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Having a car offers a level of convenience that can’t be done any justice with a description. It’s something that you need to have to experience to understand. While it’s main use is that of a means of transportation, there’s a lot you can do with your care to separate it from the rest of the pack. After all, it is yours, and there’s no reason for you not to stamp your identity on it. Your car radio is one of these areas as there are numerous radios available.
Many of these provide the core functionality of allowing you to listen to various radio stations, but this is not the 90s after all. Technology has improved, and radios have come a long way. There’s no reason for you not to take advantage of these progressive strides. After all, a radio is supposed to entertain you, so why not go all out for your own enjoyment?
Before jumping into the “why,” here’s a brief look at the “what.” In any car, there’s a space in which the radio fits. This is what is referred to by the term “Din.” The abbreviation, which means Deutsch Industri Normen, refers to a 2” X 8” inch measurement, that was first established by German vehicle manufacturers. The Single Din size was exclusively used in vehicles in earlier days, but Double Din radios are quite common today. Double Din radios measure 4” X 8”.
The real standout feature of Double Din radios is the level of functionality that’s available. The Single Din radios are more compact, which means that there is less space to fit anything too fancy. Therefore, earlier iterations of these radios didn’t have much apart from core functionality. While they have more features today, they still can’t compare to Double Din radios.
The size of a Double Din radio means that it can accommodate a screen. Single Din radios have screens too, but they are usually small areas that can hold nothing more than several letters. Double Din radios have a full display that is capable of handling graphics and small applications. In fact, many of these radios offer touch screen functionality.
This means that Double Din radios can run complex operating systems such as Android. That’s right! The same system that powers phones and smart TVs exists within radios. Naturally, Android Double Din radios are super popular compared to some others.
What Matters in a Double Din Head Unit?
What has been discussed until now are some of the fundamental differences between Single and Double Din radios; however, there is much more to Double Din radios than has been said before. As you proceed, you can expect a greater understanding of the specifics of multiple models. However, there are some basic things that matter where these radios are concerned.
You may note that some of these matter to you less than others, so feel free to filter out whatever you think doesn’t apply to you.
• Aesthetic – Apart from just performing the way you expect, you can’t go wrong with a sleek looking radio. Remember the customization factor that was discussed before? Getting a radio that feeds into the look you desire is key. Note that this does not only refer to the attractiveness of the display. It also speaks to the appearance of the whole unit. Of course, the area behind the screen where the cables are connected remains unseen; however, the areas surrounding the display at the front are always visible. The frame, the buttons, and the color are all things for you to consider since it needs to mesh well with everything else in your car. You want the eyes of your passengers to be drawn to the radio, but you don’t want it to be too overpowering in comparison to the rest of your dashboard. This is a very subjective aspect, but a good rule to follow is to look for a radio with a great display that complements your car’s internal aesthetic.
• Pre-Amp Outlets – This is another subjective one that applies on a case-by-case basis. Note that this has no use to you if you haven’t had any changes made to the car’s factory speaker setup. If you are an audio buff, however, that spent the time and money to have a customized amp and speaker setup, then this one is for you. When you get such a configuration done, the radio cannot take advantage of the full capability of that system. However, once there are good pre-amp outlets present, you can reap the rewards of your hard work. Note that the number of pre-amp outlets is also an important consideration based on your specific needs.
• Power – Have you ever heard a loud radio with a disturbingly distorted sound? Well, most radios do this because of a power deficit. A radio can’t offer a sound quality that it can’t handle. If you want a sound system that handles both high and low volumes like a champ, then you need to verify that the power requirements for that are met. The power metric is always expressed in watts. Naturally, higher wattage means a better sound quality. You should note that what really matters is the amount of power being delivered to the speakers. After all, the speakers vibrate to produce sound, so they must be getting enough power to handle more intense audio loads. While you want to ensure that you have a decent peak power metric, the Root Mean Square (RMS) is also an important consideration. This is because that metric is the indicator of how much power is transferred to the speakers. In practice, about 50 watts in peak power and about 20 RMS are good baselines for a Double Din radio.
• User Friendliness – Your radio needs to look good, but it also shouldn’t be a chore to use. If anything, that’s a recipe for annoyance, which is not what you want out of your entertainment experience. Many Japanese imports, for example, are shipped with radios that only have Japanese text. While they provide fundamental functionality, using them can be a nightmare for those who aren’t fluent in reading Japanese characters. Of course, you wouldn’t be looking to buy Japanese radios for your custom setup, but it’s just an example to illustrate discomfort. Remember that these radios are more expensive than their Single Din counterparts, so why invest in something frustrating? Double Din radios are made with big screens and intuitive navigation options for a reason. You also need to remember that most of the time the radio is in use is while you’re driving. Any distractions or loss of focus while driving can have dire consequences, so the more ways your radio can be controlled, the better. There are device sync options, voice activation, and steering wheel controls available in many models that you can leverage to make your journey safer.
