Below, we’ve compiled a comprehensive, but simple guide to walk you through all that’s worth knowing, including the important details to consider when choosing a digital media receiver for your car.

Included, as well, are handy reviews of the best digital media receivers currently available on the market.

Make use of this piece as your ultimate guide when determining the specific car radio you’ll purchase, and you’re definite to get just the right choice!

Our Pick under $100

Sony DSXA405BT

The Sony DSXA405BT is another top-performance digital media receiver, packing lots of useful, stunning features. It matches all of its hype.

Preamp Voltage: 2V
Display: OEL
Wireless Remote: Yes
Media Formats Supported: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC

The handy USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity give you multiple ways through which you can play your MP3, WAV, FLAC, and WMA files.

You can make use of NFC for instant Bluetooth pairing, as long as your phone(s) is compatible. This receiver is compatible with all iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

It boasts support for Pandora Internet radio, as well, which works perfectly well with nearly all Android, iPhone, and Blackberry smartphones.

It supports audio streaming and hands-free calling via Bluetooth. Additionally, Sony’s inbuilt Dynamic Reality amp will ensure that you listen to your music with crystal-clear sound.

Although this unit doesn’t play CDs, it comes integrated with an AM/FM tuner. Besides, it comes backed by a reassuring one-year warranty, which only guarantees that the unit is specially built to last.

You’ll want to look into the Sony DSX-A405BT if quality, performance, and reliability are your key preferences in a digital media receiver.

Yet, it’s among the most affordable offerings currently available on the market. If you’re far into high-performance driving, this model comes packed with all the features you’d require to hit that road in style.

Audiophile Option

Sony RSXGS9

Sony RSXGS9 Hi-Res Audio Media Receiver with Bluetooth...

Sony has gone all way back to the roots of digital media receivers with the RSGS9. They deliver a device which is specially designed for pure, high fidelity sound, supporting almost all formats of media you could think of.

It offers a broad range of top-quality wireless and wired connection options.

  • Preamp Voltage: 5V
  • Display: OLED
  • Wireless Remote: No
  • Media Formats Supported: MP3, WAV, AAC, PCM, WMA, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, DSD

It’s a single DIN head unit that looks nothing like any car media receiver you’ve probably seen. You get an exclusively classy piece of audio equipment.

It incorporates a sizeable rotary volume knob (with a well-lit ring around the base), a 3.5-mm auxiliary input, and handy USB plugs.

The Sony RSGS9 Media Receiver supports Bluetooth, which is much convenient for audio playback, hands-free operation, and remote control. It’s compatible with Apple and most Android devices.

In fact, you can use this receiver with a Windows or Mac computer, credit to the integration of the USB-DAC function.

The exceptional 10-band graphic equalizer provides a thorough means to precisely tune the sound to your liking. The RSGS9 stands out as the first in-car head unit that supports DSD media format, a codec that’s specifically designed for high-resolution audio.

Clearly, the RSXGS9 isn’t the mechless car stereo for everyone. It’s only worth considering if you’re seeking the highest-quality music available for a car. Undeniably, Sony made use of carefully engineered components when designing this unit.

These revolutionize in-car music listening in an all-new way. Upon securing this unit, you’ll get to enjoy the same caliber of audio usually reserve for the high-end home audio equipment.

Double DIN Pick

Alpine iLX-207

Alpine is among the oldest brands in the high-end automotive electronics’ niche. They understand what it takes to manufacture reliable, high-end audio equipment. That’s evident with the iLX-207 digital media receiver

  • Preamp Voltage: 4V
  • Display: VGA
  • Wireless Remote: Yes
  • Media Formats Supported: MP3/WMA/AAC/HE-AAC, FLAC

It’s easily the most comprehensive and comfortable head unit, especially when it comes down to Apple products. You can connect this unit with Apple smart devices – via Apple CarPlay (Android Auto also included) – including iPhones, iPads, and iPods. Although it doesn’t support the iWatch, they’re sure to fix that with a simple firmware update soon.

With the iLX-207, you get to enjoy innumerable benefits. For instance, you can answer phone calls via Bluetooth and connect your device using a USB cord.

This model comes equipped with other exceptional features like SiriusXM connectivity, an HD Radio tuner, AUX, USB and HDMI inputs.

Additionally, it comes included with an external microphone. It does a considerable lot right out of its box.

The Alpine iLX-207 packs phenomenal functionality into a sleek, yet user-friendly package. It’s a commendably versatile digital media receiver, compatible with nearly all smartphones. It looks good, sounds amazing, and you’re definite to love the intuitive user interface. It’s the multi-tool version of digital media receivers, well worth its price.

What’s a Digital Media Receiver?

Digital media receivers (also know as mechless car stereos) are car stereo head units which don’t have a built-in CD or DVD players.

The key difference between traditional car stereos and digital media receivers is that the latter can be integrated with nearly all kinds of other electronic gadgets. CD players or cassettes are not a must-have in cars, now.

Single and Double DIN Mechless Receiver

After thinking about the options discussed above, you can list down those that you feel would be most necessary for you. That way, it’ll be much easier to select the right digital media receiver. There are two different types of digital media receivers:

  • Single DIN
  • Double DIN

The term ‘DIN’ refers to the receiver’s height. With that in mind, we’re going to review the best single DIN and double DIN digital media receivers currently available on the market. These are entirely honest and unbiased.

