Best Double Din Car Stereo Head units for 2012

Best Double Din Car Stereos

Looking for the best double din car stereo head unit for your car?

Every customer is unique and their needs are all very different. My customers come into my shop looking for double din head units for a variety of reasons. They often feel that double din car stereos:

  • Have a cleaner look, fit and finish
  • Are easier to use thanks to a nice large touch screen
  • Have attractive features like Bluetooth handsfree, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB, Aux, Nav capabilities, DVD playback, App integration, easy iPod integration, large bright controls, customizable displays and more.

Update – To read about the best double din head unit for 2014 – Click Here

So what makes one double din head unit better than another?

Simply put, the answer is features. For the purposes of familiarity, I will focus on the models that I sell in my store so that I can give you honest, tried and true information as if you were with me in my showroom. First up, Pioneer.

The Pioneer AVH-P2400BT is a nice entry level, but full featured, double din head unit.
The Pioneer AVH-P2400BT is a nice entry level, but full featured, double din head unit.


So what do you get for your money with the Pioneer AVH-P2400BT? Quite a bit actually.

This head unit is a great option for people looking for a nice large touch screen that will make it easy to access the music in their iPod/iPhone or other USB based MP3 player. It also has Bluetooth Audio streaming. So if you have an Android, Blackberry, iPhone or other smart phone you can pair your phone to the stereo and wirelessly stream music from your cell phone to the stereo. This is a great feature if you like to listen to a lot of music apps.

I often suggest to customers to use their cell phone apps for things like their favorite radio stations that may not come in clear in the area that they drive in. Using a cell phone app, you can listen to virtually any radio station in the world! As long as you have cell coverage, you will have 100 percent clear sound quality. Imagine that. No static on your favorite AM talk radio station. Of course you would need a smart phone, a pretty good data plan and good cell service for this to work.

With Pioneer’s CD-IU51V  iPod cable, you can use your iPhone for advanced apps. Enjoy Pandora radio on your iPhone? Simply use this optional cable and connect it to the front USB/Aux on the stereo and connect your iPhone. Then launch Pandora from your iPhone. Your stations and all artist and song title information will appear on screen along with a thumbs up and thumbs down icon. Full Pandora radio control from your iPhone on screen! How cool is that?

Additional cool features include a backup camera input, it’s satellite radio ready (although who really needs that if you have a smart phone), an 8 Band equalizer and 3 preouts (2 volt). This stereo also has a wired remote input for steering wheel control integration and a wireless remote control.

One additional cost to be aware of with all Pioneer double din head units is that they do not come with a mounting sleeve or trim ring. Most installation kits will not require this, but some cars will and this is an additional cost. If your vehicle requires a mounting sleeve and trim ring, you will need to buy the ADT-VA133 in addition to any installation kit, wiring harness or antenna adapter.

Who is this stereo NOT for?

For anyone looking to build a high fidelity audio system. The low voltage on the RCA preouts will effect your sound quality should you ever decide to add additional amplifiers. If you are planning on upgrading speakers, adding and amplifier and/or subwoofer. Check out the Pioneer AVH-P4400BH or the Kenwood DDX419.

Pioneer's AVH-P4400BH gives you a nice large easy to use touch screen
Pioneer’s AVH-P4400BH gives you a nice large easy to use touch screen


So what does the Pioneer AVH-P4400BH offer?

Additional features over the AVH-P2400BT include:

  • A larger touch screen 7″ vs 5.8″
  • The screen is also motorized and offers 5 different viewing angles.
  • Higher voltage preouts 4 Volt over 2 Volt
  • Build in HD Radio
  • Rear USB (cleaner look, no cables dangling from the front of the stereo)

Not a fan of Pioneer? Check out Kenwood’s DDX419 for a nice double din car stereo head unit.


Kenwood's DDX419 is a great option for a Double Din Car Stereo
Kenwood’s DDX419 is a great option for a Double Din Car Stereo


So what does the Kenwood DDX419 have to offer?

