Best Aftermarket Car Stereo Systems Buyers Guide 2017-2018
Many cars nowadays come with factory-installed stereo systems — even economy vehicles that are on the lower end of the price range. Because of this, almost all car owners have access to stock audio systems that allow them to enjoy their favorite songs while they’re on the road.
Despite the wide availability of factory systems, many people still opt to buy aftermarket car stereo systems. This isn’t really surprising, though, since aftermarket equipment offer more benefits that stock ones.
One of these is better audio quality. This isn’t to say that factory-installed equipment provide low-quality sound, but the fact of the matter is that automobile manufacturers are more focused on improving car performance than offering great audio quality. As a result, they end up using “so so” audio equipment that are usually enough for ordinary car owners — but not for dedicated audiophiles who have keen ears and can easily detect the difference between low-quality and high-quality equipment.
Aftermarket car stereo systems also have more features than factory-installed equipment. Manufacturers of aftermarket equipment know that most of their customers are avid music lovers, so they include a wide range of tools and features that make listening to music a more enjoyable experience.
Flexibility is another benefit offered by aftermarket audio equipment. Each audiophile has different needs and wants, which is why the standard factory-installed system is usually not enough for them. By opting for aftermarket speakers, receivers, and other components, they can create a customized stereo system for their car that meets their specific audio requirements and matches their budget.
BEST AFTERMARKET CAR STEREO SYSTEMS
There are dozens of options available when it comes to aftermarket car audio equipment, so choosing the right system can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. Shoppers need to set aside enough time to do their research and find the best possible products that fit their audio needs as well as their budget.
To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up some of the best products we could find online. Check out this guide to start your search for the perfect aftermarket car stereo system!
MOST BUDGET-FRIENDLY: Kenwood KDC-118 In-Dash 1-DIN CD Car Stereo Receiver with Front AUX Input
- Kenwood KDC-118 Single-Din In-Dash CD Receiver w/Aux/Mp3/WMA, 3-Band Eq+Remote. TDF(Theft Deterrent Faceplate). 13 Digit 1Line LCD Display. Rotary Encoder and Direct Key (Audio) for easy operation. Digital Clock (12H). Dimmer Control Function (Manual/Set by timer). Maximum Output Power : 50W x 4 (MOSFET Power IC). Front AUX Interface with slide protection cover. 1 Preout (2.5V). Kenwood sound reconstruction, restores musical to compressed music.
- Equalizer (3 Band). Drive EQ. Subwoofer Level Adjustable. System Q. Bass Boost. Loudness. Built-in LPF. Backup Memory for Tuner Preset. FM/AM 24 Station Presets (18FM, 6AM). AME (Automatic Memory Entry). Up/Down Seek Tuning. MP3, WMA, Decoder with ID-3 Tag Display. Folder Name Manual Search Function without Stopping Audio-play. 0-bit Mute. CD Text Ready. CD-R/CD-RW Compatible. Random/Repeat Play. OEM Remote Interface.
- Specifications: FM:. Frequency Range (Frequency step): 87.9 MHz - 107.9 MHz (200 kHz). Usable Sensitivity S/N:26 dB: 8.2 dBf (0.71 uV/75 Ohms）. Quieting Sensitivity DIN S/N 46 dB: 17.2 dBf (2.0 uV/75 Ohms）. Frequency Response (±3.0 dB): 30 Hz-15 kHz. S/N: 64.0 dB (MONO). Stereo Separation: 40 dB(1 kHz). AM:. Frequency Range (Frequency step): 530 kHz - 1700 kHz (10 kHz). Usable Sensitivity S/N:20 dB: 29 dBu (28.2 uV).
- CD: Laser Diode: GaAlAs. Digital Filter (D/A): 8 Times OverSampling. Spindle Speed: 500~200 rpm (CLV). Wow & Flutter: Below Measurable Limit. Frequency Response: 20 Hz-20 kHz(±1dB). Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.01%(1 kHz). S/N Ratio (dB): 105 dB(1 kHz). Dynamic Range: 90 dB. Channel Separation: 85 dB. MP3 Decode: Compliant with MPEG-1/2 Audio Layer-3. WMA Decode: Compliant with WINDOWS MEDIA AUDIO.
- General: Operating voltage (10.5~16v allowable): 14.4 V. Maximum Current Consumption: 10A. Operational Temperature Range: -10 degrees Celsius to +60 degrees Celsius. Installation Size: (W) 7-3/16 inches (182 mm) x (H) 2-1/16 inches (53 mm) x (D) 6-1/4 inches (158 mm). Net Weight (Trim plate and Mounting sleeve: Included): 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg). Preout Level(mV)/Load-Unbalanced: 2500mV/10kOhms(CD). Preout Impedance: ≦600 Ohms. Speaker Impedance: 4 - 8 Ohms.
Top-tier car stereo systems are usually expensive — and with good reason. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get world-class audio equipment if you have a tight budget or just want to save money. By taking the time to browse through the options, you’ll find high-quality equipment that won’t break the bank.
One of the best examples is the Kenwood KDC-118 In-Dash 1-DIN CD Car Stereo Receiver. At just less than $55, it can fit into a wide range of budgets and is an excellent option for those who want to listen to great music while driving without spending too much. It might not be technologically advanced as other pricier equipment on the market but, if you just want a basic deck that lets you listen to music, it’s definitely one of the best options.
The Kenwood KDC-118 comes with a front AUX interface, so you can simply plug in your MP3 player and other devices and listen to your favorite tunes. It supports the playback of MP3 and WMA files with an ID-3 tag display, and it provides sound reconstruction and restores audio to compressed music to improve overall quality.
