Everybody has their own list of priorities and requirements when shopping for a new car stereo. Price is often one of the most important factors. Some people are looking for a large touchscreen, while others prioritize sleek design and easiness of use. Some want a car head unit filled with all the latest tech and features, while others want a receiver with just the necessary stuff and as few distractions as possible. But there’s one thing pretty much everyboby wants : top-notch sound quality.
Finding the perfect car stereo can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. The sheer number of head units out there is enough to make your head spin. Trying to compare all of their specifications and features can be a daunting challenge. One of the best ways to narrow down the list of options is to stick to the top-rated car stereo makers, as these will most often provide a great mix of powerful features and versatility at a good price. However, not all brands are created equal.
Here at CrystalStereo.com we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve done an extensive research so you wouldn’t have to. We’ve compiled a list of the best car stereo brands out there so you can make an informed buying decision. This list includes a vast majority of the most recognizable car stereo brand names that are currently on the market.
Various factors were taken into account including owner satisfaction, features, predicted reliability, design and value for money. Combining all of that with our own experience in the car audio industry, we’ve pieced together a consensus on the best car stereo brands out there today. Read on to find out more about what are the best car stereo brands.
Top 5 Best Car Stereo Brands
Pioneer is a well-renowned name in the car audio industry, and the Japanese manufacturing giant is synonymous with quality and technology. They’ve been in business for quite a long time, and they’ve been churning out various quality car audio components for decades now.
Pioneer offers everything from car speakers and subwoofers to amplifiers and head units. Their car audio products are very well-engineered and seem to be well liked.
Pioneer offers a wide range of car stereos of different types. So, whether you’re looking for a single or a double DIN head unit, Pioneer has got you covered. Pioneer puts technology at the forefront of its design ethos, with cutting edge features, futuristic designs, very good audio capabilities and cool entertainment options.
While Pioneer may not be able to surpass other car stereo brands in every category, its overall collection of options and models is solid. Their car stereos come in at the premium end of the spectrum, with most priced at over $200 mark easily, but some can be found for a bit less. Generally speaking, pioneer headunits range from $100 to $500 depending on which model you opt for. Some pioneer high-end receivers feature a steep price tag, however, these units are very well-conceived and boast a ton of bells and whistles which account for a lot of the cost (more features = high price tag).
Kenwood is another top-rated, authoritative producers of in-car entertainment systems. There are many reasons why Kenwood is considered one of the best car stereo brands in the world — the major one being its versatile range of car audio components. You can find almost all kinds of car audio equipment in Kenwood inventory, including car speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and head units.
Kenwood has an extremely compelling car stereo lineup. Their prices are competitive, making it easier to find the best car receiver for your personal needs.
No matter what type of car receiver you’re looking for, Kenwood almost certainly will have a unit that can meet your needs because of the versatility within the set of models it offers.
Founded in Japan, Alpine is a company that has been around for more than 5 decades. During that time, it has emerged as one of the most technologically-advanced car stereo brands around and is a popular choice among car audio enthusiasts.
Alpine has grown its brand into a well-respected one in the world of car audio. Alpine car stereos might not be the units that feature top-of-the-line features, but they’re solid options that will especially work well for those seeking car receivers with just the necessary features.
Alpine headunits have strong designs, great displays, and very good audio capabilities. They offer a wide range of car receivers split pretty evenly into single DIN and double DIN categories.
Alpine has a wide variety of price ranges, with most of their receivers starting at around $200, with some around the $300 mark, while some cost $500 and more!
JVC is a Japanese company known for making various car audio components, generally at budget-friendly prices. So, If you’re on a stric-budget and looking for the best combination of quality and features for the money, look no further than JVC.
JVC offers the most affordable car receivers currently available in the market. In among the lowest price ranges, it has a broad range of models that cover most of the specifications of other high-end receivers.
JVC makes a couple of innovative car receivers, however most of their units got middle-of-the-road ratings. That’s not to say that they’re nothing to write home about. Quite honestly, JVC car receivers are nicely built and are packed with some great features.
If you are looking for style and unique designs in car stereos, Boss Audio units may not be your thing. They have never been good-looking, especially when compared to the other car receiver manufacturer.
That said, Boss Audio needs to work more on the design department because the designing of the receivers ranges from too flashy to very dull. There is no consistency, nor is there a subtle and unobtrusive classy design for any model of Boss Audio car receivers.
What to Look For in Your New Aftermarket Headunit
The receiver is the centerpiece of any car audio system. Besides making your dashboard look more stylish, today’s car stereos are packed with many useful features and can perform a variety of complex functions that are meant to allow you to enjoy your drive time.
That said, there are various things you should take into consideration when you’re looking for the best aftermarket car receiver like sound shaping controls, expandability options, audio sources…etc.
- Better sound controls : New aftermarket head units are featured with various sound shaping controls than the typical factory radio. Controls beyond basic bass and treble adjustments let you fine-tune the music to your car’s acoustics. Even if you’re not always tweaking the sound controls, look for a receiver with treble, bass, and midrange controls — Being able to adjust these will substantially improve the sound of your music. On the other hand, if you’re a “tweaker” who’s always tweaking sound controls and likes to experiment with the sound adjustments, look for a model with advanced precision sound controls such as digital time correction and parametric equalization — these types of sound controls give you total control over the effect of the acoustics in your vehicle.
- Preamp outputs : Preamp outputs let you add an external amplifier to power your speakers or a subwoofer. So, your new receiver should have at least one set of preamp outputs. Additionally, if you know that you’ll drop a subwoofer into the mix down the road, look for a model with a dedicated subwoofer output — this will allow you to adjust the subwoofer volume independently, instead of using the bass control.
- Display and controls : Having a nice big display will make your life a lot easier while you’re driving. You’ll be able to see songs, albums, and artist information without a lot of scrolling. Some car receivers feature wide touchscreen displays with enhanced graphics which makes it easier to see the display at a glance. They also make it easier to control and adjust the stereo. Further, some displays let you adjust their color, for a better match to your dash lighting.
- Discs or no discs : You don’t have to buy a new receiver with CD reader if you no longer own CDs. Nowadays, there are receivers built specifically for the digital music devotees and those who have a desire to become a minimalist and go CD-free. These receivers are called “digital media receivers” (they’re also known to as “mechless”) and they tend to offer more connectivity options than regular CD receivers at a similar price.
- Bluetooth : Bluetooth connectivity gives you the freedom of hands-free calling and wireless music streaming.
- GPS Navigation : You’ll never be lost again if your car receiver is featured with a built-in GPS navigation.
- New sources for music and added functions : One of the most common reasons to upgrade your car receiver is to expand your system’s music playback and other capabilities. In addition to what we mentioned above, here are some other things to take into account when looking for a new headunit:
- App control
- MP3/WMA/AAC playback
- iPod® and iPhone® support
- Support for Android™ phones
- Satellite radio
- GPS navigation
- Support for Pandora® Internet radio and other app-related sources