After researching 122 single-DIN Bluetooth car stereos and testing nine, we recommend the Kenwood KMM-BT322U digital media receiver (DMR) as the best choice for drivers who want to stream music from their phone. Of the DMRs we tested, it is the easiest to use, has the best display, and offers the most versatility—yet it’s also one of the most affordable.
In search of the best bluetooth car adapter? You’re in luck because, in this guide, we’ll review the on the market. We’ll walk you through the features to look for, types of bluetooth adapters, and give out our personal recommendations on each item!
Hop on to learn more! Most States demand you keep your hands on the wheel and your focus straight ahead! Hands-free devices help reduce dangerous driving distraction. Bluetooth car adapter kits that connect to your audio system are convenient, require little installation, and increase safety for you and your passengers.
There are many Bluetooth car adapters on the market. High-quality adapters allow you to effectively sync your personal devices and phone with your car’s controls. You can make and receive calls and listen to your phone/tablet music hands-free without echo, interference, or interruptions. Not all are systems are high quality or created equal, however, and you should do some comparison research before purchasing and installing a Bluetooth adapter for your car or another vehicle.
What You Will Learn from This Guide: • • • • How Does a Bluetooth Car Adapter Work? How your wireless Bluetooth adapter works depends on the type of adapter you choose: • FM Transmitter – uses radio FM frequencies • AUX-in – plugs directly into your 3.5mm AUX input • Visor Type – output through its own speakers Bluetooth adaptors are designed for hands-free calling.
Some adapters only allow phone calls while others incorporate streaming music. Some are basic. Some have multi-function button pads. Some have LCD display screens with button pads. Many offer convenient voice-activated controls. The best Bluetooth car adapter kit for hands-free calling has a high-quality, noise-canceling mic that reduces background road noise. If your vehicle doesn’t have AUX-in, an FM transmitter kit is necessary.
However, if open FM frequencies are limited (around cities), there is little other option but to connect via an AUX input. Different Types of Bluetooth Car Adapters AUX-In AUX-in kits are generally the least expensive (averaging about $20).
AUX-in kits plug directly into, your stereo 3.5mm AUX input. Bluetooth picks up the audio signal sent from your phone. The wireless signal is decompressed and converted to an analog signal. Your stereo then amplifies the signal it receives. FM Transmitters FM transmitters are really only recommended for those who do not have AUX inputs in their vehicles.
You get what you pay for with these FM transmitters so be aware that the cheapest units just aren't worth it! The FM transmission quality must be strong enough to send a clear signal your stereo can pick up.
Bluetooth compresses the audio signal, which is converted to an FM radio signal. FM signals have a lot of noise and an unpredictable frequency and low signal-to-noise ratio. The signal noise is apparent even with a good antenna. Visor-Style Visor-style kits are the most expensive ($50 - $120 range) hands-free Bluetooth car adapter kits because the units have their own built-in speakers as well as a wireless system.
There is no feedback, echo, or distortion. Conversations are very clear because the sound is not transmitted through your car speakers. The unit attaches to your sun visor. It is intended for hands-free phone calling but you can also play music through these speakers. What to Look For When Buying a Bluetooth Car Adapter • Audio Performance The most important audio qualities to look for when buying a Bluetooth adapter kit are signal clarity and signal strength.
Signal Clarity - A satisfying audio experience is a balanced mix void of noise and distortion. There must be a clean signal to ensure that the sound coming out of your speakers is high quality. Signal Strength – Strong signals determine maximum stereo amplification. Strong signals are loud and generally have a higher signal-to-noise ratio. This also affects clarity. • Connectivity While some Bluetooth car kits can connect multiple devices, others can only connect with one device at a time.
This is not very convenient if you have several passengers that all have a phone, tablet, music, or game devices each wants to use while traveling! • Pairing The best Bluetooth adapter for your car is also one that you do not have to configure each time you want to use your device(s). Rather, it automatically pairs with your device(s) when you enter the vehicle.
Some remember devices they have been previously paired with and they will automatically connect if they are within range. Pairing is also important if you intend to stream favorite (Pandora) stations. You want your Bluetooth to unobtrusively connect. • Hands-Free Operation Hands-free operation is the most important feature of a good Bluetooth adapter. Choose a model that is convenient as well as functional.
• Docking Station A magnetic docking station can be attached to your car’s surface. Multi-function buttons allow you to control your phone hands-free. • Stereo Audio Jack Models These connect to the audio jack with a metal ending. The unit has a multi-function button pad to control the phone hands-free.
• FM Transmitter Plug-In Models These plug directly into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. TOP 5 Best Bluetooth Car Adapters Now, we’ll review the TOP 5 Best Bluetooth Car Adapters, give our personal recommendations, and cover one more additional bonus product!
Read on to find out more! Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter Audio Adapter - for those who do not have 3.5mm AUX-in plug The updated is an inexpensive, hands-free, Bluetooth car audio adapter receiver. This KM19 version has more play-mode features and a voltmeter for your driving safety. You can play your music through the TF card, USB disk, Bluetooth, or AUX cable.
This quick-charging Bluetooth car adapter is an FM transmitter type that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and connects your phone via Bluetooth with your radio signal and frequency. This adapter has a large 1.44-inch screen that displays incoming phone calls, music selections, and your car’s battery voltage.
If your voltmeter reads between 12.8V and 12.2V when your car is shut off, you can rest assured your battery is fine. If it reads below 12V, it is time to replace your battery! This FM transmitter is also compatible with most market devices including Apple, Xiaomi, Sony, Samsung, and Oppo. The downside is that this Nulaxy KM19 Bluetooth car adapter must be plugged in and only supports one phone at a time. It has some sound distortion, which is common to FM transmitter car audio adapters.
It may also be more difficult to get a strong FM signal/frequency in and around city areas, which is typical of FM transmitter adapters. Recommendations: The Nulaxy KM19 Bluetooth car adapter is intended for those that do not have 3.5mm AUX-in plug in their vehicle but still want maximum device compatibility and all the current features quality Bluetooth car adapters offer.
It comes in five colors to match your car’s interior and a 6-month limited manufacturer’s warranty is included. Nulaxy KM19: Nulaxy Wireless in-Car Bluetooth FM Transmitter Radio Adapter - for those who do not have 3.5mm AUX-in plug The Nulaxy KM18 is a quality, technologically-superior, adjustable, wireless, Bluetooth car adapter.