One of the best things about the Kenwood KDC-118 is its construction. It’s built with a theft deterrent faceplate, which makes it difficult for thieves to steal your audio equipment in case they get to break into your car. The front AUX interface, meanwhile, as a slide protection cover that keeps away dust, dirt, insects, and other debris and ensures your stereo system stays in great shape.
The Kenwood KDC-118 is built to be user-friendly, so listening to the music you want won’t be complicated. It’s CD text-ready and CD-R/CD-RW compatible, and it supports both repeat play and random play (to mix your playlists up a little). It also comes with a Folder Name Manual Search Function that lets you search for the right song without pausing the song that’s currently playing. If you want to listen to the radio, you can enjoy the KDC-118’s 24 station presets (with six stations for AM and 18 stations for FM) and make the most of its backup memory for its tuner presets.
TOP OF THE LINE: Clarion NZ503 DVD Multimedia Receiver with Built-In Navigation and Single DIN Motorized 7-Inch High Resolution Touch Panel Control
- Built-in Car Navigation system with 30 day latest map update guarantee and 3D mapping
- Built-in Parrot Bluetooth
- PANDORA internet radio capability
- HD Radio and SiriusXM Ready
- USB connectivity for iPod/iPhone/Memory Device
If money isn’t an issue for you, you’ll want to invest in the Clarion NZ503 DVD Multimedia Receiver. It comes with all the technology you need to enjoy a great drive, from navigation software and hardware to support for both online and offline music. Simply connect the receiver to your favorite speakers, and you’re all set!
One of the best things about the Clarion NZ503 is that it allows you to choose how you want to enjoy your songs. It supports both MP3 and WMA files and offers Bluetooth audio streaming, along with a CD player and USB connectivity for mobile gadgets and memory devices. It’s also pre-built to be ready for HD Radio and SiriusXM and has the capability to connect with Pandora Internet Radio.
If you’re planning to stop for a while and rest, you can watch a movie on the Clarion NZ503’s 7-inch high-resolution screen. Simply insert a DVD or connect your smartphone, MP3 player, or USB drive to the receiver to enjoy a nice movie session.
The Clarion NZ503 screen is touch-enabled, and this makes all the difference when using the unit’s built-in GPS navigation system. The GPS comes with 3D mapping and a map update guarantee that’s valid up to 30 days after you purchase the unit. By downloading the update, you’ll have access to the latest maps and ensure you’re getting correct directions and information from your Clarion NZ503’s navigation system.
The Clarion NZ503 requires a 12V battery and features a single DIN chassis and a wireless remote. It comes with a one year warranty. You can purchase the Clarion NZ503 as a base model at around $600 or as a bundle with a SiriusXM Tuner at a slightly higher price.
EDITORS’ CHOICE: Pioneer DEH-150MP Car Audio CD MP3 Stereo Radio Player, Front Aux Input with JVC 6.5 Inch 2-WAY Car Audio Speaker (Black)
- Built-in Bluetooth for hands free calling and audio streaming Pioneer Arc app compatible
- Compatible with Apple iPhone 6/6+ and iOS 8 software 13 Band EQ+ 31 Band with Pioneer Smart Sync
- Controls Spotify and Pandora AM/FM tuner with 18FM/6AM presets
- 3.5mm Front Audio Auxiliary Input Front USB Input 2 Sets of 2V preamp outputs (front, rear and subwoofer)
- Includes an external wired microphone for clear, convenient, distortion-free talking
The Pioneer DEH-150MP Car Audio CD MP3 Stereo Radio Player is an excellent choice for the discerning customer who wants to find a balance between cost and quality. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of more modern units on the higher end of the spectrum, which helps keep its price down. However, it does have all the features you need to enjoy your favorite tunes with excellent audio quality. It’s one of the best options for audiophiles who want to have quality equipment without spending a fortune.
The Pioneer DEH-150MP supports MP3 and WMA playback and comes with a CD player and in-dash AM/FM. It also has a front AUX input, which means you can easily connect your MP3 player or mobile device to the receiver. The unit has a single line, multi-segmented LCD display that’s lit by an LED backlight and is 35 percent larger than previous Pioneer models. This means you can easily read the title of the song that’s playing and choose the tunes you want.
One of the best things about the Pioneer DEH-150MP is that it’s built with Advanced Sound Retriever. This technology automatically restores data that’s lost during the digital compression process, which greatly improves audio reproduction and ensures that you’ll hear songs the way the artists intended you to. The Advanced Sound Retriever feature is paired with subwoofer control, low-pass and high-pass filter settings, and a five-band graphic equalizer to give you more control over your music listening experience.
Worried about your investment? The Pioneer DEH-150MP comes with a detachable face plate that’s designed to be theft-deterrent. Simply attach the plate to the unit before leaving your car to make it look plain and unattractive and ensure it won’t catch the attention of would-be thieves. The face plate has an anti-dust design, which helps keep the unit clean without a lot of maintenance.
The Pioneer DEH-150MP can be bought as a base model, but we prefer to buy it as a bundle with two pairs of JVC CSJ620 6.5″ 2-Way Coaxial Speakers. The speakers come with a 300-watt peak power and a 30-watt RMS and are built with a ferrite magnet, mica woofer cone, hybrid rubberized cloth surround, and black ABS composite grills. This bundle is ideal if you don’t yet have a set of speakers for your car.
Buying an aftermarket car stereo system is a great way to enjoy your favorite songs at an excellent audio quality level. But, with the wide range of makes and models available, it’s important to do your research to find the car audio equipment that best matches your needs and price range.