Car stereos are about two things; personality, and functionality… period! Choosing a best cheap car stereo when shopping for one is primarily driven by these two factors.
How well do you love your music in the car (if at all…) and what you want your head unit (receiver) to do, or to be capable of delivering in terms of quality sound and performance?
Some people are fine with their simple stock receivers and are quite content with the squeaky music blaring through the low-quality factory installed car audio system. But that’s them… most of us don’t fit into that category.
CD receiver with AM/FM tuner
built-in MOSFET amplifier (14 watts RMS CEA-2006/50 peak x 4 channels)
built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming
MIXTRAX for a DJ-inspired audio/visual experience with compatible devices
10-level illumination dimmer
built in iPod, iPhone, and iPad controls
Pandora and Spotify control
Plays CDs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs
6-channel preamp outputs (2-volt front, rear, subwoofer)
Planet Audio PNV9680
80 Watts x 4 Max Power, RDS Tuner, Balance/Fader/Bass/Treble and Preset built-in EQ
Plays DVD/CD/USB/SD, MP4/MP3, WMA, FLAC 24 BIT High Res Audio, FM/AM and Smart Phones
Compatible with Audio out from Smartphones and MP3
USB, SD, Aux, AV, Rear Camera, Steering Wheel Control
Video, Front, Rear & Sub Pre Amp Outputs
Wireless Remote, Built-in Subwoofer Control
Bluetooth Hands Free & Bluetooth Audio Streaming
85 Watts x 4 Max Power, RDS Tuner, Balance/Fader/Bass/Treble and Preset built-in EQ
Plays DVD/CD/USB/SD, MP3, WMA, FM/AM and Smart Phones
Compatible with Audio out from Smartphones and MP3 Players
USB, SD, Aux, AV, Rear Camera, Inputs
Video, Front & Sub Pre Amp Outputs
Detachable Panel, Wireless Remote
Table of contents
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $100 – SINGLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $150 – DOUBLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – SINGLE DIN
- Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – DOUBLE DIN
To help you understand the difference between car stereos and probably find you your next car stereo, we are going to look at the best cheap car stereo head units in the market today.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $100 – SINGLE DIN
Our Pick: Pioneer DEH-X6900BT
The simplicity of the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT can be deceiving… but this car stereo head unit is a beast, to say the least. Cool, calm, and collected.
As a matter of fact, the simplistic look and design of this deck are some of its major selling points according to online customer reviews.
Going deeper into the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT’s functionality and specs, you will be surprised at the amount of tech that has gone into producing this head unit.
For expandability, this superb deck is fitted with a single AUX input and USB port on the front and 6-channel outputs on the back (2V preamp for the front, rear, and subwoofer).
It also has direct USB control for devices such as iPods and iPhones plus it accepts wired remote input. On the Bluetooth front, the head unit uses AVRCP 1.5 for audio and video streaming from your smartphone media library and A2DP for advanced audio distribution.
The Bluetooth functionality also includes HFP 1.6 to facilitate hands-free calling and receiving phone calls (dual phone connection and wideband speech capability).
Additionally, the head unit is enabled for SSP (Secure Simple Profile), guest mode, and SPP (Serial Port Profile).
With the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT you get a single DIN car stereo HU that plays media from your CDs (CD/CD-R/RW – NOT DVD), and USB stick(s) in the following formats; WAV, FLAC (highly compressed digital media), MP3, WMA, and AAC Audio.
Please note the FLAC files can only play from your USB stick. But the rest can play on both CDs and USB. This deck uses ASR (Advanced Sound Retriever) to play compressed files (FLAC) without faltering on sound quality.
The radio tuner receives both AM and FM with 6 AM and 18 FM presets and BSM (Best Station Memory).
The Audio quality is awesome. I mean… what do you call a 50 watts x 4 internal MOSFET amplifier with 14W RMS, 3-way network option with 3 RCA pre-outs at 2V each that allow you to connect 3 different external amplifiers to drive three distinctly separated sound ranges (high, mid, and low with subwoofer level control) as well as HPF or LPF crossover options, a 13-band customizable equalizer with 7 tone preset settings, 3 volume modes, and the MIXTRAX feature to give you the craziest DJ experience? Simply Awesome!