It is compatible with most market devices including Apple, Xiaomi, Sony, Samsung, and Oppo. It has a 5V port for quick-charging your devices. You can charge your phone while you listen to your music The KM18 has an advanced noise reduction system for perfectly-clear sound, as well as play-mode features and a voltmeter for your enjoyment and driving safety. Play your music through your TF card, Bluetooth, or AUX cable.
This Bluetooth FM transmitter type adapter plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter and connects your phone via Bluetooth with your radio signal and frequency. It has a large 1.44-inch screen that displays incoming phone calls, music selections, and your car’s battery voltage. The downside is, if your car does not automatically shut off the cigarette lighter when the car is shut off, can drain your battery if it is left plugged-in.
Also, as is typical of FM transmitter adapters, it may be more difficult to get a strong FM signal/frequency in and around city areas.
Recommendations: The Nulaxy KM18 Bluetooth car adapter is intended for those that do not have 3.5mm AUX-in plug in their vehicle but still want maximum device compatibility and features. It comes in six colors to match your car’s interior. A 6-month limited manufacturer’s warranty is also included with this product.
Nulaxy KM18: Mpow Bluetooth Receiver, Streambot Mini Bluetooth Car Aux Adapter - for those who do not have Bluetooth The top-selling is an inexpensive, versatile, hands-free, Bluetooth car adapter. It is lightweight and has a hi-fi, crystal-clear, noise isolator range up to (an unobstructed) 30 ft. It is compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices including your phone, MP3/iPod, tablet, headphones, and home audio systems.
It has a long battery life (up to 8 hrs.) and provides an extra-long 10-hour talk/play time. It also allows you to charge two devices at once while you take calls or listen to music, books, etc. This advanced Bluetooth car adapter inconspicuously connects into your car’s AUX-in plug. The 3.5mm audio cable also connects to your wired headphones to make them Bluetooth headphones so you can answer your phone or wirelessly stream your music. The drawback of this Mpow Bluetooth car adapter is that it does not have a display screen.
It also does not automatically turn ON when your car starts. It must be manually turned ON. Holding the multi-function button down 3 sec turns it On/Off, which may be difficult to do without the unit either doing nothing or running through a cycle before turning off.
Recommendations: The Mpow Streambot Mini Bluetooth car auxiliary adapter is intended for those that do not have Bluetooth in their vehicle but still want a simple hands-free solution for answering and calling on your phone while driving.
Mpow Receiver and Transmitter: Mpow Bluetooth Receiver for Car, Hands-Free Car Kits/Bluetooth Aux Car Adapter 3 in 1 - multi-function adapter bundle without noise or distortion This is a 3-in-1 Bluetooth receiver, dual USB car charger, and ground loop noise isolator. It attaches to your dash, console, or wherever it is convenient, with a magnetic base.
The upgraded (4.0) Bluetooth enables this car adapter to turn any wired home or audio system, headphones, or speakers into hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled devices. It is able to achieve more stable transmission without using as much power, thus allowing you to stream audio through the 3.5mm stereo AUX input to listen to music, books, or podcast, or to follow GPS navigation. The dual connection allows you to connect and use two (Bluetooth) devices at the same time.
It has a high-speed charger and has 2 USB output ports, a 1A receiver output, and a 2.4A output for other devices. A built-in mic delivers hi-fi, CD-quality noise isolator clarity. Its range is up to (an unobstructed) 30 ft. The Mpow 3-in-1 Bluetooth car adapter automatically turns on when you start your car.
To ensure safety and proper performance, never charge in high temperatures or under pressure. Recommendations: The 3-in-1 Bluetooth receiver / dual USB car charger / ground loop noise isolator is intended for those that want a quality, hands-free, conveniently-compact, multi-function adapter bundle without noise or distortion. It provides a solution for safely operating your phone and navigation system while driving.
Mpow Hands-Free Adapter 3 in 1: TUNAI Firefly: World's Smallest Bluetooth Receiver w/ 3.5mm AUX - for those that need their streaming music to be bold and clear The Tunai Firefly is an extremely small and simple Bluetooth receiver that turns home or audio systems, headphones, or speakers into hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled devices. It capably streams crystal-clear quality audio using its Sound Revitalization Technology.
Just one 3.5mm plug transforms your home or audio system, headphones, or speakers into hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled devices. The glowing LED light on the USB indicates the connection is made. It remembers up to 8 paired devices and also allows you to seamlessly pair and share two devices at the same time.
The Firefly will always automatically connect to the last device used. The drawback is that the Tunai Firefly only streams multimedia audio (video, music, apps, etc.). The Firefly may also not work with all USB ports because it requires little power and some USB chargers and ports automatically shut off when the current draw decreases.
The USB charger is not included in this package. Recommendations: The is intended for those that need their streaming music to be bold and clear without expending a lot of power. It comes in three colors to match your car’s interior.
TUNAI: BONUS PRODUCT REVIEW Mpow Ground Loop Noise Isolator for Car Audio/Home Stereo System with 3.5mm Audio Cable The compact, lightweight, and portable mini Mpow Ground Loop Noise Isolation adapter focuses on outputting hi-fi, crystal-clear, speech, music, and sound. All humming and buzzing from the audio source is eliminated. This inexpensive works with 3.5mm audio jacks and can turn any wired home or audio system, headphones, or speakers into hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled devices void of distortion or background noise.
Recommendations: The Mpow Ground Loop Isolator connects to any vehicle’s 3.5mm AUX jack. It effectively eliminates background noise and distortion and outputs good quality streaming music and clear voices and sounds from your car or home audio or stereo system. Mpow Ground Loop Noise Isolator: Best Bluetooth Car Adapter Features • 3.5mm Input / AUX-in – The 3.5mm is a 3-pole jack that plugs into the AUX-in; the AUX-in inputs sound from a media device • Built-In Charger – A designated internal charging stem with a power source (cigarette lighter plug-in charger) • Command Buttons - Control buttons on a pad that allows hands-free operation • aptX – Enhances wireless sound quality • Hands-Free Protocol – Used in the Bluetooth hands-free audio systems built into cars • Ambient Noise Reduction – Reducing background noise FAQ How do you set up a Bluetooth car kit?
a. How do you set up a Bluetooth FM transmitter car kit? Ans: Plug the power adapter into your car’s cigarette lighter. Set your radio on the same frequency the adapter is producing. The kit wirelessly connects to your phone and relays everything from phone to radio signal. b. How do you set up a Bluetooth 3.5mm cable jack car kit?