They’re a result of intensive research that took multiple criteria into consideration. We’ve considered vital factors like features, appearance, connectivity, inputs, controls, available apps, and sound quality. We also read through reviews from other customers on various marketplaces.

Most importantly, we took a closer look at each of the model’s brand support, price, and value for money. You can be confident you’ll find a model which perfectly suits your preferences and meets your needs.

Key Factors worth Considering when Selecting the Best Digital Media Receiver

I. What Type of Inputs do you Need?

The best digital media receiver can be defined as one that includes everything, from USB ports to slots that you can use to charge your smartphone. As such, you’ll surely want to consider the type of inputs you’d need in your mechless car stereo. Among the options you might need include:

iPod® and iPhone® Controls

Finding and playing music on iPhones and iPods is incredibly simple, credit to their innovative features. And, thankfully, most of the premium digital media receivers on the market come included with iPod and iPhone controls. In turn, these enable you to choose and play music as you’re driving effortlessly.

USB Inputs – Auxiliary Inputs

A USB input will enable you to play music by just plugging your USB thumb drive into the receiver. Pay keen attention to the specific location of USB ports on the receiver, though. Some may be placed in areas which make them inconvenient to use.

You’ll also want to select a receiver that features one or more auxiliary inputs. With minijack auxiliary inputs, you can plug in your external player or satellite radio. But, ensure you consider the side on which you’d want the auxiliary input(s) to be located.

Some people may prefer to have them located in front since it makes them much more straightforward to use. However, others may want to have them more hidden to provide a neater look.

Although some people would prefer receivers with SD card slots to those without, they’re becoming increasingly uncommon. That’s especially the case with newer models.

Bluetooth® Connectivity

Perhaps, you’re among those who’ve most of their music on their phones. Then, you’ll want to purchase a receiver that supports Bluetooth connectivity. While some models come with Bluetooth, others offer it as an additional option.

This feature will allow you to stream music directly from your handheld device to the digital car stereo via Bluetooth. Among the advantages of using Bluetooth is that you won’t have to mess with any external storage devices or wires.

App Mode

Most digital media receivers feature the ‘App Mode’. It allows the user to access music apps on his/her phone, controlling and selecting music right through the receiver itself. That’s made possible using Bluetooth or USB streaming.

HD Radio™ Reception

The prevalence of radio stations’ broadcasting digital signals is only becoming more prevalent. And, with a car stereo that features an inbuilt an HD Radio tuner, you’re assured of better sound quality and static-free reception.

Android™ Support

Newer receivers boast the ability to access apps and music on the user’s phone. It’s a feature you’ll especially want to have if you’ve got an Android smartphone.

Satellite Radio

You can now integrate satellite radio with your car stereo. To achieve that, ensure the digital media receiver you intend to purchase is ‘SiriusXM-ready’. That implies that it’s capable of controlling a hideaway satellite radio tuner.

II. Preamp Outputs

These enable you to connect your receiver to external amplifiers, powering your subwoofer or speakers. A particular model will have a different number of preamp outputs from another. Just ensure you’ve at least one set. A higher output voltage rating translates to a cleaner signal.

III. Sound Controls

These are a factor worth looking into, as well. Controls beyond basic treble and bass adjustments allow you to tailor the music to your car’s particular acoustics. Expect improved sound if the unit’s midrange can be adjusted.

If you’re the kind that likes tweaking and experiment with sound adjustments, seek a unit with an advanced equalizer, digital time correction, or digital signal processing. Such capabilities will grant you complete control over what you get from your car’s acoustics.

IV. Power

Do you intend to keep your car’s factory speakers? If that’s the case, then you won’t need to worry about the receiver’s power rating as it’ll still drive the factory speakers well. But, if you’re looking to replace the factory speakers, we’d recommend you seek a higher-powered model.

V. Display

Look for a unit whose display shows the track, artist, and album information without much scrolling. Seek a model that boasts enhanced graphics. It’ll be much simpler to view the display, providing you with even more information at a glance.

In fact, there are displays which will allow you to choose their color. You can, thus, pick one that better matches your dash lighting.

Conclusion

Almost all of the models featured above boast improved processors, with flexible tuning. In turn, you get better sounding music. With their advanced controls, you’ll find it much simpler to operate them. You can settle for a unit that has touchscreen controls if you want a receiver that’s intuitive to use and feels futuristic.

Begin with the obvious — select a unit that fits perfectly in your car. Filter out options which won’t fit. Additionally, determine if there are any special adapters or installation kits you might require.

In the end, what makes the best head unit for one person may not do the same for another. Don’t go for a particular stereo just because it’s lower-priced. Similarly, spending more doesn’t necessarily imply you’ll get more.

Thankfully, the mechless car stereos reviewed above are affordable, yet they offer improved performance and cutting-edge technology.

Ultimately, you ought to identify what you seek most from your digital media receiver. You should then make use of that as the basis of the entire selection process. You want a unit which will help you enjoy listening to your music while affording you great room to concentrate well on your driving.

To save you a significant deal of time, effort, and stress, follow the above guide. You’ll be better placed to make the right choice — one that suits your taste and meets/exceeds your requirements. Good luck!

Vincent Talbot

Last update on 2019-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API