The things you can do with the smartphone integration are even wilder. Imagine streaming endless music from Spotify or Pandora straight from your smartphone through your car stereo? Cool right? Well, the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT really plays well with your phone.
You can also create your own Pandora station to play only what you love all day long through your Android smartphone (MTP/AOA 2.0 music support technology) or iPhone.
That’s not even the cool part… you can use the Siri Eyes Free feature which provides natural-language voice command functionality to control your HU (through your smartphone) while staying focused on the road and driving.
And that’s not even the half of it… the Pioneer Advanced Remote Control (ARC) app allows you to control some simple features on the HU using your smartphone.
You can also access your phone’s media library and select music from your phone using the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT head unit.
Throw in the spectrum analyzer, a display that has 10 brightness levels and 210, 000 dual zone color customization capabilities plus multi-language display options… add a fully detachable face for security reasons and a hand-held remote control.
The Pioneer DEH-X6900BT is clearly ahead of its competition by far! Now you know why it takes the No. 1 spot on the best cheap car radio list.
Runner-Up: Kenwood KMMBT315U
The Kenwood KMM-BT315U is a close second with startling features of its own. Although it does not come with a CD player like the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, this Kenwood deck can still match some of the Pioneer head unit’s features and actually deliver more on some aspects.
For instance, the Kenwood KMMBT315U has Bluetooth functionality that includes the same A2DP Android integration capability plus an added AptX for hands-free dual phone connection (with a wired rear BT microphone) and AOA (Android Open Access) for wireless media browsing and streaming from your phone’s media library as well as iHeart Radio and Pandora.
The Bluetooth function also allows for multi-profile (simultaneous BT connections) and Siri Eyes Free voice control function for select iPhones only.
The Kenwood KMM-MBT315U features an SXV (100, 200, and 300 readies) radio tuner with backup memory to store up to 24 AM/FM preset channels and it includes Automatic Memory Entry (AME) to search and memorize strong radio stations.
In addition to the radio tuner, the Kenwood KMM-BT315U deck plays music from USB disks in the following formats; WAV, MP3, AAC, FLAC (with ID-3 tag display), and WMA.
This amazing head unit is capable of directly cabled connections with your iPhone, iPod, SD card reader, and Android devices. There is also an AUX jack to connect more external sources.
On matters of audio quality, the Kenwood KMM-BT315U almost matches the Pioneer on several fronts such as the 13-band equalizer, subwoofer level control, and 3 pre-outs.
However, the pre-out channels have a 2.5V rating which is 0.5V higher than in the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, meaning it technically performs better when it comes to sound quality and clarity – although the difference is negligible.
Another feature that stands out for this Kenwood deck is the Bass Boost and Loudness.
Please note that the Kenwood KMMBT315U also has inbuilt HPF and LPF just like our leading Pioneer head unit although unlike the Pioneer it comes with the signature KSR (Kenwood Sound Reconstruction) feature to enhance sound quality from compressed music files.
To top it all up, this deck has a MOSFET inbuilt amplifier with a rating of 50W peak x 4 channels that deliver 22W RMS (almost twice the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT).
The theft deterrent faceplate, a hand-held infrared remote, and the 1-year warranty are just a plus. It is so easy to see why the Kenwood KMMBT315U takes the No. 2 spot on our list of best cheap single-DIN car stereos.
FYI: Android USB super-fast charging is also an added outstanding feature of the Kenwood KMMBT315U.
Also Great: BOSS AUDIO 616UAB
Our choice for third place in this category is definitely the BOSS Audio 616UAB car stereo.
Just like the Kenwood KMMBT315U, this deck doesn’t have a CD player but that’s only one minor drawback considering the other things this baby can deliver.
Looking at the face of this head unit says it all; stylish, simple…yet somewhat sophisticated! Everything is just where it ought to be.
With the BOSS Mech-Less BT car stereo, you have more options like a switchable AM/FM radio receiver with 30 channel presets (12 AM and 18 FM radio stations) that works superbly whether in Europe or in the US. Your favorite radio shows will never be the same again!
In addition to the standard USB function in decks vetted for this category, the BOSS 616UAB single-DIN car stereo also features an SD port expandable to a maximum capacity of 32GB, same as the USB thumb drive.
