DO's & DON'Ts – Picking a Car Audio Radio Head Unit in 2020

When choosing a car audio head unit (aka stereo or radio) in 2020 what are some “Do’s” and some “Don’ts” to make sure we make the best choice and get the best unit for our application? Let’s talk my opinions on what I feel you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to picking a car audio head unit in 2020.

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  1. Cesar Campos on February 24, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    I have a question, and it might sound silly, but I’ve searched a lot online and never found the answer to it. So I’ll just try asking it here, since I consider you car audio guru, I enjoy your work a lot and your videos are awesome.

    I’ve got some old school Alpine SQ oriented headunits, and I’ve been thinking of hooking a good hi-fi set of headphones to try and listen to the sound it puts out of their 4v preouts. But I know impedances don’t match (head-units have 10k ohms output, while headphones have, i guess, inputs in the range of 32 to 600ohms). If I manage to directly connect the headphones to the headunit preout, chances are I’m going to damage the stereo outputs, right?

    But what if I connect the preout to a car amplifier that matches the 10k ohms impedance, and then use the amplifier high-voltage output (stable at 4ohms and above) will there be any problem? Any chance the headphones will be getting too much voltage and be damaged in the process? I’m curious as to how detailed the sound these units put out.

  2. Rob Roy on February 24, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    Why does my amp keep overheating even with all the gains to 0.
    Bass boost off
    All zeroed out…still gets hot..turns off.

  3. MisterEE100 on February 24, 2021 at 9:44 pm

    RCA’s should have been removed years ago. Fibre is the way to go.

  4. SALAM JIHAD on February 24, 2021 at 9:45 pm


  5. bugaljuice on February 24, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    This is like trying to buy the best cassette player when the Ipod was taking over the technology. I hope the 500k viers are from the people that have shitty cars like me. Its a waste of time buying an AM HU when 90% of car manufacturers already offers amazing head units.

  6. Getoffofmycloud on February 24, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    Don’t buy the no brand inferior stereos, knocked up in some ghostyard in China, which offer no customer support at all, and the instructions that come with these stereos are poorly written, in a grammatical sense.
    Pay more $$$ for a quality branded product, which will provide you with years of reliability, and full customer support. …OH, and clearly written instructions….And probably a guarantee.

  7. Anthem • on February 24, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I hate that most good ones are over 500$ which is out of my budget

  8. Canadian kid on February 24, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    Remember 8 tracks .

  9. Max Poluektov on February 24, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    How do you deal with volume control when using digital I/O option? Normally you will disable to change the volume on the head unit, berceuse it doesn’t affect the digital output. Or there is some way to do it?

  10. Qalum on February 24, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Thinking of getting a car play Head unit from Boss. can anyone vouch for one? They seem pretty good but can’t find too many reviews on them.

  11. Elven Ranger on February 24, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Do people still steal head units in this decade?

  12. 6th gen garage on February 24, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    I dont use my phone while driving so I always have to have a CD player

  13. Lu Hernan on February 24, 2021 at 9:54 pm

    Car audio head units never combine with car aesthetics is like putting one of those Chinese Bomboxes with LEDs in your fine furniture and cozy living room, yes they sound ok but they look terrible and yes they will break your window to get that china state of the art technology.

  14. Knifemakerthor on February 24, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    I went to Crutchfield’s site and almost half of the units for my truck were out of stock. Maybe you should tell your boys at Crutchfield to do better. Or at least take down the pictures of the ones they don’t have in stock. Not a good look.

  15. John Pinestead on February 24, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    Crutch doesn’t have C300 cars

  16. quicksno on February 24, 2021 at 10:00 pm


  17. ERIC CASTRO on February 24, 2021 at 10:02 pm

    Yea i got me a cheap android head unit not long ago and now its going straight to the garbage. Might be good for stock systems but with my aftermarket setup the sound quality is just not there.

  18. Tsion Teklu on February 24, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    so I have a Toyota 2014 and got a new radio set installed today BUT i still have to use USB in order to use my Apple Carplay which makes no sense to me. I thought having a bluetooth meant that I didn’t need wires at all. Help lol.

