Does your car have an outdated stereo system which doesn’t have Bluetooth calling or wireless streaming abilities? It can be frustrating when you have to look at your phone while driving, not to mention risky and illegal (driving laws in some states permit hand-held calling, but others don’t, while texting is mostly prohibited).
The cost of distracted driving is more than just convenience – it is safety. All the more reason to want a “connected” car that allows you to control your phone’s main applications through your car’s head unit. And the more wireless and hands-free features, the better.
Other reasons you might be wanting to replace the old infotainment unit is to have a better listening experience, and to get more functionality – like being able to play music from the Spotify or Pandora app on your smartphone.
Getting a new car, for the sake of a better head unit, is a big investment and one you might not be willing to make or have the money for. But, thanks to aftermarket car receiver systems, you don’t have to.
Aftermarket systems are those which are not manufactured by the original car manufacturer. A third-party company manufactures these generic units, which can replace or add on to old parts in your vehicle. You can install an aftermarket in-dash head unit without having to buy a new car!
Pioneer is one of the top brands manufacturing aftermarket car infotainment systems with different combinations of features like CD players, Bluetooth calling, wireless music streaming, GPS navigation, voice-controlled input, touchscreens, and Android/Apple compatibility.
It is also the first manufacturer that started making aftermarket CarPlay receivers for iPhone users. However, having Apple’s CarPlay support also means paying a higher price. If you’re not finicky about Apple’s CarPlay interface, you can still get iOS support with Pioneer’s in-house apps at a very low price.
The receiver in question today (the FH-S500BT) supports both Android and iOS, but without CarPlay, and is unbelievably low-priced!
The Pioneer FH-S500BT is a double DIN CD receiver with improved phone connectivity through Pioneer’s ARC App, MIXTRAX (a music player app that adds DJ-inspired effects to your music), and built-in Bluetooth. It also allows you to play music from Spotify or Pandora.
And, it costs only $110!
The Pioneer FH-S500BT is for you if:
The Pioneer FH-S500BT is not for you if:
Regardless of the fact that it costs just $110, the FH-S500BT has a surprising list of features which make it a popular car head unit.
The Pioneer FH-S500BT is a double DIN stereo system, which means it has a faceplate measuring 7 x 4 inches (single DIN is 7 x 2 inches). To install this unit, make sure your car’s deck size is built to the double DIN standard.
Pandora is a personalized internet radio app that you can install on either your Android or iOS device, which gives you a mixed taste of music: a blend of new songs and songs you have already listened to.
With the FH-S500BT, you can now enjoy controlling Pandora through your car receiver. As long as you have the Pandora Radio app installed on your Android phone or iPhone, you can connect it with your car’s head unit via Bluetooth and start jamming.
This head unit comes with a built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and for wireless music streaming. It also lets you wirelessly browse and select tracks from your phone’s playlist.
Spotify gives you access to millions of songs and podcasts from all over the world. Now you can play the songs you love and broaden your music listening experience in the car too, because if you have Spotify on your smartphone, you can connect it with Pioneer’s audio receiver!
The ARC (Audio Remote Control) App allows your phone to act as a remote control for your head unit. Once you download the app from App Store or Google Play, you can use it to change audio and Bluetooth settings, search music by albums or artists, fast forward, rewind, and much more!
With this receiver you can directly access and control all music on your smartphone without an app, and it is also compatible with some third-party music apps.
There is AOA 2.0 support available for Android users which allows you to play, pause, and skip songs on your phone through buttons on the head unit. For this feature to work, you must plug in your phone via the USB port and it must have Android version 4.1 or later.
Pioneer’s MIXTRAX feature lets you play music with DJ effects added to it. It takes your music and adds different DJ-like effects and transitions to it, hyping up the atmosphere in your car.
Audio effects aren’t the only thing. MIXTRAX also turns on club-style lighting effects, with the light pulsing to the beat of the music. You can turn your car into a whole club scene!
FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a lossless compression format which allows for 50 – 60% more compression than WAV format, but still retains original, impeccable sound quality. Pioneer’s receivers are built with FLAC support which means you can play files in FLAC format and enjoy a great sound experience.
If you’re too attached to your old-school CD music collection, we’ve got you covered. This head unit comes with a CD Player.
The FH-S500BT is compatible with both Android and iOS devices for Bluetooth and music streaming. It does feature a little extra support for Android users though.
It does not have support for Apple’s CarPlay.
Costing only $110, this receiver is ideal for anyone looking for a budget double DIN unit.
When we went through customer reviews for this device, most of the reviews were impressive and reported flawless Bluetooth functioning and very clear sound quality. Users also found it very simple to use, and overall a great “value for money”.
However, some users said the size was not a true double DIN and required some trimming to fit in properly. Some rare critical reviews also said that the device faced connection issues, and that it occasionally flashed an “AMP ERROR” message or a “connection failed” message.
Let’s do a little unboxing of the Pioneer FH-S500BT and see what’s inside that box.
When you open the box, the first attachments and nuts and bolts you get to see are:
Let’s now further dissect what’s on the head unit.
This double DIN size receiver has a black faceplate, with a blue, illuminated display, and most noticeably it features a large rotary volume button at the center-bottom. On the left side, there is a small Bluetooth call button to answer and hang up calls, and the CD player slot is right at the top. On the bottom right, you have the USB and AUX inputs.
On the back side (the side which has all the connections to the car’s plugs), we have an AM/FM antenna input from the car, and the slot for the wire harness.
Then there are two black slots, one for the Bluetooth mic that comes with the head unit, and the one on the bottom is an optional one for operating steering wheel controls through a third-party adaptor.
Lastly, we have two sets of RCA inputs in case you want to connect the stereo to external amplifiers.
Although we wouldn’t recommend the FH-S500BT to anyone looking for the best smart infotainment systems, it is a great budget receiver that gives you a better “listening” experience, whether it is making phone calls, or listening to your favorite music.
If you only need seamless support for hands-free calling and are a big music enthusiast looking for versatile music streaming options, then this head unit can give you all that at a staggering price!