Playbacks allowed on this HU include WMA and MP3. There is also an AUX input option to receive Audio out from external MP3 players or smartphones coupled with a front pre-amped output.
You can also hook up your smartphone via USB cable and play your favorite playlist from there.
And the fun doesn’t stop there… the Bluetooth function gives you a wider variety of fun things to do when both your HU and smartphone are paired.
Similar to the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT above, the BOSS 616UAB allows you to make hands-free phone calls and while the BT-A2DP allows you to organize and stream music from your Android mobile device.
Additionally, the deck is enabled for direct radio streaming through Pandora and Spotify giving you endless choice for music.
The ID3 Tag feature enables you to see information about the music files currently playing such as title, track number, artist, or album.
On the downside, some online reviewers noted that the MP3 read order was kind of crappy. But then again, the problem could easily be with their crappy devices… who knows?
Interlude: You can also hook up a monitor (LCD screen) to view video files. The Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) on the BOSS 616UAB’s deck ensures that everything is visible and crystal clear.
Also, The 3-year warranty (Platinum Dealer) will cost you, but it’ll be worth it.
When it comes to audio quality and sound delivery, the 50W x 4 internal amplifier ensures that the music is loud and clear enough with a combined output power of 2ooW.
This deck allows you to play around with the fader, balance, treble, and bass with a preset equalizer to help you navigate through the tonal ranges you enjoy for different genres of music with so much ease.
The BOSS 616UAB is where cheap and quality meet for coffee!
However, you can only connect one external amplifier which is usually enough for most car owners. Your attention MUST always be on the road… and BOSS knows this, that’s why the handheld remote control allows you to meddle with the deck’s key functions while cruising the highway.
Also Great: XO Vision XD103
This cheap head unit is definitely not very much known compared to the big names above but… what’s in a name? The XO Vision XD103 is proof that great performance can come from less-known dedicated brands.
Now, get ready to fall madly in love with the XO Vision single DIN deck. Despite the lack of CD playing functionality, the XO Vision XD-103 delivers excellent results in everything else the manufacturer says it is supposed to do. The facial look is probably not that unique but the features inside are!
One thing you notice at a glance about the XO Vision HU is that carries so much in a relatively smaller package since the chassis only covers half the depth of the DIN.
However, don’t let the half-pint size fool you, this head unit still has loads of exceptional features to offer. It’s not about what the XO Vision can do, but how well it does it…
To kick us off, this deck gives more options to hook up external media storage devices such USB devices, Audio out from mobile devices, and a slot for SD cards.
However, the HU only plays MP3 and WMA files. Another downside to this deck is the fact that the 20W x 4 output only drives a maximum combination of 80W which is not that impressive compared to the BOSS 616UAB which maxes at 200W.
The pre-amped outs are a super 12V meaning exceptional tone and volume control which translates to unmatched sound quality and generally no static interference.
This cheap car radio also comes with a pre-amplified line-out. The FM/AM radio receiver also provides you with an option to store 18 presets for quick navigation through your favorite radio stations.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $150 – DOUBLE DIN
Our Pick: Sound Storm DD889B
Unleash the ultimate entertainment storm in your car with the double DIN Sound Storm Lab DD889B receiver that comes fully enabled for Bluetooth and DVD function and a 7-inch detachable touchscreen panel.
The SSL DD889B head unit is literally slightly larger than the average 2-DIN decks and it seems the extra size packs extra power and performance… the features cannot possibly be matched by any other HU in this category!
The RDS tuner displays messages with up to 64 characters to ensure that you know exactly which station or show you’re listening to on the radio which receives both AM and FM broadcasts with crystal clarity.
The inbuilt preset equalizer lets you choose a variety of tonal ranges depending on the kind of music you’re listening to.
The head unit also allows you to adjust the fader, fidget with the balance, and increase or decrease treble and bass levels. In addition to CDs, VCDs, and DVDs, the SS DD889B HU also plays media from your USB thumb drive and SD card (up to 32GB).
You also have the option to hook up your phone via USB cable and play your favorite saved music.
The SSL deck plays WMA, MP4, JPEG and MP3 files. You can also watch videos and movies from an external source through the AV input when relaxing in your car… or you can use an external monitor to watch videos from the head unit through the AV out function (RCA port).