For one, they look awesome in European cars. Check out the matte black finish. The Pioneer’s have a shiny black. The illumination options also really capture the Red, Blue and Amber lighting of the European cars very well.

  • 6.1″ touch screen (entry level Pioneer had a 5.8″)
  • Bluetooth handsfree and audio streaming
  • 4 Volt preouts (good for aftermarket amps!)
  • Front USB/Aux
  • App mode with Pandora control for iPhone, launch any audio/video app from your iPhone and hear and view playback with the including Garmin Stree Pilot App with optional KCA-ip22F
  • SiriusXM Ready
  • Back up camera input
  • Wired remote input for steering wheel remote integration
  • Multicolor illumination
  • Volume Knob (as opposed to Volume Rocker with Pioneer)
  • Comes with mounting sleeve and trim ring
  • 3 Band EQ (Pioneer had an 8 band)

So for the cash this will set you back (if you were to also purchase the app integration iPhone cable), you get a LOT of features for the money. Remember, this head unit comes with the mounting sleeve and trim ring. The entry level Pioneer had a more advanced EQ, but a lower voltage preout. When you add in the trim ring, mounting sleeve and App cable with the entry level Pioneer, you’d be spending about the same amount of money.

So the DDX419 gives you a few features over the AVH-P2400BT

  • Higher voltage preouts
  • A volume knob
  • Larger screen

Going for the latest and greatest in cool features? Then you have to check out Pioneer’s AVH-P8400BH.


Pioneer's AVH-P8400BH offers Mixtrax and Advanced App Mode
Pioneer’s AVH-P8400BH offers MIXTRAX and Advanced App Mode


MIXTRAX was all the rave at the Pioneer booth during CES2012. What the hell is MIXTRAX? Besides being a great excuse for Pioneer’s CES organizers to hire a hot girl in short shorts and give her her very own DJ stage to entertain CES attendees and Pioneer employees, I’m not really sure who MIXTRAX would appeal to and why they would want it. You don’t get the cute girl in the short shorts when you buy the AVH-P8400BH and I certainly don’t think it will attract any cute girls in short shorts volunteering to be your own personal DJ while you drive around town listening to your car stereo.

It’s kind of like Pandora in that you tell it that you like what it’s playing and it will continue to search your music to play music with similar beats per minute. I think you can even select the beats per minute and it will find songs that match. It’s definitely geared towards customers that are into the club scene. According to Pioneer’s website:

“MIXTRAX is an innovative Pioneer technology that creates a non-stop mix of your music library complete with a range of DJ-inspired effects. Drawing from Pioneer’s rich DJ heritage with our passion for music, MIXTRAX delivers a unique DJ infused listening experience to listeners in the car. MIXTRAX takes the music from an iPod, iPhone, or USB device and plays it back with added transitions and effects, creating a virtual DJ inside the AVH-P8400BH.

MIXTRAX works by first having the MIXTRAX PC software automatically analyze a track’s BPM, bar, beat position, vocal position and mood, then adds the analyzed data to the music file. The AVH-P8400BH reads the embedded MIXTRAX data from your audio device as you enjoy precise, full featured non-stop mixes in your vehicle complete with album art that dances to the beat! You can also experience MIXTRAX as an app for the iPhone 4/4S or iPod Touch (4th Gen) and using Advanced App Mode to control the MIXTRAX app through the receiver’s touchscreen display.”

So, yeah, it’s a cool feature. Worth the additional cost? Probably not. The advanced app mode however probably is worth it.

Advanced app mode on the Pioneer AVH-P8400BH

Using the optional CD-IU201S iPod/iPhone cable you can essentially turn your double din head unit into a double din navigation unit. The advanced app mode is advanced control over select apps like MotionX GPS Drive, INRIX traffic, Rdio, and hopefully many more as developers turn out more apps.

The major difference with the preceding models app mode is the control feature. With the AVH-P4400 and the AVH-P2400BT you are launching the app from your iPhone and still controlling and entering information on your iPhone. Whatever your iPhone is doing is then reflected on screen and the audio is heard throughout the speakers in your car. Advanced mode means you’ll actually be able to control the navigation (using a specific app such as Motion X GPS).

