a 100 watt peak.
  • easy nfc pairing
  • can read out iphone text messages
  • quick song search feature
Brand Sony
Model MEXXB100BT
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Alpine CDE-W265BT

The Alpine CDE-W265BT has a two-line display that allows you to see a large amount of song information at the same time, and a well-laid out front panel that is easy to navigate. Also, its bright touchscreen lets you customize your sound via a nine-band equalizer.
  • five bass profiles to choose from
  • can play cd-rw discs
  • extra large screen font
Brand Alpine
Model CDE-W265BT
Weight 5.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Kenwood DDX774

The Kenwood DDX774 produces crisp audio whether listening to music or using the hands-free calling feature. It can pair with as many as five Bluetooth devices simultaneously so you and your friends or family can take turns playing your favorite songs.
  • three sets of rca preamp outputs
  • electronic viewing angle adjustment
  • designed for double-din openings
Brand Kenwood
Model DDX774BH
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Pioneer DEH-X4900BT

The Pioneer DEH-X4900BT offers full color customization of the display and button backlighting, and even allows you to choose different colors for each to make really cool combinations. Additionally, you can set the lights to pulse and change colors in time with the beat.
  • supports steering wheel controls
  • theft-resistant detachable faceplate
  • quickly charges usb devices
Brand Pioneer
Model DEH-X4900BT
Weight 3.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Pioneer AVH-X391BHS

The Pioneer AVH-X391BHS has a 6.2-inch touchscreen display that can be used to watch DVDs if you find yourself waiting in your car for any reason. It also supports dual camera inputs, so you can run a dash and/or rearview camera to make driving and parking safer.
  • hd radio capabilities
  • full pandora and spotify control
  • integrated high power amplifier
Brand Pioneer
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Make Friends With Your Stereo

You might have that one person in your group of friends who, when you're all leaving the movie theater, won't shut up about all their favorite parts of the movie, even if it spoils the film for the people waiting outside.

Your CD, MP3, or any sound file sent through your stereo is like that movie, and most of the stereos that come installed as part of your car's standard package are like that friend. All the information goes in, but what comes out is a shell of the original intention.

A good stereo, then, is like a brilliant film critic, whose insights into what you've just experienced actually make the film stronger and stronger with each viewing.

It takes the signal from a given source and reinterprets it into digital information that's relayed to the magnets in your speakers and comes out as specific sounds.

The best critics not only give you new eyes through which to see a film, they usually also point you in the direction of other films, book, experiences, even other critics, that they admire. You can even think of that as a good touch screen stereo's navigation and menu system.

The cheap touch screen systems, like that same shallow, loquacious friend, are hard to be around. They don't seem to know what they want and they never react to you the way you expect them to. They're downright annoying.

But a quality touch screen friend seems to know what you want to do before you even do it, and the menu systems of the touch screens in our top five make for some of the most streamlined user experiences out there.

A Wall Worth Wanting

Let's paint a picture: You walk into a little shop that sells car stereos. The AC is turned up just a bit too high, and the room smells vaguely of metal and old carpeting.

There's a stereo system throughout the store that's playing Hall & Oats, but it's a deep album cut that you can't quite recognize.

Suddenly a salesman appears in a cheap button down shirt with the store's name embroidered over his heart. And he's sweating. He's sweating a lot, especially considering how cold it is in the store. He greets you, and you respond in kind.

"What are you looking for today?" he asks, full of hope.

"Well, I'd like to upgrade my car stereo," you reply with some hesitation.

A slow, knowing grin stretches his face into something almost sinister, and behind him a wall begins to open, revealing at least 100 different car stereos, most of which land in the same price range, with few discernible differences from one to the next.

Laughing maniacally, the salesman hits a button that causes all of the stereos on the wall to play a different Hall & Oats song all at the same time. Not one of them plays any of the hits.

You run out of the store, no closer to your goal.

The salesman knew you weren't ready to make a specific decision, so he sent you packing. What you needed to do before going in was to ask yourself what you wanted in a new stereo, and how much room you have in your car for it.

If you have one small, standard slot–or din–your options are more limited. If, however, you have the space to install a nav screen and its related components, your options increase significantly.

And, as the price point increases, just make sure that the reasons for which the price is going up are features you actually want.

Then you can go back into the store, demand that the salesman apologize for subjecting you to so much obscure Hall & Oats, and tell him exactly what it is you need.

Driven By Demand: How Audio Met The Auto

Cars weren't around for very long before they got themselves some form of audio component added to them. The first of these was an enormous unit created by the Galvin brothers (who became the Motorola brand).

It was so big that it couldn't even be placed in the driver's vicinity, and so was operated by remote control. This was in 1930, and the radio cost nearly a quarter the value of the car itself.

FM radio hit the scene in the 50s, along with a single car radio that could switch from FM to AM. The biggest development in the 50s, however, was ambitious but ultimately pretty stupid: an in-car vinyl record player. You think CD skipping was a problem? Wait till you try playing Chubby Checker while doing 50 MPH on a county road. The Twist quickly becomes The Seizure.

Eight-Track showed up in the 60s, cassette tapes in the 70s, and CD players in the 80s, though each took time for its prices to come down enough that everybody could have them. Currently, CDs are in their dying days of a fight against portable music.

If wearables do what they want to do to the market, it could mean the end of the car stereo as we know it, especially if sight and sound become integrated into wearable entertainment systems.

For now, we have our car stereos, and we should cherish them while they last.



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Last updated on June 18, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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