It also features the ESP (Electronic Skip Protection) function which stores (buffers) digital music from CDs in advance to give you uninterrupted music even when the CD fails for a few moments.
With a built-in amplifier that drives 85W peak x 4 channels, the Sound Storm DD889B DVD player simply transforms your car into a mobile disco!
The 2V pre-outs allow you to connect 2 external amplifiers for that extra kick and there’s also a front pre-amped AUX output (including SUB). This means you have a wide variety of options when it comes to expandability or choice of other car audio system components such as speakers or signal processors.
You can find a professional sound engineer to install the complete system and calibrate it for you for optimum output and performance.
When it comes to matters of Bluetooth, the SS DD889B can do more than connecting devices to a closed network. The A2DP BT protocol allows you to stream music wirelessly from your smartphone’s media library and you can also stream online music from Pandora and Spotify.
All the controls can be adjusted on the touchscreen panel or using the wireless remote control. Additionally, the Bluetooth function also allows you to make or receive hands-free calls while driving to ensure that you’re always focused on the road.
FYI: There’s an option for the rear camera hookup.
On the downside, you need to modify the in-dash size for the SS head unit to fit properly. You also need the in-dash install kit.
Runner-Up: BOSS AUDIO 870DBI
The BOSS Audio 870BDI MP3/CD player with switchable and ID3 Tag enabled, AM/FM receiver (The USA and Europe) is a rugged, mean looking car stereo.
Despite lacking the DVD playing function, this deck also comes with features galore! You can choose to listen to the radio (with 30 presets; 12 AM, 18 FM) or plug in an SD card or flash drive into the USB port and play your music from these devices.
In addition, you can also connect your iPad, iPhone or iPod via USB cable and continue the fun with your preferred music thanks to the integrated iOS control.
The BOSS 870BDI plays WMA and MP3 files from external devices connected through the front AUX input or from a CD. With 5 (1V) pre-amped outputs, the BOSS 870BDI supports front, rear and mono subwoofer drivers.
The internally built amplifier (MOSFET) is rated 18W RMS and it has a peak output value of 80W x 4 channels bring the total output to an amazing 320W which makes the deck quite a powerful head unit.
The inbuilt equalizer has 4 preset tonal selections to give you more listening options and you can adjust the fader, balance, bass, and treble as you desire. The single-line detachable display faceplate comes off to deter theft.
As customary with many decks in this category, this cheap car radio also comes with the Bluetooth feature to enable wireless media streaming from your smart devices (A2DP & AVRCP).
You can also stream endless music from Spotify and Pandora to keep the party mood going all day long! Of course, there’s also the hands-free phone calling and receiving capability which allows you to pick up phone calls safely as you cruise the highway.
There is a wireless remote control which also comes in handy when you need to operate your head unit while on the move.
More features include the Auto Memory Search (A.M.S) which works with the radio function and the Electronic Skip Protection feature just like the SS DD889B HU.
Also Great: Pyle PLDN74BT
The Pyle PLDN74BTI DVD/CD player head unit is a product of absolute beauty and pizzazz… it will accept all your digital media and it charges your USB-connected external devices as they stream multimedia data.
The 7-inch Hi-Resolution HD widescreen TFT touchscreen (LCD with 16:9 aspect ratio) can be adjusted (color, contrast, brightness,) for perfect picture display and the panel is motorized to tilt for a better viewing angle and experience.
The user-friendly menu allows you to operate the HU with ease (response time of 30-50 ms) and the display also includes a phone dial pad to help you make calls without touching your actual phone.
You can also import your contact list conveniently from your Bluetooth enabled smartphones and devices (tablets, iPhone, iPad, and Android).
The US-Europe switchable FM/AM receiver (PLL synthesizer tuner) has a memory for 30 radio station presets which allow you to quickly access your favorite stations at a press of a button (faster than auto scan).
Additionally, the Pyle PLDN74BTI double DIN deck plays media from your SD card, USB flash drive (both expandable to 32GB), CDs (CD-RW, CD-R), VCDs and DVDs.
With the customizable equalizer and the capability to adjust the balance, treble, fader, and bass… you can easily select different tonal ranges for your music of choice.