Ans: Plug one end of the 3.5 mm cable audio jack into the audio source and the other end into the car’s AUX-in slot. Set the car stereo in AUX mode. Turn up your music! How do Bluetooth car kits operate?
a. How do you connect a car kit to the stereo? Ans: Depending on the kit, connect it to your stereo 1) using a 3.5 mm audio cable that connects to the AUX-in audio jack, 2) directly into the audio jack without needing a cable, or 3) through an audio jack that produces a radio signal.
Then set your stereo and radio to a local radio frequency. b. How do you connect a car kit to your phone? Ans: Turn on and set the phone’s Bluetooth to “visible” so anyone can connect to it. Search for the Bluetooth signal using the car kit. The phone and kit are paired when a signal connection is made.
What effect does a Bluetooth car kit have on the car’s battery? Ans: If your cigarette lighter’s power does not automatically shut off when the vehicle is shut off, you need to remember to turn the car kit off each time, or risk draining the car’s battery.
Why do people hear me with an echo when I use the car kit? Ans: People will hear you with an echo when your Bluetooth car adapter does not have built-in ambient noise reduction technology in the microphone. You may consider updating your adapter. Will my car kit work with voice commands? Ans: Most Bluetooth car adapters work with voice commands when the voice command function is activated. Is hands-free calling safe? Ans: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contends that talking on your phone while driving is as distracting as texting.
A Bluetooth adapter for your car removes the danger by allowing you to talk on the phone without taking your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. What is the best Bluetooth adapter for car cigarette lighter? Ans: Of the Bluetooth adapters reviewed here, the Nulaxy KM18 wireless in-car Bluetooth FM Transmitter radio adapter is the best car cigarette lighter (FM Transmission) model.
What is the best Bluetooth adapter for music? Ans: Of the Bluetooth adapters reviewed here, the Tunai Firefly with its Sound Revitalization Technology is the best Bluetooth adapter for music. What is the best Bluetooth adapter for phone calls? Ans: Of the Bluetooth adapters reviewed here, the mini Mpow Ground Loop Isolator is the best Bluetooth adapter for phone calls. Comparative Chart of Bluetooth Car Adapters Product Features Nulaxy KM19 • Connection: Direct plug-in w/o cable • Compatibility: Universal Nulaxy KM18 • Connection: Cigarette lighter plug-in • Compatibility: Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Sony Mpow Receiver and Transmitter • Connection: 3.5mm audio cable • Compatibility: Most Bluetooth-enabled devices Mpow Hands-Free Adapter 3 in 1 • Connection: 3.5mm audio cable • Compatibility: Most Bluetooth devices & all cars with a 3.5mm input TUNAI • Connection: 3.5mm audio cable • Compatibility: iOS devices Mpow Ground Loop Noise Isolator • Connection: 3.5mm audio cable • Compatibility: Any portable device w/3.5mm audio jacks, car audio or home stereo system, Bluetooth receiver or Bluetooth hands-free car kit Conclusion The best Bluetooth car adapters have high-quality features that include hands-free operation, noise cancellation, and easy operation including a display screen and button pads.
The primary purpose is to enhance driving safety. The secondary purpose is to enhance the individual’s entertainment experience. Short Product Description | Wireless Car Charger YTech Tired of fumbling with USB cables in the car? is a convenient device that uses Qi Inductive Charging Technology to charge smartphones without the need to plug a power cord into them. The charger consists of a power cord and a flat charging pad that can be mounted on your vehicle's dash.
A silicone circle on the charging pad secures the smartphone, so it won't slide or fall off while you drive. The Wireless Car Charger is designed to plug into a USB power source that provides at least two amps of power. Attempting to charge smartphones with less power than that can result in slow charging times. The charging pad measures about 3.5 inches square and mounts on any flat surface. You get the charging pad, a micro USB cable, and an instruction manual. Does this wireless car charger work will all smartphones?
It can charge smartphones that support Qi Inductive Charging Technology without any additional equipment needed. Older smartphones that don't support wireless charging require a receiver pad to be charged. The receiver pad consists of a metallic pad that fits between the back of a smartphone and its case. Which smartphones support wireless charging out of the box? Wireless charging is supported by Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone 8 plus, and iPhone X.
It's also a feature of Samsung's Galaxy Note S6, S7, S8, and S9. There are other smartphones that support this technology, so check your manufacturer's specs to see if your phone is supported. Pros Cons • Charges your smartphone while you drive • Doesn't require plugging a USB cable into your smartphone • Works with phones that support Qi Inductive Charging Technology • Many smartphones will need an additional receiver plate to charge • Many cars lack a 2-amp power supply Gadget Reviews is not just a simple product reviews website.
We don’t trust anyone except our own experience, thorough investigations, the results of the test drives, and genuine scientific research. We are honest in what we do and write about. We’ll bring you, our reader, lots of positives to the table: impartial product descriptions, valuable recommendations based on many hours of research and investigation, or our own personal experience.
We’ve got you covered on all fronts: you’ll find gaming gadgets, reviews of best sports & fitness equipment, various test drives of home and outdoor appliances, and many more!
best bluetooth receiver for car stereo - The 8 Best Bluetooth Audio Receivers to Buy in 2019
Don't have a high-tech infotainment system in your car? With Bluetooth car adapters, you can enjoy hands-free audio on the cheap and make hands-free calls (in some cases). By simply plugging one of these adapters — most are under $30 — into the audio port in your vehicle, you can connect wirelessly to your phone and stream everything from music to podcasts over your car's speakers. To find out which option is best, we tested 12 Bluetooth car adapters and evaluated them on three core features: design, wireless audio quality and ease of use.
We also awarded extra points for any special features. Here are the Bluetooth car adapters on the market right now. Credit: Anker The Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver 2-in-1 is simply the best Bluetooth car adapter you can buy. The device is small and exceedingly easy to plug in and start using, and it comes in a compact design The 2-in-1 plugs in to your car's audio port (or, if you want to use the adapter on other devices, you can plug it into a headphone jack).
My phone immediately recognized the handset, and within seconds, I was wirelessly streaming audio through my car's speakers. The Mpow 2-in-1 has a built-in microphone that allows for hands-free calling.
It wasn't the best microphone I've ever used, but it gets the job done. On the device, you'll find some buttons that allow you to quickly pause and play music, end a call, increase or decrease volume, and more. All of the buttons are easy to access, well-designed and responsive.
Overall, Mpow's 2-in-1 is a winner. Credit: Mpow TaoTronics makes one of the best Bluetooth car adapters on the market. And at its affordable price, it's a stellar value. The TaoTronics Bluetooth Receiver is similar to Mpow's in that it plugs in to your car's audio port for wireless streaming.