Once you add in the additional cost of the advanced app mode cable (and don’t forget your mounting sleeve and trim ring if you need it), this stereo ends up costing quite a bit more for just a few features. That’s just my opinion anyways. I don’t ever go anywhere where I really need GPS and I don’t listen to the type of music you would hear playing in a club. For customers that own an iPhone and can appreciate the GPS app feature (or for those that listen to a lot of dance, dub step, house, etc.) it’s probably well worth it to spend the extra dough.

Now that you know what your choices are and what each model has to offer, it’s up to you to weigh what features are most important and decide what is the best double din car stereo for YOU.

Need more help making your decision? Please make a comment or email me with any questions. I’ll do my best to guide you in the exact same personalized manner that I do with my customers at my shop every day.

Thinking about getting a double din with navigation? Check out the Best Double Din Navigation section here.

New York Auto Show 2012

2012 Lexus GS 350
2012 Lexus GS 350
The all new 2012 Lexus GS 350 features a large, vibrant navigation screen.

This year I attempted to make it to the New York auto show with press passes.  I actually managed to acquire the press passes, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it down during press days.  I did however, get a chance to go today and roam among the public at the Jacob Javits Center.  Looking at all the new cars from Ford, Dodge, Jeep, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Toyota, Lexus, Honda and more, I quickly realized something.  Almost nothing was new!  At least to me.

As a mobile electronics specialist operating a retail store in Fairfield County, Connecticut, our shop sees a wide variety of clients and many of them are driving brand new cars.  Sometimes we’re the first stop after driving off the lot.  We also happen to do a lot of wholesale work for local car dealerships, often working on a brand new car before it is delivered to the customer.  After seeing so many cars today, that I’ve already seen and know well, I realized I take for granted the kind of exposure I get to new cars working in this industry.

Having said that, I still walked away from the show with valuable insight on the convenient technologies that OEM manufacturers are now offering to consumers.  The majority of these car manufacturers are creating better and better touch screen control centers with advanced navigation, app integration, multiple camera systems for driver safety and they’re offering all of that on much larger, brighter, and vibrant touch screens than ever before.  Even Mercedes has been upgraded their dinky command control screen to an acceptable 7″ screen (it’s still not touch screen though).  The OEM offerings are definitely going to give the aftermarket industry a run for its money.  I attribute the OEM competitive edge to the car manufacturer’s seemingly bottomless research and development pockets, something the aftermarket manufacturers  just don’t have.

2012 Dodge Ram Navigation Control Screen
The 2012 Dodge Ram has an oversized navigation touch screen.  Shown on display at the New York Auto Show 2012

I was disappointed that most of the vehicles on display did not have accessory or battery power on, or the option to turn it on for demonstration purposes.  As a result, I was unable to actually see or use most of the features that I wanted to see.  It wasn’t a total waste of time however, I did get some pretty nice pictures of some pretty cool cars and I enjoyed a slice with hubby at John’s Pizza on West 44th.  Enjoy.

BMW i8 Concept Car
The BMW i8 Concept Car at New York Auto Show 2012.  This car is bad ass.

This thing is just so cool looking.  Maybe Alpine is on to something with those Blue lights.

BMW 640i Frozen Paint Option Shown at New York Auto Show 2012
BMW 640i Frozen Paint Option Shown at New York Auto Show 2012

This interesting new paint concept for BMW first debuted in select 2011 M3’s.  Their Frozen series paint options were prevalent at the show……even at the Mercedes and Audi booth.

Mercedes CLS with Matte Paint at the New York Auto Show 2012
Mercedes CLS with Matte Paint at the New York Auto Show 2012

Mercedes was actually the first manufacturer to offer such a paint finish.  Introduced by Mercedes in 2010, they call it MAGNO Matte.

2012 Spyker C8 at the New York Auto Show 2012
Spyker C8 at the New York Auto Show 2012.

This vehicle caught my eye.  This is the first time I ever saw or heard of a Spyker C8. Looks pretty cool. Also looks really expensive.