The A/V input and output RCA connectors enable you to play videos PAL or NTSC videos (with auto recognition) from external sources or send videos to an external monitor (screen). Formats compatible include WAV, MP3, AVI, WMA, JPEG, and more…
The inbuilt amplifier has 80W x 4 output power with a maximum of 320W combined output drives your speakers through rear RCA Aux input/output jacks which include a subwoofer dedicated output.
The Bluetooth 2.0 (A2DP, EDR) function allows you to make hands-free calls (with inbuilt mic), and stream music wirelessly. Extra features include Anti-shock, rear camera and parking hook up, wireless remote control, and ST/MO and LO/DX selector.
On the downside, the deck doesn’t have illumination on some key operating buttons and knobs, like the volume, which makes it a bit tricky to operate in the dark for some people.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – SINGLE DIN
Our Pick: Clarion CZ505
Single-DIN car stereos have never been made better than the Clarion CZ505!
This deck’s bold design and sophisticated styling are absolutely awesome, to say the least… none of the big names in this category even came close to matching the Clarion’s exceptional performance or closely positioned (well illuminated) intuitive controls and bright LCD display.
The sound quality cannot even be explained… it has to be experienced. It is much louder, much clearer and the power of this baby can tear speakers apart!
To begin with, the 4V pre-amped 6-channel outs drive (the front, rear, and subwoofer) at 22W RMS with a peak rating of 4 x 50W for the internal amplifier.
High-pass and low-pass filters coupled with the loudness control and bass boost plus the 3-band preset parametric equalizer give you more options (EXCITE, IMPACT or BASS BOOST) for your auditory experience.
The preset equalizer can also be customized to different levels of treble, midrange, and bass. The inputs include a front USB port and Aux jack which means you can play WMA and MP3 files from your USB thumb drive and stream music from MP3 music sources.
The cool part of this deck’s FM/AM HD radio receiver (with CD-quality clarity) is the compatibility with SiriusXM (satellite) radio tuner. You can also tag songs heard over the radio to buy them later on iTunes Store.
Bluetooth connectivity with aptX codec support allows you to listen to music from your smartphones with improved audio quality (full audio bandwidth reproduction) through bit rate reduction to facilitate smooth playback which doesn’t compromise latency or sound quality.
In addition to making or receiving hands-free calls, the Bluetooth function in the Clarion CZ505 deck allows you to enjoy interactive internet radio from Pandora and also provide thumbs up or thumbs down feedback while listening to songs.
You can also use the song title or artist name to bookmark your favorite music or replay songs. A wireless remote control enables you to adjust the deck’s functions without taking your eyes off the road.
If you think you can find a cheap single-DIN car stereo that can top the Clarion CZ505 head unit, then please, you are welcome to share that useful information with the world in the comment section.
FYI: Installation is super easy for DIY-ers. Also, it has built-in control for iPhones, iPads, and iPods.
Runner-Up: Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS
If there was ever a single DIN head unit from Pioneer that was ever built to almost perfection, then the Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS receiver with an inbuilt CD player is it!
And let’s not even get into the audio enhancement feature… this deck surely earns the second position on this cheap car stereos list.
Let’s start with the HD FM/AM radio tuner which supports the new Tune Mix feature and works startlingly well with SiriusXM (SXV300).
The Bluetooth function allows you to do more than just stream music from your smartphone or make clear hands-free calls (wideband speech Profile 1.6 with double bandwidth amplification).
Just like the Pioneer DEH-X6900BT, the DEH-X7800BHS plays well with your Bluetooth enabled smartphone through the ARC app and you can also play music from Spotify and Pandora with endless streaming and superior sound quality! The MIXTRAX Dj feature and the 13-band equalizer keep the party pumping all day long.
On matters of audio performance, the 3 (2V) RCA outputs (6-channel pre-outs) deliver 14W RMS driven by an inbuilt amplifier with a 4 x 50W rating.
With 3 level loudness, you’ll never have to worry about volume while playing music from your CDs (CD-RW, CD-R) and USB memory sticks. With high-pass – low-pass filters, subwoofer control, and 3-way networking, the Pioneer DEH-X7800BHS is all about sound quality.