• Device Integration – There are so many devices that are parading the word “smart” around that it was only a matter of time before even radios joined the fray. That’s not to say that having these features doesn’t make for a more convenient experience. Double Din radios are famous for being able to connect to other devices, and this is where it truly shines. While you can do a lot from the screen and controls, the true experience resides in cooperation with other technological implements. Cell phones and tablets are commonly connected to these radios, and they open a host of possibilities for you. Some radios can even be integrated with a camera at the rear of your vehicle to allow for a safer reversing process.
• Installation – Many people go the DIY route these days when they install their car radios. If you’re planning to do this, there’s no need to make the process hard. The easier the installation is, the less you need to call in professional help. You should ensure that the system you purchase is conducive to a wiring harness. This helps in wire separation, which makes the installation less clunky. Single Din radios sometimes have numerous wires even though they have fewer features. Can you imagine how many a fully powered Double Din radio has?
Now that you have a better idea of what you should be looking for, here are five of the best Double Din units in terms of value for your buck. By the end, you should be ready to go get yourself a new radio with confidence.
CDs may be phasing out, but you can enjoy yours as the radio can accommodate and play music files on optical disks. When you want to get a bit more modern, feel free to pop in an SD card, an auxiliary input, or a USB stick. Of course, Bluetooth is available for wireless connections. AM/FM radio stations are also present if you want to use them.
Pre-amp support is present for those who decided to invest in their own custom sound systems. Steering wheel controls are also supported for those who have and want to make use of the feature. Control rests squarely in your hands as you can not only control playback, but you can also control the sound you get as there is an incredible equalizer system present.
Device pairing is a big deal, and this radio is fully compatible with both the Android and iOS operating systems. Bluetooth AVRCP 1.6 is built into the design, as is the functionality to support a reverse camera. It’s also SiriusXM-Ready and works with Spotify and Pandora. Ever wanted to have Apple CarPlay or AppRadio mode on the go? Well, Pioneer built that into it too, as you can use these platforms to access lots of information from the calendar, media, news, and maps. The interface is not only powerful and intuitive, but it also comes with sever customization options to tailor its use to your needs.
Of course, there’s no leaving out the classics as there’s CD+RW support available, which is just one of the ways in which you can enjoy your content in various formats. Supported formats include MP3, JPEG, AAC, FLAC, AVI, DivX, etc.
If you have an iPod or iPhone, USB direct control is supported. Customization is the name of the game, as you can customize various aspects of the display. The text color can be adjusted independently of the button illumination color. Your screen brightness can be set to any of 10 levels, and the color choices are plentiful as there are over 210,000 to choose from.
Of course, you have the AM/FM radio functionality if needed, but you have other options to play your own music collection as you drive. You can take advantage of the USB port or AUX port if you want a physical connection for your tunes. If you want to go the wireless route, take advantage of the Bluetooth capability of the device, which allows you to control your music and take calls in hands-free mode, which is much more conducive to safe driving. The system software is also updateable via USB. Your Apple iPhone is this radio’s best friend as seamless syncing is offered, which allows you to use your phone’s features from the display.
Feel free to customize your sound style with the various presets available, and a level of safety is offered as the radio is steering wheel control capable.
Professional DJ like mixing is offered via Pioneer’s MIXTRAX functionality. It’s only on when it needs to be as there is a standby mode and a display off mode. Get ready to customize your display to your liking as the is color, illumination, background, and brightness control. You have multiple languages to choose from, depending on your preference. Various media formats are supported including MP3, WMA, ABI, and MPEG-4.
Take advantage of a host of additions such as Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and SiriusXM. Playback is supported via CD, CD-R, CD-RW, USB, Bluetooth, and AUX inputs.
No. iPod compatibility indicates support for iOS. It must advertise Android support to be compatible with your Android device.
Yes, you may. Double Din head units with GPS typically have a USB port. You can download manufacturer map updates on to a USB drive and update your map based on the manufacturer’s instructions in the manual.
These are specially designed Android and iOS interfaces that allow you to use your mobile devices in the car. As the names imply, Android Auto is for Android devices, and Apple CarPlay is for Apple devices. With your phone or tablet connected, you can easily navigate the various applications from your radio’s screen.
Not all cars have a Double Din radio slot, so if you have a Single Din space and you want a Double Din head unit, some manual adjustment of your dashboard is necessary.
Now comes the final piece of the puzzle. Which of these radios is the best choice? There are two responses to this question based on what is important to you. If you want the best “bang for your buck on a budget,” the BOSS Audio Systems BVCP9675 should be your choice as it offers a decent array of features at an affordable cost.
However, if you can afford a higher price tag and you want all the features you can get to make your radio experience amazing, there’s no beating the Pioneer AVH-X390BS.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the other models aren’t great. So, if you see a feature combination that sticks out to you, remember this is an individual process, so get what makes you comfortable.