The Best Single DIN Head Unit (Guide) – 2016 Reviews

Single DIN Head Unit Review GuideA car’s factory-installed DIN head unit typically controls speaker volume, provides a few equalization and interfacing options, and a limited set of inputs: just enough to be neither a hindrance nor a noteworthy feature. Aftermarket head units on the other hand present a plethora of extra features that bring out the best of not only the audio system, but the overall experience of driving.

This guide details some of the best options for making the center console of a car one that makes being on the road safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable overall.

Compare: The 10 Top Rated Single DIN Head Units of 2016

What Is a Single DIN Head Unit?

DIN head units are the devices located in the center console of most cars, that are typically used to control the volume of a car’s stereo system. Single head units are about an inch long, allowing more space in the console for storage or other devices than the larger double head units.

In addition to determining the amount of power sent to the speakers, aftermarket head units can pair with smartphones and other input devices to allow for streaming music and hands-free interfacing with select Apple and Android apps.

What Are the Advantages of Upgrading a Head Unit?

Upgrading a car’s head unit increases the potency of its speakers, the expandability of its audio system, and the number of small tasks that can be handled through one readily available interface. Aftermarket head units universally provide more power, more inputs, and more overall capabilities than their factory-installed brethren.

On both an aesthetic and functional level, installing a new head unit noticeably improves a car’s capabilities.

What Are the Contenders for Best Single DIN Head Unit?

Pioneer DEH-150MP Single DIN Car Stereo With MP3 Playback: The 150MP is a basic upgrade that makes up for its relatively minimal feature set by consistently bringing good audio out of speakers of nearly any quality. It has all the expected amenities, an auxiliary input, and 12 customizable colors.

Kenwood KDC-HD455U Car In-Dash USB & CD Receiver MP3 Player: The KDC-HD455U is built for outstanding audio. Its MOSFET amplifier continuously dishes out more wattage than most units of its class for high performance. It features several inputs, including some iPhone integration and has 6-channel preamp outputs.

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS Single Din In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver: The X9500BHS is in a class above the rest, with great power handling, a variety of inputs and outputs, and fully functioning Bluetooth integration. The X9500BHS can stream audio, facilitate hands-free calling, and most importantly deliver an incredible quality of sound. It features 6-channel preamp outputs for those who want to expand their stereo system.

Considerations for Choosing the Best Single DIN Head Unit

Given the huge amount of DIN head units available, individuals are better off deciding on their personal wants and needs and narrowing their search by that criteria. Supported media, consistent average power, and expandability are important factors for audio enthusiasts while smartphone integration and personalization features are for those who want to enhance their overall driving experience.

  • General Features: Much of how a head unit performs is determined by its core features. The power output of the amplifier, supported file-types, and customization options play an important role in how well a unit performs and fits in with a car’s interior. Amplifier power is especially important for people who are planning on upgrading their speakers as well.
  • Audio Features: Head units can do a lot to affect audio playback, provided they have the right built-in capabilities. The presence and effectiveness of equalizers, retrievers, and additional controllers contributes to an individual’s ability to personalize their car’s sound quality.
  • Compatabilities: The most basic input a modern head unit can have is AM/FM radio and a CD player. Even something as simple as an auxiliary input gives people the opportunity to use their music players and phones as additional sources, and Bluetooth integration allows the same to happen over the air. Head units that support Bluetooth present unique and convenient benefits such as hands-free calling.
  • Controls: Ease-of-access is of the utmost importance while driving, so this guide takes into consideration how easily each head unit’s features are to access and memorize. Simpler interfaces are less likely to be frustrating, as most people would like to be able to skip songs, adjust volume, or take calls without having to take their eyes off of the road.

General Features

Pioneer DEH-150MP

The 150MP’s features are basic, but the head makes good use of the resources it is given. Its amplifier produces a consistent 14 watts, it plays all kinds of CDs and is compatible with the popular MP3 and WMA file formats. The 150MP has a 12-segment LCD display that is easy to read in most lighting and looks stylish in virtually any interior it is installed in.

Kenwood KDC-HD455U

The KDC packs a considerable amount of power at 22 watts. Its HD radio tuner increases the audio quality of FM bands to something more comparable to MP3s and uses iTunes tagging for song identification. It handles AAC files in addition to MP3s and WMAs and allows users to change the color of its buttons to match their car’s interior. Just through basics alone, the KDC brings quite a few significant specifications to the table.

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS

The X9500BHS utilizes a built-in MOSFET amplifier running at a consistent 14 watts and with a 50-watt peak. It has an HD radio tuner for enhanced over-the-air audio, built-in Bluetooth, and a customizable display. Altogether, the head finds a fine balance between being an audio-oriented device and one that competently performs as a convenience tool. Its look is great regardless of customization preferences and immediately makes itself a focal point of a car’s interior.

Audio Features

Pioneer DEH-150MP

Pioneer’s MOSFET amplifier does a good job boosting sound quality and speaker power. It is aided by an advanced sound retriever that enhances the quality of compressed file formats commonly used for mobile music by restoring the clarity and brightness of high notes. For fine tuning, the 150MP features a 5-band equalizer. People who enjoy multiple genres of music may find the lack of equalizer presets cumbersome, but more generalized settings still add a substantial amount of punch to each track.