  19. David Wingard on February 24, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    I have a question. I really want to get a radio with apple car play. My 2020 Nissan kicks didn’t come with it. However I have a backup camera. How can I make sure this isn’t messed up and I can use it?

  20. Jacana Productions on February 24, 2021 at 10:04 pm

    Ok so both of my stupid cards, Highlander and Leaf have useless head units with outdated nav and crappy audio BUT I can’t really pull them out as they display some useful information regarding the Battery / hybrid system. All I want is an external system for Apple Car play that is just a screen. I don’t want lag etc and just need it to work -wireless CarPlay would be nice but wired is OK. I see some units on the market now that are just screens that stick / attach to the dash. I thought that CarPlay units had to be certified by Apple too? Suggestions?

  21. brandon lawrence on February 24, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    Just got my $600 stereo stolen. Definitely gonna look at that pioneer with a removable face

  22. Jax Rhapsody on February 24, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    All I need is a single DIN HD RADIO with bluetooth and aux usb/sd slot. All that other shit is superfluous and unneccessary. Simple is best.

  23. Andrew Harrison on February 24, 2021 at 10:10 pm

    I have a SONY X-commander on a older sony unit, can anyone please me what other brand of head unit will work on other than sony…

  24. Frederick Gramlich on February 24, 2021 at 10:11 pm

    Looking for some recommendations on 5 channel amps with optical inputs. Something around $4-500 range. I’m personally a fan of the android radios because they come in not so normal sizes that fit odd situations better and some of them have the optical out. Figure this would bypass relying on their junk preamps.

  25. Edward Still on February 24, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    Man I miss my kraco am/fm cassette with my 7 band eq from radio shack lol the day of yesteryear….

  26. cameron20020 on February 24, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    There are good android units that rival the reputable brands, but they cost almost as much.
    I ended up getting a good android unit for my 2019 corolla hatch, because there were no offerings from pioneer, kenwood or alpine that offered a factory look.
    Their boot times are getting better too, my one takes 2-4 seconds from standby, and only uses about 10-20ma in standby. Had to check with another multimeter to check the reading was right.
    Real 1080p AHD parking cameras on a 1080p screen are awesome too.
    That being said, you do have to shop around a bit with the android units. If they’re cheap, probably crap.

  27. Samuel Kelly on February 24, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    I own an unknown TVR (british carmaker) Tuscan S (mk1). Nobody said if it is compatible. Please help!

  28. Wakko Warner on February 24, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    4:31 you will not see the benefit of an optical connection from the head unit to the amp in a automobile due to excessive road noise, unless your ride is properly sealed from external noise.. you are better off investing in higher quality components

  29. Jake Galley on February 24, 2021 at 10:15 pm

    I went onto the website and I can’t use it as my car is not registered a Ford Fiesta 2006 is not on the website

  30. Joshua Laird on February 24, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    I feel like wired carplay and android is better because it charges the phone at the same time… how hard is it to plug it in?

  31. Master Asia on February 24, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Campfire song made me chuckle a bit

  32. Herman H. Heutink on February 24, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    Maybe you can answer my question. I had a Kenwood DNR4190DABS + installed in my Jeep Wrangler. Now it wants to be that sometimes the amplifier does not turn on so that I have no sound at all. What went wrong?

  33. Keep on Tri-ing! on February 24, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    Crutchfield….hmmm no Alfa Romeo option. I’m guessing it’s not European too

  34. Robert Cook on February 24, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    Nice presentation of all pertinent considerations. I wasn’t aware of the Stinger family of head units. After some review, they also appear to be among the Android OS class of head units but with a higher price and ostensibly better build and software quality to warrant. Not sure I like the looks and a few reviews are not positive. What about an RCA to optical converter at the HU itself?

  35. Chris Cole on February 24, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    What is the best head unit option for Bluetooth music files, I have the Amazon music HD but the source file quality is still poor compared to a CD or MP3 file.

