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Best car stereos for 2018

Take a peek at our best-sellers and customer favorites

In this article... we'll discuss seven of our customer favorites for car stereos:

  1. Pioneer AVH-201EX DVD receiver
  2. Alpine iLX-107 digital multimedia receiver
  3. RetroSound Hermosa digital media receiver
  4. Kenwood KMM-BT322U digital media receiver
  5. Sony XAV-AX100 digital multimedia receiver
  6. JVC KW-R930BTS CD receiver
  7. Kenwood Excelon DDX9905S DVD receiver

What makes them sure bets for 2018? Let's take a look!

Now is a great time to consider a new car stereo for your ride. Not only do you get performance upgrades and expandability over factory radios, but stereo makers are incorporating a variety of ways of connecting to your phone, including navigation, streaming music, and remote control apps.

From simple CD stereos with Bluetooth® connectivity, to big touchscreen multimedia receivers with user-friendly app interfaces like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, there are lots of choices for upgrading your vehicle's overall sound experience.

As a starting point, here are seven models which have delivered high customer satisfaction ratings. After reading this article, if you want a deeper dive into what to look for when shopping for a new car stereo, check out our car stereo buying guide.

[Check out all of our best-selling and top-rated car stereos]

What makes these favorites?

We looked at our best-selling stereos, which also earned an average Crutchfield customer rating of 4 (or more) stars*. That means that our customers took the time to provide some feedback once they've spent some time with the stereo.

We also tried to cover receivers of various types and sizes too. While we didn't include them here, you can also check out our Best in-dash navigation stereos for 2018.

Pioneer AVH-201EX

Pioneer AVH-201EX DVD receiver — Affordable touchscreen display and wireless convenience

What you need to know: This Pioneer offers a 6.2" touchscreen display with user-friendly icon controls, as well as multi-color options that let you seemlessly integrate the stereo with your dash lighting. You can wire in your smartphone or take advantage of this stereo's built-in Bluetooth. 

Phone integration features: This stereo's rear USB port will charge your iPhone or Android, as well as let you play and control the music on your phone. Its built-in Bluetooth can be paired to two different phones simultaneously. You can take hands-free calls and stream music wirelessly from either.

Audio/Video features: To back up their heritage of great sound, Pioneer included a 13-band equalizer and digital time alignment to ensure your listening position is the best position. Preamp outputs let you add amplifiers for more power and oomph from your sound. You can also feed video to additional backseat screens. There's even a video input for a backup camera.

Alpine iLx-107 receiver

Alpine iLX-107 digital multimedia receiver — Wireless Apple CarPlay and app-based sound shaping

What you need to know: Three words made this stereo an instant attention-getter: Wireless Apple CarPlay. As of May 2018, it's the only car stereo that has it. You can control your apps from its 7" touchscreen display. You also get some very cool sound-sculpting capabilities using Alpine's TuneIt™ app and great sound from this Alpine.

Phone integration features: Centered around the Apple iOS ecosystem, the iLX-107 includes Wi-Fi to connect to select iPhones without having to plug in. Wired CarPlay is also available, so your phone can stay charged up. This Alpine's touchscreen display looks just like your iPhone, so there's no learning curve. Plus, you can use Siri "Eyes Free" voice control to help keep your attention on the road.

Audio/Video features: In addition to compatibility with Alpine's TuneIt app, the iLX-107 features a 9-band parametric EQ and digital time correction to refine your sound. You can add a backup camera for added safety. And, this Alpine works with iDatalink's Maestro RR interface for select vehicles, which lets you integrate lots of factory functionality, some of which you'll see on the Alpine display.

RetroSound Hermosa receiver

RetroSound Hermosa digital media receiver — Classic styling for vintage vehicles

What you need to know: We sell several stereo options for vintage cars, but this one is easily the most popular. RetroSound's Hermosa infuses the venerable shaft-style radio design with modern features, like Bluetooth, a USB port, and a switchable color display. It's old-school shaft system make it a great choice for folks who want to add modern conveniences to classic older vehicles.

Phone integration features: The Hermosa includes Bluetooth for hands-free calling and wireless music streaming from your phone or tablet.

Customization features: What's so cool about the Hermosa and other RetroSound receivers is their ability to blend into the dash of vintage rides. Its "Infinimount" shaft and bracket system enables the Hermosa to fit in a variety of vehicles with different shaft spacing. You can choose from black, chrome, or ivory options to match your vehicle or just make a statement. It even has three vintage screen protectors to give it that look of yesteryear.

Kenwood KMM-BT322U

Kenwood KMM-BT322U digital media receiver — Perfect in-dash jukebox for the frugal commuter

What you need to know: This receiver's slim, single-DIN chassis fits in lots of vehicles. Kenwood outfitted it with lots of features for the money, including Bluetooth, a USB port for a variety of music files and smartphone integration, and the ability to control the receiver with Kenwood's free Remote app. 

