Best car stereos

Turn up your commute's volume with the best car stereos on the market

best car stereos
Car stereos aren’t as simple as they used to be. Some merely make your commute a little bit louder with no extras to speak of, but more advanced models propel you into the age of touch screen-based infotainment systems even if you drive a 1987 Pontiac Le Mans. If you’re ready for an upgrade, check out the best car stereos currently available brand-new. Consider getting new speakers while you’re at it, too, for the full “new car sound” experience without the 60-month loan.

Sony XAV-AX100 ($348+)

Sony XAV-AX100

Sony’s XAV-AX100 figures on the growing list of aftermarket car stereos compatible with Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay. This unit works with both, offering users a 6.4-inch screen they can navigate with their fingers, with voice commands, or by turning a convenient rotary dial. Music fans will appreciate the built-in 10-band equalizer, while those who get queasy at the thought of parallel parking will feel better after turning on the rear-view camera. Note the XAV-AX100 doesn’t include the hardware required for your car to see what’s behind it; it’s just compatible with built-in systems.

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Pioneer MVH-X390BT ($94+)

Pioneer MVH-X390BT

CDs are so 1997, right? Pioneer’s MVH-X390BT should be your go-to aftermarket car stereo if you think the compact disc belongs in a museum with the Apple II, the VCR, and the original Grand Theft Auto game. It’s a Bluetooth receiver that lets users stream music and make hands-free calls, provided it’s installed in a car with a microphone. Don’t worry, adding an aftermarket microphone is cheap and easy if needed. There is a USB port, too, but the MVH-X390BT doesn’t include a CD player. The cool part is it’s compatible with the free Pioneer ARC App, which turns any compatible smartphone into a remote control.

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Kenwood Excelon KDC-X701 ($155+)

Kenwood Excelon KDC-X701

The Kenwood Excelon KDC-X701 performs well as a mid-range stereo. It’s not as basic as cheaper units on the market, and it’s certainly not as advanced as high-end models, but it offers good sound with a bass boost function and a 13-band equalizer. Bluetooth connectivity lets users stream music directly from a smartphone, and it turns the device into a remote control after users download Kenwood’s free remote app. Better yet, the KDC-X701 can connect to two phones at the same time.

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Pioneer AVH-X490BS ($244+)

Pioneer AVH-X490BS

The central component of Pioneer’s AVH-X490BS is a 7.0-inch screen with an acceptable resolution of 800×480 pixels. You’ll need a big enough slot in your dashboard to install it, meaning it likely won’t fit in older cars without crafty fabrication work. Pioneer points out the wired USB connection makes for a clean, clear sound when a smartphone or an iPhone is plugged in, and the AVH dispenses enough electricity to prevent your device’s battery from running low. Bluetooth connectivity and a built-in amp are both included, navigation is available at an extra cost, and users can download apps like Pandora, Spotify, and SiriusXM.

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Alpine CDE-143BT ($113+)

Alpine CDE-143BT

We wouldn’t recommend Alpine’s CDE-143BT to a true, dyed-in-the-wool audiophile because it’s a relatively basic unit. Instead, it’s a great option for those who simply want to replace a broken stereo, or those who buy a car without one to begin with. It bundles the fundemental features you expect in a modern-day stereo (including Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, and a high-speed USB port) in a straight-forward package that’s easy to install and won’t break the bank. It’s a discreet-looking unit too, so it blends in regardless of the type of car it goes into.

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