The device was easy to set up, and it connected to my phone in a flash. Several buttons on the side made it easy for me to switch between songs, pause and play audio, and pump up the volume.
There's also a button on the side that helps you quickly activate voice assistants like Apple's Siri. The TaoTronics comes with two microphones. One of them listens to your audio, while the other helps to drown out ambient noise. That resulted in outstanding call quality even when I had the window open. Credit: TaoTronics The Mpow Bluetooth Receiver Streambot Mini was a treat to use.
The diminutive device plugs in to the audio jack on your car speaker and runs on a long-lasting battery that can keep a connection to your phone all day. Connecting the Streambot Mini to my phone was a cinch, and I like that it comes with a longer cord to use when the shorter connector made for too tight a fit between the radio and my car. Using the Streambot Mini was pretty simple. I connected it to my phone and could immediately wirelessly stream music to my car's speakers.
The Play/Pause button is perfectly placed for easy, no-look access, and buttons on the side let you quickly increase or decrease volume. I used the Streambot Mini for wireless calling. It worked pretty well, but the microphone quality wasn't the best. Credit: Mpow While many car Bluetooth adapters are small and plug in to your car's audio port, where they'll remain, the Anker SoundSync Drive is designed for a bit more flexibility.
But there's one problem. I don't like putting adhesive on my dashboard, but that's how the SoundSync Drive works. You take the circular unit and place it anywhere on the dash. However, because the unit has a strong adhesive, you'll find that it won't come off your dash so easily after prolonged use.
The device itself has a nice design and worked well over a wireless connection to my phone. One of the benefits of the SoundSync Drive's design is that you can place the adapter closer to where you are, which improves call quality. However, the Drive's buttons are flush with the case, so if you want to change your volume without looking, you might find yourself fumbling to find the button or even hit the wrong buttons entirely.
That was a problem for me on a few occasions. Credit: Anker The Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver with One Key is a simple Bluetooth audio adapter that plugs in to your car's audio port and wirelessly connects to your phone. I found that the wireless connection was stable, though at times during music playback, there was some interference in the signal. I'm not sure whether this was because of the device or my phone. Like other Mpow devices, this one is small and easy to use.
And its big button on the side makes it easy to quickly play and pause audio without taking your eyes off the road. This Mpow device had solid battery life, and its call quality wasn't bad. But if you don't mind spending a few extra bucks, you should get the Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver 2-in-1, which is a better option.
Credit: Mpow There's nothing to dislike about the Nulaxy Bluetooth Receiver. The device is small and simple to set up, and it plugs directly into your car's audio port for wireless connectivity. A button on the side gives you control over your music, and the device's built-in battery lasts all day on a charge. Like some others in this roundup, the Nulaxy Bluetooth Receiver has noise-cancelling features that aim to improve call quality. And while the TaoTronics adapter offered better noise cancelling, the Nulaxy delivered solid performance.
There Nulaxy has volume controls, but I would have liked more options to activate voice assistants. Overall, the Nulaxy is a good option given its very low price. Credit: Nulaxy Out of all the Mpow devices the company sells for wireless communication in the car, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver for Car would be my last pick. Unlike the other Mpow products we reviewed, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver is a bulky, circular unit with an adhesive on the bottom that sticks to your dash.
While that allows for better call quality, it also makes it harder to find the right buttons and controls without looking at the unit while you're driving. The Mpow comes with one feature you might like if you want to keep your device charged on the go: a car-lighter adapter that has two USB ports on the back.
Simply plug this in to your car lighter, and connect your iPhone or Android device on the other end, and you can charge your handset while you ride. Sure, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver has more bells and whistles than other options do, but at least in my time with it, that didn't translate to a better overall experience. Credit: Mpow
Search Wirecutter For: Search Reviews for the real world Browse Close • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Browse Close • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Updated October 19, 2018 • Our new pick for Bluetooth-equipped CD receivers is the , and we recommend the if you want to add a large touchscreen to a single-DIN dash.
Show more • Our new pick for Bluetooth-equipped CD receivers is the , and we recommend the if you want to add a large touchscreen to a single-DIN dash. After testing the latest single-DIN Bluetooth stereos, we recommend the digital media receiver as the best replacement car stereo for drivers who mostly stream music. Show less After researching 122 single-DIN Bluetooth car stereos and testing nine, we recommend the digital media receiver (DMR) as the best choice for drivers who want to stream music from their phone.
Of the DMRs we tested, it is the easiest to use, has the best display, and offers the most versatility—yet it’s also one of the most affordable. • • • • • The is more driver-friendly than other conventional single-DIN models thanks to voice control, large and conveniently located buttons, and illuminated labels for the buttons’ secondary functions. It has a bright, clear, two-line display that’s easier to read and shows more information than models with a single-line display.
Bluetooth pairing is easy, and when paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth or USB, this Kenwood allows you to control Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio through the stereo as well as choose songs from your phone. You can also add a separate SiriusXM receiver to play satellite radio.
Like all DMRs, it doesn’t include a CD player. The is very similar to our top pick—it has the same specs, control layout, easy-to-read two-line display, handy music-app controls, and voice control functions—but includes a CD player.
Even if you don’t regularly play CDs, having a player can be handy to listen to a friend’s discs or a library audiobook on a road trip.
But a CD player adds mechanical complexity, which could mean a higher chance of something going wrong down the road, so we recommend this one only if you know you’ll need a disc player. The has a clever motorized slide-out 7-inch touchscreen and is the only way we know of to get and in a single-DIN stereo.
Compared with conventional single-DIN models, it also gives you easier-to-use controls, a better looking screen, and the ability to play CDs and (while parked) DVDs. The screen slides out and up for use; you can retract it back into the head unit when it’s not needed.
But the AVH-3400NEX is much pricier than our other picks, and in some cars, its screen can block climate controls or vents. Also, like CD models, it adds mechanical complexity. Eric Evarts, who did our latest round of testing, has been reviewing new cars and their entertainment systems for more than 20 years.
In addition to Wirecutter, his articles have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Consumer Reports, U.S. News & World Report, AAA, Alternet, the journal Nature Outlook, and Green Car Reports. He has also installed three new stereos in his family’s 11- to 22-year-old family vehicles in order to incorporate the latest smartphone connectivity features. Eric Adams, who wrote the original version of this guide, was an editor at Popular Science magazine for five years and at Men’s Health for seven years, where he handled consumer-technology coverage.
