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How to Upgrade Your Car Stereo

Considering upgrading your car stereo? Here are five popular car audio options.

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What You Need to Know Before Upgrading Your Car Stereo

Standard car stereos often leave something to be desired. However, there is a vast range of aftermarket options that can make entertainment on the road a much more enjoyable experience.

Before you choose a car stereo system, you’ll need to establish a budget and determine which options are compatible with your vehicle. Here are five popular audio upgrades to consider.

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1. Standard DIN Car Stereo Systems

Most cars feature a standard single-DIN slot in the dashboard for compatibility with the vast majority of head units. The size of a standard DIN unit is 180 x 50 mm, although the actual depth of the system is not standardized. Standard car stereos such as these can usually be fitted by the owner.

Standard DIN systems typically feature a radio and CD player at minimum, although newer models often provide support for satellite radio and a USB port for connecting a standalone MP3 player or pen drive containing music.

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2. Double DIN Car Stereo Systems

As the name suggests, double-DIN car stereo systems are twice the size as standard ones, but not every vehicle has a large enough dashboard bay to support them. The larger size means that double-DIN units can also provide a wide range of additional features such as touch screens and integrated navigation. Like single-DIN systems, most double-DIN units feature simple plug-and-play connectivity, so you don’t need to install or cut any cables. 

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3. Car DVD Players

Double-DIN car stereo systems are sometimes available with DVD players and screens. DVD players are also backwards-compatible with CDs, allowing you to watch movies and listen to audio CDs. Most of the more recent models include a USB port as well.

If you’re thinking of buying a car DVD player, consider installing additional screens for backseat passengers. These screens are typically mounted on the headrests, although other designs and formats are available. 

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4. Upgraded Car Speakers

If you’re already investing in an upgraded head unit, you might also consider trading your standard-issue car speakers for a higher-quality sound system. The main consideration when buying car speaker systems is whether to go for a full-range or component-based system. The former features an all-in-one design for easier installation, although they are not as customizable.

Component-based systems usually have a drop-in design, allowing you to install them in the existing cutouts in the car. However, since every car is different,they will likely require professional installation. Subwoofers, by comparison, are often installed either in the parcel shelf or free-standing in the trunk.

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5. Portable Car Audio Systems

Portable car audio systems require no installation, since they are either powered by the battery and/or by the cigarette lighter. Additionally, you can use some models outside of the car itself, since you will be able to connect them to a mains power supply using a standard A/C adapter.

If you don’t want to worry about compatibility issues and rewiring, a portable system might be ideal. However, to use the built-in speakers in the car, you’ll need to be able to connect it to the head unit with either a standard auxiliary or USB input.