  36. glickmpb on February 24, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    Just stumbled upon this video. I have been changing car stereos for 25 years and am also a technology guy. I am upgrading my Alpine INE-W927HD because I absolutely hate it. Anyway, I will be upgrading to a Pioneer DMH-W4660NEX this week. I have done a LOT of reading, comparisons and research and this is the radio I have chosen. Why? CD’s/DVD’s are dead technology and isnt necessary in a car anymore. You can listen to MP3’s or watch movies by connecting a memory stick or streaming through the web. Plus, why have anything motorized in the head unit to go wrong!? I didnt want a radio to have built in navigation because, that too, is dead. Most everyone uses their smartphone for GPS because of very obvious reasons (real time updating, no maps to update, etc..)

    The only thing I am worried about on the Pioneer is power. I really dont know if 14 wats RMS is going to be enough without an amp. The pioneer and my Alpine max out at 50 watts, but my Alpine puts out 18 watts RMS, which means it will be louder. I may need an amp.

    Hopefully, the Pioneer will be a better radio than my Alpine. Im done with Alpine!!!

  37. Tay S on February 24, 2021 at 10:22 pm


    Into car audio to 15+ years ago. I was just thinking how big the scene was back in the early 2000s when I was into sound quality and some glass work (amateur competition ) .

    38, replacing.the system in my 83 mustang 5.0 ragtop. Here we are watching vids.

    Little more docile these days. Small 4 channel and 4 6.5 coax in the doors with a new Bluetooth head unit.


    I worked at a local shop in 01. I was boss with a alpine cva1005. Man it was $. And a refurb yet. THEN, its only source was radio. You had to buy a cd/DVD changer for the bloody thing.

  38. Jeremy V on February 24, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Does anyone else hate Android auto? I much prefer maps built in, and Bluetooth calls.

  39. John Sheen on February 24, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Crutchfield doesn’t seem to work for the UK

  40. Mark Henry on February 24, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    Hi Mark, nothing mentioned about storage of audio files. Is this a job for the head unit or are the files stored on the connected phone?

  41. Silk on February 24, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    Wish that website had better Car stereos for my 91 Cadillac

  42. Shawn Welgemoed on February 24, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Very detailed and informative! Well done Mark.

  43. William Icquatu on February 24, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    sounds to me like there’s some serious bias against android units. the big names are going to have to respond seriously with better products, because the 7-inch screen format is going to be extinct… to say nothing of their units not being able to natively support proper GPS apps like Waze or provide other functions like OBD monitoring while providing an OEM level of fitment. the criticisms of the android units being slow (in operation and boot times) is also only relevant to the first generation of units from 5 years ago – the current 6 and 8-core units (even units from 2 years ago) are VERY fast and boot within 3 seconds of car ignition.

    after having seen some of the androids in action, I’ve disqualified all the conventional units from consideration for my next upgrade (subaru WRX headunit has to GO)

  44. Sweethen K on February 24, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Can you please recommend me a 9 inch with Wi-Fi for Suzuki Baleno

  45. m g on February 24, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    US only

  46. Nomadic Expectations on February 24, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    can you resolve the problem of audio quality on an android system by introducing a DSP

  47. Tom My on February 24, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    I have a 2015 Malibu, I need One Harness 40$, another harness for 130$, Antenna Cable 20$, and Steering Wheel Controls 70$ , and the Stereo I liked was a Sony , 220$….
    PASS , i remember my 06 Chevy Aveo , I spent 100$ on stereo and 60$ for installation at the shop…….

  48. Fencer Dennis on February 24, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    FLAC FLAC FLAC please

  49. M Dutchy on February 24, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    When they make a unit with a large hi res floating screen. A large volume knob. Wireless apple. Fast boot times with NO crashing. I will buy it and to be honest the cheaper amazon funny name units are much much closer than the big boys. My instincts tell me the big boys will put themselves right out business soon because they just dont listen to feedback as much as they should.

  50. Elviz Prezilly on February 24, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    Does anyone know how big of a dyi lithium battery would power a car radio ? 4s7p ?