He has also tried hundreds of different car-stereo systems as an automotive journalist for Gear Patrol, Men’s Health, Popular Science, Wired, and other outlets. For this and previous versions of our car-stereo guides, we’ve also spoken with industry experts, car-audio installers, and engineers at the various manufacturers, including Peter Logan, an audio specialist at ; Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for Car Electronics Division; experts at Apple, Android, , and Sony; and car-installation experts at Best Buy, (Nanuet, New York), (Ramsey, New Jersey), (Allentown, Pennsylvania), and and (both in Brooklyn, New York).
Who this is for A good Bluetooth car stereo lets you wirelessly pair your smartphone with the stereo so you can stream music from your phone through the car’s speakers and conduct hands-free phone calls while driving.
If your current car stereo doesn’t have Bluetooth or has a limited version, replacing it with a modern Bluetooth-capable model can be a welcome upgrade. A study found that any activity that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of crashing or having a near-miss.
Even if your car already has a Bluetooth-capable stereo, it might be limited to letting you conduct phone calls, lacking audio streaming. Or you might want to upgrade to take advantage of such as voice control, built-in music apps, and dual-phone capability. A Bluetooth car stereo is also easier to use and provides better sound quality than .
Just as important as convenience is the value of a Bluetooth stereo in reducing distracted driving. Being able to easily conduct hands-free calls and play music from your smartphone by pressing a button or two on the stereo means you’re less likely to pick up and use your phone while behind the wheel, which is .
Holding a phone while driving is against the law in . Moreover, a includes findings from the often cited 100-Car Study (conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and NHTSA) that shows that a driver who is reading or dialing a hand-held device is about three times more likely to be in a crash or near-crash.
By contrast, adjusting a car radio has “little effect on driving performance or crash risk.” Even if your car already has a Bluetooth-capable stereo, you might want to upgrade to take advantage of newer features.
This guide focuses on head units, which measure 7 inches wide by 2 inches high. We have (7 by 4 inches) that offer and . To help you decide what you need, see “” Will this fit your car, and can you install it? All of the stereos in this guide fit in a standard single-DIN (7-by-2-inch) dash opening, which is common in older cars. If you have the standard radio in an , for example, you’ve got a single-DIN stereo.
By contrast, stereos fit in the larger 7-by-4-inch dash opening found in most recent vehicles with touchscreen displays. (That said, a single-DIN stereo can be used in a double-DIN opening by using an adapter kit, which also typically fills the unused space with a dash cubby that provides extra storage for small items.) Often, you can tell which opening your car has by simply measuring the stereo.
But many cars have a single-DIN stereo housed in a larger, double-DIN opening. And some vehicles have the stereo so seamlessly integrated into the car’s dash that it’s hard to tell what size it is. A good way to see what stereos will fit your car is to go to and enter the year, make, and model of your vehicle.
In addition to telling you if a specific stereo will fit, the Crutchfield site shows any extra installation gear you’ll need. The site also offers tips on removing the current stereo (and replacing your speakers, if that’s something you’re also considering).
Alternatively, you can visit a local car-stereo installer. All of the stereos in this guide fit in a standard single-DIN (7-by-2-inch) dash opening. All of the stereos we tested came with basic installation instructions, but they assume you know your way around a car’s wiring. If you’re comfortable with removing your car’s interior trim pieces, running wires, and making electrical connections, you may be able to do the job yourself. Some installs can get complicated, though, especially if the car’s original stereo has a complex dash setup that requires adapters or features such as integrated steering-wheel controls that could require a secondary wiring harness.
If you’re unsure about doing the installation yourself, we recommend reading over the instructions (you can typically download a stereo’s manual on the manufacturer’s website) to see how involved the process is. Many people have found customer service reps to be helpful in this area, as well. If you choose to have the stereo professionally installed, we recommend calling around to different shops to compare quotes; we’ve found they can vary a lot.
If your vehicle can’t easily accept a stereo upgrade—because, say, the stock stereo is so integrated into the dash design that replacing it would require costly custom work—you can still add Bluetooth with an add-on . How we picked For our latest update, we researched 122 single-DIN car stereo receivers, from ten brands, comparing the specs and features of each. Typically, each company’s stereos are very similar in their componentry and design, with each step up in price adding an extra feature or two, or providing more power or ports for expanding the audio system.
Today’s conventional single-DIN stereos also look pretty much the same across brands, with a rotary volume knob, a small display, a handful of buttons along the bottom and left side, and, often, a USB port and aux (line-in) input on the front. Because of their compact size and long list of features, most buttons and controls do double or even triple duty, letting you perform different functions depending on the menu you’re in.
But because most of the buttons are also small, it can be challenging to wade through different menus while driving. Voice controls help alleviate this, but we found it best to get the stereos fully set up before you start driving so you only have to make simple changes (music tracks, radio stations, etc.) while on the road. Almost all recent stereos from major brands provide Bluetooth capability.
When we asked audio specialist Peter Logan of Crutchfield about the different models, he told us, “The audio quality of the Bluetooth streaming will be comparable from model to model.” (We found this to be true in our testing, though we didn’t focus on sound quality, as .) In addition to Bluetooth, here are the other features we considered when deciding which models to test: • USB and aux (line-in) inputs: These let you directly connect a smartphone or portable music player into the stereo to provide another way (other than Bluetooth) of streaming music or controlling the phone.
A USB port also lets you charge your device; some stereos provide a 1.5-amp port, which lets your phone charge faster than the 1-amp ports found in many cars. Some higher-end models provide two USB ports, often with one in front and one in the rear (the latter requiring an extension that can be mounted in a convenient place in the car’s dash area). This lets one person use a phone to stream music or conduct a call while the other charges their device.
• Voice control: All of the models we tested allow voice control, which is a huge advantage in both safety and convenience because it helps you keep your eyes on the road while driving. By pressing a voice-activation button on the faceplate (or a remote button on the steering wheel, if your stereo has that capability), you can search for contacts, place calls, or send a text on a paired iPhone or Android phone.
Audio prompts from the phone play through the car stereo to make them easy to hear. In addition, all of the models we tested have Siri Eyes Free, which allows iPhone owners to access features and content on their phones by using the Siri voice assistant that they’re already familiar with.
It works well, even allowing you to verbally change stations, tracks, or sources, and get directions. Similarly, we were able to access the Google Assistant on a paired Android phone by using the stereo’s Bluetooth mode or when the phone is plugged into the stereo’s USB port. Most of the models we tested come with an external wired mic that you can position closer to your face for optimum voice clarity.
Some models have a built-in mic in the head unit instead. Photo: Rik Paul • Music-app controls: Most models include integrated controls for specific online music service apps (such as , , or ) installed on your phone, letting you control them directly from the receiver.