It can also play FLAC files (44.1 Hz/16 bit) with CD-quality clarity.
You can connect Android devices through a USB cable and play music from there thanks to the MTP (Media Transfer Protocol), and you can also use the same USB connectivity to hook up your iOS devices such as iPhones or iPods to gain full control of the music stored on them.
More features include the 10-level brightness control and the customizable dual-zone illuminated display with over 210, 000 color combinations.
Owners of iPhone 4 (and newer) can also use voice control through the Siri Eyes Free voice recognition feature.
Cheap Car Stereo – under $200 – DOUBLE DIN
Our Pick: Planet Audio PNV9680
This is another not-so-well-known brand but with a promising future in the production of competitive cheap car radios.
The Planet Audio PNV9680 double DIN DVD player has a 6-inch full-color touchscreen that allows adjusting much of the controls and available features.
The deck comes with 2-way iPod control, iPhone (5 & 6) compatibility, and A2DP for android music streaming or hands-free calling capability.
The PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile) also allows you to see the name of your callers and access your full contact list from the head unit.
Options for expansion include a front USB port (with a connection to mini USB), rear A/V RCA input and video RCA output, SD card reader, and a dedicated input for the rear camera.
There are 3 (2V) pre-outs for the front, rear, and mono subwoofer and a power output of 80W x 4 channels at 20W x 4 channels RMS.
The 2-band parametric EQ and the 1-bit DAC features enhance your media playback to give you exceptional sound quality. ID3 tagging allows you to view text information about music from your CD and MP3 players.
The Planet Audio PNV9680 deck plays DVDs (including DVD-R/W), CDs (CD-RW, CD-R), and VCDs in the following formats; MP3, WMA, and more… The Europe-USA switchable FM/AM radio has 30 stations presets and PLL synthesizer.
Additionally, the Planet Audio PNV9680 head unit also comes with the GPS feature which can load maps through a micro SD chip.
The GPS function also has a text-to-speech capability, automatic re-routing, lane guidance, and the realistic representation of interchanges (works in Puerto Rico, the US, Mexico and Canada).
You will never lose your way with this GPS guiding system!
Runner-Up: BOSS AUDIO BVB9364RC
BOSS has really come a long way in the production of car stereo head units and the BOSS BVB9364RC double DIN deck is proof of that.
This fabulous DVD, CD, SD, and USB player can also accept audio input from MP3 players through the front Aux jack (3.5 mm). The BOSS BVB9364RC plays MP3, WMA, and MP4 media files among others from up to 32GB SD cards or USB thumb drives.
The ID3 tag feature allows you to view text information about radio stations, and CDs (album, artist, song title) on the 6-inch touchscreen which also enables you to select or adjust the deck’s features with ease.
The FM/AM radio tuner has 30 stations presets (12 AM & 18 FM) for simplified scanning when you want to enjoy music or shows from your radio.
Looking at matters of audio quality and power, this relatively cheap car radio has an internal amplifier that operates at 4 x 30W RMS with a max rating of 80W x 4 channels that deliver a combined 320W through 3 (2V) sets of pre-amped outputs.
The 2-band graphic EQ has selectable tone curves to give you varied listening options for different kinds of music.
The Bluetooth feature in this deck is fully enabled for HFP to allow phone calling (hands-free), AVRCP for video/audio remote control via Bluetooth smart devices, and the A2DP protocol for high-quality music streaming.
More expandability options include rear video output to hook up external monitors and a dedicated port for the backup (rear) camera. All universal cameras with RCS composite inputs work just fine.
Interlude: The BOSS BVB9364RC deck is also steering wheel remote control ready and it works with both Axxess ASWC-1 and PAC ControlPRO adapters. Video input sources include video cameras and gaming consoles meaning you can get busy with your X-Box or PlayStation right from the comfort of your own car!
Also Great: Clarion CX505
Clarion’s competitiveness becomes even greater with the Clarion CX505 double-DIN car stereo which has clustered buttons for easy control and a large, centered and multi-functional rotary volume knob.
In terms of functionality, the CX505 and the CZ505 have almost identical features, especially on Bluetooth function, sound quality (93dB signal to noise ratio)and design sophistication. This deck has a fierce, mean, and bolder look that promises power and performance. What’s even more exciting is that the deck does exactly that!