Kenwood KDC-HD455U

The KDC is one of the better performing amp heads on the market. Its power handling allows speakers to deliver stronger audio, further augmented by a 3-band equalizer with 8 optimized preset curves. Its high and low pass filters keep extreme frequencies from ruining a song’s quality, so everything sounds spectacular coming from the speakers. The KDC has a lot of features, but its participation in audio playback is certainly its fines

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS

The X9500BHS features the same Advanced Sound Retriever as its lower tier counterpart and packs a 5-band equalizer with six preset tone settings. The head performs beautifully with virtually any style of music, and the additional subwoofer level controls add a welcome amount of nuance. Users can also opt to have their playlists delivered by the head’s virtual DJ, MIXTRAX. Once activated, it blends songs together using turntable inspired effects.

Compatabilities

Pioneer DEH-150MP

The 150MP is limited to a single front-panel auxiliary input, but for most music players this is enough to get the job done. There isn’t an audio device in the world that doesn’t have a headphone jack, so the 150MP can make good use of its singular input. It has a respectable 2-channel preamp output for rear speakers or a subwoofer so one can add more output devices, but further upgrades would be better served by a head with more capabilities.

Kenwood KDC-HD455U

The KDC can’t communicate wirelessly, but it can interface with iPods and smartphones via cable. Through it, one can access stored media or online radio stations. The head integrates nicely with the Pandora app for iPhones, allowing individuals to control the app without fiddling with their phones. Keeping in line with its emphasis on audio quality, the KDC has 6-channel preamp outputs that will come in handy should one ever upgrade the entire stereo system.

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS

At the forefront of the X9500BHS’s capabilities is its Bluetooth integration. The head can communicate wirelessly with mobile devices, allowing instant audio streaming of stored music files or online radio stations. Bluetooth can also be paired with phones for hands-free calling, activated easily by a single button press on the head. In terms of expandability, the X9500BHS features 6-channel preamp outputs for front, rear, and subwoofer speakers.

Controls

Pioneer DEH-150MP

The 150MP’s control scheme doesn’t require many buttons or knobs to access all of its features, so the overall design of the head is relatively compact. The playback controls are a little on the small side but after an extended period of use it becomes fairly natural to find the right button without taking one’s eyes off the road. The head comes with a remote control for back seat DJs.

Kenwood KDC-HD455U

The KDC is one of the sleekest looking receivers available. It has a polished aesthetic, not too many buttons, and a clearly visible screen. The buttons are a little small, but with habitual use, one won’t expect to have too much trouble with them. The onboard menus are generally easy to navigate, but the iPod menu specifically can be complex for devices with a high volume of songs. The remote is a nice size and has access to a broad range of features.

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS

The X9500BHS is very intuitive, making efficient use of several multi-purpose buttons for easy access. The intelligent placement and pairing of the buttons make it very easy to get to desired functions, even when only making an educated guess. The screen’s menus are well organized and easy to read at a glance, so very little time is spent looking back from the head to the road. Operations that seem complex on other units play out so easily and naturally through the X9500BHS’ interface, it calls into question why its design isn’t more commonplace.

Conclusion: Our Single DIN Head Unit Reviews Are In

Pioneer DEH-150MP Single DIN Car Stereo With MP3 Playback – Best Affordable Single DIN Head Unit

Pioneer DEH-150MP Single DIN Car Stereo With MP3 PlaybackThe DEH-150MP is a basic upgrade. It gives a little more power to the speakers than a factory installation, opens up a few different input options, and brings a bit of style to a car’s overall appearance. The head is a more substantial upgrade in older cars than newer ones, but the added power alone is enough to make it a worthwhile, affordable purchase.

Pros:

  • Better power handling than factory heads
  • Easy to install and use

Cons:

  • No further enhancements
  • Limited output options

Learn More

Kenwood KDC-HD455U Car In-Dash USB & CD Receiver MP3 Player – Best Single DIN Head Unit for the Money

Kenwood KDC-HD455U Car In-Dash USB & CD Receiver MP3 PlayerThe KDC puts most of its resources to delivering better audio quality but packs a respectable amount of extra features to sweeten the deal. In fact, for the price, this head delivers more features and more power than most of its competitors. It lacks the extra edge it needs to compete with higher classes but makes a convincing argument for itself in terms of value. Especially for people who are looking to completely overhaul their car’s stereo system, this head provides a compelling amount of power and will save money for other investments.

Pros:

  • Great choice for pure audio
  • Smartphone integration

Cons:

  • Dependant on wires and cables

Learn More

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS Single Din In-Dash CD/MP3 Receiver – Best Single DIN Head Unit Overall

Pioneer DEH-X9500BHS Single Din In-Dash CD/MP3 ReceiverThe DEH-X9500BHS is a single DIN head unit above all the rest. With a level of functionality usually reserved for larger models, the head is as compact as it is versatile and as powerful as it is nuanced. The X9500BHS is a phenomenal choice not just for its participation in audio production, but overall usefulness while driving. The built-in Bluetooth is easy to set up and completely eliminates the need for wires, cables, and headsets. One can stream and talk to their heart’s content without ever taking their eyes off the road.

The X9500BHS’ solid black aesthetics grant it a certain professional quality which is matched by its internal and external capabilities. Its expansive output capabilities are a must-have for serious audio enthusiasts who are planning on upgrading their speakers.

Pros:

  • Good power handling
  • Bluetooth integration
  • Great output options

Cons:

  • No radio station presets

Learn More

The potential of a head unit is often overlooked and taken for granted. Factory installations are underwhelming and featureless, and many simply become accustomed to their low-tier quality. However, even the cheapest aftermarket upgrade can completely change a car’s audio landscape, add new, convenient tools, and impress other passengers.

For a true music lover, or someone who is simply on the road a lot, nothing delivers better than a head unit with strong audio and Bluetooth capabilities. Units like the DEH-Pioneer X9500BHS may be a bit of an investment in the short term, but pays off significantly in the long run.