This makes the services easier and safer to use while driving. Most of the stereos we looked at let you access SiriusXM satellite radio when connected to an optional separate tuner. • Multi-line display: The least-expensive stereos have an LCD display that shows only one line of text, which means they show only one type of information (track name, station, artist, and so on) at a time, typically scrolling across the screen.
We prefer a multi-line display, which can show more information—such as the song title and artist, or music info and the time—simultaneously. • Satellite radio: Most of the stereos we looked at let you access satellite radio when connected to an .
SiriusXM provides a wide spectrum of music and entertainment channels that you can access wherever you go in the US, though you have to pay extra for the tuner as well as a subscription fee for the service itself. • CD player (or maybe not): With more drivers listening to audio through their phones or portable audio players, many replacement stereos (as well as many new cars) lack a disc player.
Such disc-player-free stereos are typically called digital media receivers (DMRs) or “mech-less receivers.” But for each DMR that a brand sells, it typically also offers a CD-player version that’s otherwise basically the same although priced a little higher. Because a DMR doesn’t have to fit a CD player into its chassis, its front faceplate may have a cleaner design, although there’s usually no difference in the control layout.
In addition, the DMR version’s chassis is shorter, which makes installation easier, and it has fewer mechanical parts, which means fewer components that can break. Without a CD player, the body of a “mech-less” digital media receiver is much smaller—about half the depth of a normal stereo—which makes installation easier. It also fits in many older cars that were made before CD players became popular.
Photo: Rik Paul • Detachable faceplate: To deter theft, most single-DIN stereos allow you to remove the faceplate when you’re not using the stereo. This is usually easily done by pressing a small button, though on some units the faceplate didn’t always release easily in our tests. • Dimmer: All but one of the units we tested has a dimmer button that makes it easy to dim both the screen and buttons at night. You can also set specific times for the display to dim and return to normal illumination.
This is a key benefit, since the displays can be glaring in the dark, depending on how the stereo was installed. • Variable display colors: While purely cosmetic, a lot of drivers like to have the option to change a display’s color theme to better coordinate with a car’s own interior lighting. Crutchfield’s Logan told us, “A lot of our customers really want their aftermarket head unit to have adjustable screen colors. It sounds silly, but having the stereo match the interior lighting makes it feel much more integrated.” • Steering-wheel controls compatibility: Many vehicles have steering-wheel controls that work with the factory audio system to, for example, let you adjust the volume, choose an audio source, and advance to the next or previous track or preset radio station.
You can set up a replacement stereo to work with these buttons by using a special wiring harness such as the —all of the units we tested work with this accessory. (Some cars also require their own dedicated wiring harness connectors.) Check with your installer or the stereo manufacturer to find out what’s best for your specific vehicle.
• HD Radio: A few stereos can receive , which is a digital signal that’s broadcast from regular regional radio stations. HD Radio can provide better audio quality and allows a station to broadcast separate sub-channels simultaneously with their main channel. Our staff has had mixed results with HD Radio, however, depending on their location, and we don’t consider it a must-have feature. • Power output: The vast majority of single-DIN car stereos—and all of the models we tested—deliver more than enough power for a typical car-stereo setup, with 50 to 55 peak watts per channel for a four-speaker system.
(According to , that usually means about 20 to 25 watts of continuous power.) A few higher-end models targeted at audiophiles provide 100 peak watts, but they also tend to be much more expensive.
The main advantage of more power is that you can turn up the volume while retaining clean, undistorted sound (depending on your speakers). But it’s really not necessary to have that much power in your head unit, as you can always add one or more amplifiers if you want to boost your system.
All car stereos have audio outputs, commonly called pre-outs (the red and white RCA connectors), that send the audio signal to an external amplifier. Photo: Rik Paul • • Audio outputs: If you plan on expanding your car’s audio system with an external amplifier, it’s worth paying attention to a stereo’s pre-outs, which are audio outputs that are used to provide the audio signal to the external amp.
Most car-stereo head units have 2 or 3 pre-outs, with power usually ranging from 2 volts in more basic receivers to 5 volts in higher-priced ones. An expert at (in Ramsey, NJ) told us that extra voltage produces a cleaner sound, with more punch. But if you don’t plan on adding an external amp—most people don’t—then the specs for a head unit’s pre-outs are meaningless. A remote control is most useful when you’re playing music while parked, or for letting a passenger control the stereo.
Photo: Rik Paul • Remote control: Several of the radios we tested include a wireless remote control, similar to what you’d use for a home TV or stereo, but much smaller. This can be handy if you’re listening to the car stereo while the vehicle is parked, such as when you’re tailgating or at an outdoor get-together, or if a back-seat passenger is controlling the stereo.
But the small buttons make it tricky to use, and we don’t consider a remote to be a must-have feature. All the stereos we tested also have a compatible smartphone app that can be used to remotely control the stereo when your phone is paired over Bluetooth.
We found this can be more useful for some functions (such as controlling a music app) because when the phone is mounted within easy reach on a , it serves as a rudimentary touchscreen for the stereo. How we tested We bench-tested each unit by following its installation instructions to connect it to a portable 12-volt power supply, speakers, and (if applicable) an external microphone. We paired each stereo with both an iPhone 7 Plus and a Google Pixel and put the stereo through its paces, evaluating the setup and pairing operations to make sure it was easy and problem-free.
We didn’t attempt to compare audio quality, as that depends so much on the number and quality of a car’s speakers, how they’re installed, and the design and materials of the vehicle interior they’re used in. With the right speakers and installation, we’re confident that any of the models we tested will deliver audio quality that will satisfy or even impress most drivers.
We focused mainly on each stereo’s features, ease of use, and ergonomics. Where the best models differentiate themselves from others, according to Crutchfield’s Logan, is in “how well they minimize distraction while you’re using them, and how well they transition between functions—whether it’s switching from audio streaming to telephone calls,” or how easily they pair with your phone when getting into a vehicle.
So we were sure to switch between functions to see how quickly and easily we could get to what we wanted without being distracted while driving. We also carefully checked each of the unit’s core functions, operating the radio (changing stations, setting presets, and adjusting the volume), using the stereo’s controls for a phone’s music apps (such as Pandora, Spotify, or iHeartRadio), and using hands-free features to select contacts on the phones, text them, dial them, and carry on a short conversation.
Finally, we scrolled through the settings menus of every unit, looking for shortcuts to make things easier, and we pressed every button we could find. We did our best to mimic all the situations we’ve experienced while driving and paid close attention to each model’s buttons, displays, and menus to see how easy they made the stereo to use.