With HPF, AVRCP, PBAP and A2DP Bluetooth protocols (and aptX codecs…), the Clarion CX505 in-dash 2-DIN deck offers both hands-free calling (through inbuilt mic) and audio streaming from your smartphones or tablets.
The enhancement of compressed music played via BT is achieved through aptX support and the result is stereo-quality audio as the bandwidth is fully reproduced without latency or diminished audio quality.
Furthermore, the CX505 allows you to stream all kinds of music genres from Pandora with the same interactive feedback feature as the Clarion CZ505.
The deck also displays information about songs and you can bookmark the songs using either the artist’s name or song title. The HD FM/AM tuner receives radio stations (music and shows) with CD-quality sound and you can tag songs with the iTunes Tagging feature for future music purchasing.
The CX505 also works with SiriusXM satellite radio supporting both SXV 200 & 300.
Expanding options include a front 3.5mm auxiliary input jack that accepts audio out from external media players, as well as a USB port for flash drives or smartphone cable connection (with iPhone & iPod direct control).
The Clarion CX505 also has the beat equalizer with 3 presets (EXCITE, BASS BOOST, and IMPACT), and low-high pass filters to enhance audio quality and clarity.
The 4V RCA 6-channel pre-outs are driven by an internal amplifier (MOSFET) that is rated 4 x 50W peak and 22W RMS which is enough for those heavy basses and clear highs.
You can also connect an external amplifier for improved output power.
FYI: The Clarion CX505 also offers loudness and dedicated subwoofer controls. Your deck will always look amazing with the choice of 728 display colors.
Also Great: Kenwood DPX592BT
The Kenwood “Excelon” DPX592BT with Hi-Res audio compatibility is yet another masterpiece from world renown car stereo and complete audio systems manufacturers, Kenwood.
This deck features a few common functionalities present in most head units in this category, but with some outstanding KENWOOD engineering such as the Drive EQ feature which boosts specific audio frequencies to counter road noise and leave you with crystal clear music for your enjoyment.
You can also adjust the tones in your music according to the environment or genre using the 13-band EQ.
The Kenwood DPX592BT is fully packed with amazing features that include an inbuilt CD player (for CD-R & CD-RW) that accepts AAC, WMA, and MP3 formats with repeat and random playback.
The USB function includes ID3 tag to display 13-digit text information about media played in the following formats; FLAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, and AAC.
Another unique feature of this deck is definitely the 2 speed iPod Skip search function which is possible through USB connection direct control for iPhones and iPod. iPhones can also stream music from iHeart radio and Pandora.
It also has Android music playback via USB and the amazing part is that your Android devices are charged rapidly as they transfer media to your head unit in different formats.
The FM/AM radio receiver has a backup memory for 24 radio station presets (6 AM, 18 FM), RBDS to display text information about radio stations, automatic memory entry (AME), auto-scanning, and a selector for FM Mono or Stereo.
The receiver also works with SiriusXM SXV (100, 200, and 300). On matters of output power and performance, the Kenwood DPX592BT head unit comes with 3 sets of 4V pre-outs with subwoofer adjustability, bass boost, loudness control and Stage EQ.
Compressed music is restored and enhanced to CD-quality clarity through the KSR (Kenwood Sound Reconstruction) feature. The built-in amplifier (MOSFET) has a maximum output power of 4 x 50W with 22W RMS.
The Bluetooth feature is also fully packed with protocols such as SPP, A2DP, AptX, and AVRCP 1.5 to facilitate hands-free telephone calling or receiving with the dual connection, wireless music streaming and browsing.
There is also a Bluetooth mic that’s wired from the rear. More features include OEM remote interface, Multilanguage display (including Spanish), and changeable color illumination.
Surely a great double din car stereo at an affordable price.
Also Great: Soundstream VRN-625B
To conclude our list of best cheap car stereos is the Soundstream VRN-625B deck with a 6-inch glass-like LCD touchscreen and GPS navigation.
When it comes to tremendous value and high performance… Sound Stream is not messing around!