Phone integration features: Bluetooth connectivity provides hands-free streaming and calling, and two phones can be paired at the same time. You can also plug your phone into the USB port to control and listen to music, as well as charge your device. If you're into Internet Radio, you can enjoy your favorite playlists and explore new music on Spotify™ and Pandora™.

Audio features: This stereo's USB port is compatible with all kinds of music files, even FLAC files. Kenwood sound reconstruction restores the depth that's often missing from compressed music files, and digital time alignment ensures that all that sound reaches your ears at the same time. A 13-band EQ lets you tweak your sound to your heart's content.

Sony XAV-AX100 digital multimedia receiver

Sony XAV-AX100 digital multimedia receiver — Savvy smartphone receiver that offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

What you need to know: This mech-less (no CD player), double-DIN receiver offers wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to create an interface that's just like your phone. All of your navigation, music, and phone apps are shown off and controlled on its 6.4" touchscreen display.

Phone integration features: In addition to the phone integration mentioned above, this Sony stereo includes Bluetooth for wireless convenience. You can also listen to and control your favorite Pandora stations.

Audio/Video features: Some folks have to have that knob to crank up their volume, and this Sony delivers. Its 10-band EQ lets you get just your right sound, while the five preamp outputs enable you to add amplifiers for your speakers and a sub. There's even an input for a rear-view camera — great for tight parking spots. 

JVC KW-R930BTS CD receiver

JVC KW-R930BTS CD receiver

Amazing color options. Use the slider bar to see a couple of illumination options for this JVC stereo.

JVC KW-R930BTS CD receiver — Easy to see and control your music

What you need to know: This 4" tall JVC car stereo includes lots of ways to get the music going in your vehicle. You can play your library of music or tap into a variety of radio options. Its customizable lighting helps it blend nicely into your dash, while big buttons are easy to get to while your eyes are on the road.

Phone integration features: You can pair two phones simultaneously for hands-free calling, and for wireless music streaming via Bluetooth. You can pair up to five phones for the ultimate road trip playlist. Internet radio control options include Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio.

Audio features: This JVC offers an option for adding the SiriusXM SXV300V1 satellite radio tuner to give you even more spontaneous radio goodness. Its USB port can handle FLAC files up to 24-bit/96 kHz, so bring along that high-res library. JVC also includes a 13-band equalizer with eleven presets for quick changes on the fly. 

Kenwood Excelon DDX9905S

Kenwood Excelon DDX9905S DVD receiver — Big-screen beauty with lots of media and tone-shaping options

What you need to know: This Kenwood Excelon car stereo includes wireless Android Auto for select Android phones, plus ways to get other phones involved as well. You can also go wireless with Bluetooth. The number of media options and the in-depth sound-shaping abilities really make this stereo one of the top multimedia in-dash options out there. Its 6.75" HD touchscreen is sharp and easy to see in all types of lighting conditions.

Phone integration features: In addition to thorough smartphone integration via Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and WebLink, you can link multiple phones wirelessly via Bluetooth and play Internet radio DJ using the controls on the big screen. 

Audio features: Speaking of radio, you also get a built-in HD Radio™ tuner and an option for SiriusXM satellite radio when adding a SiriusXM SXV300V1 satellite radio tuner. Its USB port steps up to 24-bit/192 kHz high-res FLAC files for even the most critical ears. Other upgrades include the 5-volt preamp outputs, so your external amplifiers get a super-clean signal. And this Kenwood's deep sound processing and tone controls are a sound tweaker's dream.

Apple CarPlay map example

This installed Sony XAV-AX100 shows off Apple Maps while working in Apple CarPlay mode.


With the right car stereo, even the longest road trip can be fun

If you're ready to make the move to better sound, phone integration, and smooth controls, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • How much do you want to spend? There's certainly a balance between your budget, the features you want, and the look you're going for in your dash. Using the filters we've installed in our selection of car stereos, you can set a particular budget range that works for you.

  • What features are must-haves? In addition to the filter for budget, you can also filter the most common features for car stereos. This lets you quickly focus in on the stereos that give you want you want, like Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, and more.

  • What fits your car? You'll need to pick a stereo that fits the dash of your car. For some newer vehicles, replacing the factory receiver might be impossible because of climate controls or other design elements. However, the majority of vehicles in our database work with double-DIN (4" tall) or single-DIN (2" tall) radios. Receivers without a disc player (known as digital media receivers) are especially easy to fit due to their shallow depth. Use our vehicle selector tool to refine your choices.

Let us help you shop

Don't forget to read our in-dash car stereo buying guide, and then contact our advisors if you have any questions or to confirm what you need to install a new stereo in your car.

*Note: The star ratings cited are current as of May 2018.

Last updated 5/14/2018

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