Our pick: Kenwood KMM-BT322U Of the conventional single-DIN Bluetooth car stereos we researched and tested, we recommend the as the best choice for drivers who want to stream music from their phone or portable media player. Like all “mech-less” digital media receivers, it doesn’t have a CD player, which gives the faceplate a cleaner, less-crowded look and reduces the unit’s mechanical complexity (which means there are fewer things that could go wrong).
And of the DMRs we tested, this Kenwood was the easiest to use, has the best display, and offers the most versatility. Despite its low price, the KMM-BT322U also gives you all of the features that we look for in a single-DIN stereo, without unnecessary extras. While all conventional single-DIN replacement stereos look and operate similarly, the BT322U won us over with thoughtful details that make it easier to live with than the other models we tested.
It has a bright, two-line display with clearer letters and numbers than other two-line models; two-line models show more information than models with a single-line display. While all of the models we tested assign multiple functions to each button, this Kenwood (and ) is among the few that include illuminated labels for sub-functions on the buttons, which make it much easier to choose the right control, especially at night or in dim conditions.
And unlike some other stereos, you can change the illumination color to one of 24 choices to match your car’s lighting, or choose separate hues for the display and lower buttons.
A nice touch is that some buttons (such as the 3, 4, and 6 presets) have both their primary and secondary functions illuminated, so it’s easier to find the right one in dim conditions. Other models simply label the sub-functions on the faceplate, which makes them hard to see, especially at night. Photo: Rik Paul We also found the Kenwood’s control layout easier to use than with other brands’ models. The commonly used Phone and Source buttons are large and located on the left side of the volume/selector knob, where they are easy to reach.
The Kenwoods also have wide rocker switches below the display that we found easier to operate while driving compared to the tiny single buttons on other models.
The menus are relatively simple to navigate, and station presets are easy to set, even if you’re on FM1 and want to set a preset on FM3. And both the USB port and aux input are protected by a flip-open dust cover on the right side of the display; most other models leave the aux input uncovered. Like the other stereos we tested, that USB port puts out 1.5 amps to give modern phones a somewhat quicker charge than the 1-amp USB ports common in cars.
The KMM-BT322U won us over with thoughtful details that make it easier to live with than the other models we tested. Pairing our phones via Bluetooth for the first time was a quick, straightforward process. You can also set the stereo to pair automatically with any iOS device you plug into the USB port. Just as important, our phones quickly reconnected each time we turned the stereo off and then back on.
The KMM-BT322U offers the most flexibility for streaming music of the models we tested, with integrated controls for Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio that all worked easily when connected to a compatible phone by either Bluetooth or USB. All three apps let you fast-forward, reverse, like and dislike songs, choose among your playlists or stations, and create a new station. Some competing models limit how you can connect to the music apps and don’t include iHeartRadio.
The USB and aux ports are both protected by a swing-out dust cover. Some competing models leave the aux port uncovered. Photo: Rik Paul You can also play music from a playlist stored in your phone or any USB device you have plugged into the USB port. And you can listen to SiriusXM satellite radio when the Kenwood is connected to an . As with all of the car stereos we tested, you can pair two phones via Bluetooth simultaneously with the KMM-BT322U.
You can then stream audio and accept calls from either phone, and you can easily switch between them. For either phone, you can scroll through contacts; missed, received, and placed calls; and your phone book. You can also store frequently used numbers. (A “BT Audio” mode lets you can connect up to five phones for music streaming only.) Unlike with other units we tested, which provide full music-search functions only for phones connected over USB, the song info shows up on the screen even when our phones were connected wirelessly.
The BT322U comes with a wired microphone that you can place wherever you get optimal voice quality, such as on the driver’s visor or on the dash just behind the steering wheel. We found it easy to place calls and send messages by voice, and audio quality for telephone calls is exceptionally good. If you use an iPhone, you can also take advantage of Siri Eyes Free to handle anything that Siri usually does—from playing favorite tracks to getting weather reports to requesting turn-by-turn directions (though directions will be audio only; they won’t show up on the display).
If you have an Android phone, you can use Google Assistant when in Bluetooth mode; as with Siri Eyes Free, we could stream music, ask questions, and get directions through the car’s speakers. (If you keep your phone on a , you can also see the map that correlates to the directions.) On the rear, the Kenwood KMM-BT322U includes three sets of pre-outs for connecting an external amplifier.
The port to the left of them is for attaching a SiriusXM tuner, and the cord with the pink connector is for the microphone. Photo: Rik Paul Like most of the stereos we tested, the KMM-BT322U delivers 50 watts of peak power (about 20 to 25 watts of continuous power), which should be more than enough to handle most cars’ stock speaker setups. A built-in 13-band equalizer offers eight preset settings, or you can customize your own to better tailor the sound to your vehicle.
You’ll also find 2.5-volt pre-outs on the back in case you want to connect the stereo to an external amp. If you’re serious about expanding your system with external amps, though, you should consider going with the , which provides twice as much pre-out voltage for better audio quality at higher volumes. With no CD player, you don’t have to worry about a CD drive wearing out or breaking. Also, the BT322U’s chassis isn’t as deep as CD-equipped models, so it doesn’t extend as far back into the dash.
This can make it easier to install and means the unit can fit in older or vintage models that may not have been made to accommodate a CD player. The size also means it can slip more easily into motorcycles and boats. In contrast to other models, the KMM-BT322U doesn’t come with a remote control, but we don’t consider that a dealbreaker, since the remotes for other units are hard to use anyway—and in any case, they’re best for operating the stereo while parked or for letting a rear-seat passenger take control.
Instead, you can download the app to your phone and use it as a remote control with the BT322U. If you’d like all the benefits and features of the KMM-BT322U but would be happier if it had HD Radio, two sets of USB ports, and higher-voltage pre-outs, you can opt for the 322’s higher-priced sibling, the . Flaws but not dealbreakers One minor gripe we have is that the KMM-BT322U has no separate Mute or Standby button, which is useful when you want to quickly silence the audio but don’t want to turn off the stereo.
Instead, to enter Standby mode, you have to repeatedly press the Source button, cycling through several menus until you get to it—and you have to do so quickly and know when to stop, because if you pause on another function, the stereo will load that one before you can move on. We found it easier to just turn the volume all the way down or pause whatever we were playing.
We also wish the BT322U had a more convenient Search button. The one on the BT322U is small and located to the lower right of the volume knob, where we found it hard to locate and press quickly while driving. If you play CDs: Kenwood KDC-BT372U The is essentially the same car stereo as our top pick but with a CD player added along the top of the faceplate. It otherwise has identical specs, control layout, and features, along with the same easy-to-read two-line display, convenient buttons, handy music-app controls, and voice control functions—all of which make it as easy to use as the KMM-BT322U.