These guys mean business… Seamless Android integration, intersection or turn-by-turn real-time navigation maps of the US (including the Virgin Islands) and Puerto Rico (with voice announcement of streets, warnings for speed limits, and lane guidance) to help you find your ATM, restaurant, motel, or coffee shop.
Smart-sense technology for an all season screen with low glare and great picture clarity, MobileLink (X2) to control your Android smartphone’s screen through the deck’s screen, the Soundstream VRN-625B double-DIN Bluetooth receiver has it all! And more…
With the Soundstream VRN-625B, you can play WMA and MP3 files from the DVD/CD player or through the rear USB port. Every external input port has been placed at the rear due to the deck’s sleek front face design.
This means the audio and video output and input ports are also at the rear. You can hook up game consoles, audio players, and other sources of analog video through these rear connections.
And this includes analog video outs for rear monitors to keep your passengers in the backseat entertained! There is also an option to connect a rear-view camera to help you squeeze into those tight parking spaces.
The heart of the Soundstream VRN-625B is a MOSFET amplifier with a peak rating of 75W x 4 and an RMS rating of 22W. This powerful amplifier drives 6 (2V) pre-amped channels for the front, subwoofer, and rear speakers.
A 10-band graphic equalizer gives you an option of 8 presets for different listening experiences with subwoofer level control. Cheap car stereos don’t come better than this!
FYI: The Soundstream VRN-625B has a wireless remote control, and it is compatible with most factory steering wheel controls as long as you include the Axxess ASWC-1 adapter.
Why do you need car stereo – or who this is for?
The rest of us want more out of our car radios… more sound quality, more RMS wattage (combined or per channel), more output channels, more control, more functionality such as multiple audio or video input capabilities; CDs, DVDs, iPods, (and the ability to stream different multimedia formats), Bluetooth connectivity, HD or satellite radio, iOS or Android compatibility (with hands-free calling/receiving capabilities or smartphone media library streaming), and of course, good old GPS function… we simply want more. We want it all!
The more sophisticated, the better. Oh, and the cheaper it is to get all these functionalities in a single car stereo head unit the better too! Affordability is always an issue. We’re all looking for the best cheap car stereo.
We also want a car stereo that’s easy to install and doesn’t require us to pull out the user manual all the time to figure out how to operate.
Gone are the days when you could count all the top car stereo brands on one hand, literally! I mean it was Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC, and a bit of JBL or Alpine here and there… and that’s it. And we only had a choice of the single DIN car stereo. It gives me great pleasure to say that was then…
The market is now saturated with up and coming brands that have shown lots of promise as far as innovation and quality car stereo HUs are concerned.
Our big dogs up there still hold top positions in most car stereo categories but there are a few somewhat “little-known” brands like Sound Storm, Pyle, XO Vision, Planet Audio, Clarion, BOSS, and SoundStream that are quickly snatching up big chunks of the industry market from the household brands.
Although they don’t compare in global market command, these brands have proven to be worthy competitors.
As mentioned earlier, car radios are all about personality and functionality. Personality in the sense that when anyone decides to upgrade their car stereo (from the simple stock 2-band radio receiver), they usually choose to replace it with something that speaks to them (or about them…) in a deeper way.
It’s not just about the music or visual aesthetics… it includes personal style and class, and what appeals to your ego, in short… who you really are. Your car stereo says a lot about you in so many ways.
Plus it also earns you some respect as well as bragging rights! (*depending on where you live or your social circles… game recognizes game!)
The functionality part covers pretty much everything else on your car stereo and your entire car audio system. This is purely more about user experience, performance (output power), expandability (scalability), and all those other fancy features like illuminated or feather-touch buttons, touch screens, and hands-free calling or USB and micro SD integration.
Finding your preferred car stereo is not always an easy thing, but neither should it be hard… We have looked at 14 of the best cheap car stereos under $100 and $200 and the competition so far is stiff!
Most of the decks discussed in this review score exceptionally well on power output, functionality, and ease of operation.
In addition to the big names in the industry such as Pioneer, BOSS Audio, and Kenwood, (relatively) new entrants into the game such as Clarion, Pyle, Soundstream, Planet Audio, and Sound Storm have really shown lots of potential and all we can do for now is look to the future with anticipation.
Which other do affordable car stereo you think should be included in the list?