The main physical difference is the BT372U’s larger body, which takes up more room behind the dash, but that’s a concern only during installation (a larger body can mean less space to run cables). Even if you don’t regularly play CDs, a player can still be handy to have for, say, playing a friend’s discs or library-loaned audio books on a long trip.
But a CD player does add more mechanical complexity, which can mean a higher chance of problems down the road. If you want Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Pioneer AVH-3400NEX The is more much expensive than our other picks, but it gives you a host of features that you can’t get in a typical single-DIN stereo. The biggest—literally and figuratively—is a 7-inch touchscreen that slides out of the chassis and pivots up to give you the look of a double-DIN model.
Not only does the larger screen make the stereo much easier to use, you can watch DVDs (when parked) and take advantage of and to use driving-friendly functions and apps of a compatible smartphone, including navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze. And if you ever don’t want to see the screen, you can retract it into the body of the stereo and continue to listen to whatever audio source is playing. The Pioneer AVH-3300NEX is the only single-DIN replacement stereo we’ve found that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This lets owners of many older or lower-priced vehicles take advantage of those handy systems. Photo: Rik Paul The AVH-3400NEX’s touchscreen is clear, responsive, and sturdy; it doesn’t wobble when pressing the on-screen buttons. CarPlay and Android Auto work beautifully. Pioneer’s stripped-down menus show only the functions you’re likely to need for the current function, so icons remain large and easy to spot.
Pressing the volume knob brings up more menu choices on the screen. Whether the screen is extended or tucked away, the large buttons on the faceplate make it easy to operate and the CD/DVD-player slot is easy to access.
The AVH-3400NEX has the bases covered on the common features, too, with variable color lighting for the buttons, satellite radio compatibility (via the ), a 13-band graphic equalizer, 24 station presets (18 FM, six AM), a single rear USB port, dual-phone Bluetooth connectivity, a remote control, and a partially detachable face for theft deterrence. It also includes Pioneer’s mode, which lets you operate a number of smartphone apps through a compatible phone, similar to how CarPlay and Android Auto work.
This adds more versatility, but AppRadio seems a bit redundant when you also have those other systems. With the press of a button, the Pioneer’s 7-inch screen slides out of the head unit and pivots up to function as a double-DIN display. Video: Rik Paul The fold-out screen design isn’t ideal for every car, however. It extends up about 4 inches from the stereo, so if your climate controls or other critical buttons are right above the stereo in your dashboard, you won’t be able to access them with the screen extended.
It could also block air vents in the dash. And of course the slide-out mechanism adds mechanical complexity—and thus the potential for more things to go wrong down the road.
(The AVH-3400NEX is a newer version of the stereo we previously tested for our . The 3300NEX is virtually the same as our pick and still available at a discounted price.) The competition Digital media players (DMRs) If you want to expand your audio system with additional amplifiers, the could be a good choice. It has most of the features of our top pick, along with higher-voltage (4 versus 2.5) pre-outs for cleaner sound and more punch when using a external amp. Little details make it a little less versatile and harder to use than the Kenwood KMM-BT322U, though.
For example, the MVH-S501BS doesn’t have controls for iHeartRadio, and, when used with an Android phone, it can control Pandora and Spotify only over Bluetooth (not when connected with a USB cable). While it has a large, two-line screen, we found the letters and numbers formed by its dot-matrix pattern to be a little less legible than on our pick.
And some of its primary buttons are small and located on the right side of the knob, where they’re harder to find quickly. The felt somewhat cheap compared with the other models we tested. Its one-line display is legible enough, but the digits are strangely canted, as if part of the opening scroll in a Star Wars film.
It doesn’t let you vary the display or button colors, and it has no controls for the Spotify and iHeartRadio music apps. The buttons across the bottom are small, and sub-functions aren’t illuminated.
We do like the tactile relief on the DSX-A415BT’s faceplate, which makes it easier to navigate by touch while driving. The is similar to our previous top pick. But we feel the Kenwood KMM-BT322U, with its easier operation and more features, is now a better value. Compared with our top pick, the MVH-S300BT doesn’t let you vary the display colors or connect to a SiriusXM satellite radio tuner. Its low-resolution eight-bit screen is harder to read, it has no iHeartRadio controls, and when used with an Android phone, you can control the Pandora or Spotify apps only via Bluetooth, not when connected via USB.
CD receivers The is the most expensive model we tested, but it could be a good choice if you want to expand your car’s audio system with additional amplifiers.
It has all the advantages and features of our top pick, as well as HD Radio and higher-voltage (5 V versus 2.5 V) pre-outs for connecting to an external amp. The X702 has a slightly wider screen than our other Kenwood picks, although the secondary functions on the preset buttons are not lit, making the stereo a little harder to use.
It’s also the only model we tested that has two rear-mounted USB ports, which let you use one phone with the stereo while charging a second one. Those and a rear-mounted aux input make installation a little more complex, though, because you have to use an extension cable to mount those ports in a convenient place in the dash. The is essentially the same as the Pioneer MVH-S501BS digital media receiver, above, but with a CD player and HD Radio.
The DEH-X7800H also has lower-voltage (2 V versus 4 V) pre-outs than its DMR sibling, but that’s a concern only if you’re connecting an external amp. The has the same great faceplate design as the Sony DSX-A415BT DMR, above, with easy-to-use main buttons and tactile design. But it also shares some of its sibling’s letdowns, such as a one-line display with canted digits, small lower buttons, and no Spotify or iHeartRadio controls.
The MEX-N5200BT does have a customizable two-color display, with separate hues for the screen and the buttons, but every time you change audio sources, the display turns white and sends up a little cloud of “bubbles” on the screen before changing back to your set colors—it’s silly and annoying.
We had previously tested the , , and , but they’re now older models without some of the nice features we like in recent stereos, including voice control, dual-phone Bluetooth capability, and variable colors. The CDE-SXM145BT does come packaged with a , though. Sources • Bruce MacDonald, owner, , in-person interview, September 10, 2018 • Dan Winston, Sales Associate, , in-person interview, September 10, 2018 • Dave Mumford, Service Manager, , in-person interview, September 10, 2018 • Andy Montesi, Sales Associate, , in-person interview, September 10, 2018 • Ted Cardenas, , phone interview, June 1, 2015 • Peter Logan, audio specialist, , phone interview, January 1, 2015 Further reading •
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