When it comes to car stereo systems the main thing that comes to the mind of a car owner is the head unit which in layman’s language, they commonly refer to as the car radio. What is Single DIN vs double DIN? We as carsaudio will answer his question in depth so that you can walk into a car audio shop and get the best car audio head unit.
The term “DIN” stands for “Deutsches Institut für Normung”, when translated into English it means, “The German Institute for Standardization”. This Berlin-based organization (founded in 1917) establishes and maintains thousands of standard measurements in mechanical engineering used in different automotive, engineering and tech fields.
Shopping for a car stereo, the DIN size will be the first thing you encounter at the car audio system shop from the attendant or technician attending to you. What “DIN size” do you want to purchase? That might be the first question the attendant will ask you. Worry no more because there are only two types of DIN sizes, hence we will answer the difference between single DIN vs double DIN meaning in this article.
DIN size refers to the size of the car audio stereo’s chassis, which comes in two standard sizes. The single DIN refers to car stereo head units that measure two inches high and seven inches wide. The Double DIN refers to car stereo head units that measure four inches high and seven inches wide. So it is that simple, no major technical explanation of single vs double DIN.
If you have an experience in purchasing car stereo head units, you might also have heard about something called a “DIN-and-a-half” size. Car stereo systems manufacturers rarely make those anymore because they were specially designed for older General Motors (GM) vehicles.
Which DIN size fits in my car?
Typically, car dashboards that are designed with double DIN head unit slots can also accommodate single DIN models. However, that is not suitable for car dashboards designed for single-DIN units where they do not always have enough room on board for a double DIN car stereo head unit.
Most modern cars will allow installation of either the single DIN or double DIN or both sizes. You cannot always tell just by looking at the factory stereo, especially in modern vehicles and conclude what DIN unit you require. You are required to disassemble the head unit and look for expansion grooves that hold the unit’s chassis.
The easiest way to check whether a unit’s DIN size suits your car is by using an online lookup tool. These tools will require you to enter the make, model and year of manufacture of your vehicle, after which they will present results letting you know if your car can fit a single-DIN stereo, a double-DIN model or both.
An aftermarket stereo can upgrade your driving experience in a big way. Now that you know the details of single DIN vs double DIN head units, you will be in a great position to choose the best stereo for your needs. You can check our detailed review of our top aftermarket car audio head units in the market 2022.
Which is better between a single DIN vs double DIN?
The main functionality of these units remains the same. The only difference comes in their physical size and some functionality features.
This should not be a major concern to you as a car owner because aside from the few differences in functionality features, double vs single DIN car stereo systems are all equal in terms of sound quality. This is because most audio systems require amplification in order to boost the sound quality and volume. The biggest difference you will experience is the screen size and physical size.
Therefore, single DIN vs double DIN sound quality has no difference not unless the unit comes with an inbuilt amplifier that rivals most inbuilt car amplifiers hence you will experience a difference. The main advantage or the big difference between a double DIN unit over a single DIN unit is the screen where most of them have a touchscreen capability. These touchscreen displays have various advantages when it comes to usability.
If the screen has touchscreen and smartphone integrated capabilities, the better. Some single DIN head units come with flip-out touch screens to save on space. These fold-out touch screens let you have the benefit of the touchscreen even when your car only has room for a single-DIN stereo.
Touchscreens are easy to operate since they eliminate a lot of buttons from the dashboard. These screens are full display where they can display high-definition colours hence making them colourful displays. Some manufacturers have integrated smartphone features which are compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
These features allow you to have your car easily connected to your phone. You can easily access features such as on-screen GPS navigation and media files such as music apps like Spotify and Pandora. The challenge that touch screen stereos pose to the installer is that they are a little more difficult to install because you have to connect a few extra wires. Therefore, it all boils down to the car owner’s tastes and preference and also how deep they can dig into their pockets.
Which one is now better for you, single DIN vs double DIN?
Which one is better for you? Which one should you get? The main factor that will guide you through is the size of the chassis of the head unit. Which one is your car compatible with? Single DIN radio or double DIN radio, they do not differ much in terms of sound quality not unless the double DIN has an inbuilt amplifier.
Which one should you get then? Firstly, size really matters and sound quality in-car stereo head units hence it is a key consideration worth factoring in. What good will a stereo do if it has all the smart features but does not play high quality stereo music?
Where the double DIN ups the single DIN is in its extra usability features. If you have space, for a double DIN, go for it. They are more expensive though but otherwise, a good single DIN will do just fine.
What to look for in a single DIN or a double DIN
As a car owner who wants to do a car stereo upgrade, you need to have a clear idea of the features you want in a car stereo system so that you can know what to look for. For instance, audio sources are a major feature. Therefore, you can choose between a CD player and AV receiver which are now regarded as old fashioned. However, today prefer to use a USB port and auxiliary input for media connectivity.
Another thing worth considering is smartphone integration. A car stereo that can play your music via Bluetooth will be an added bonus. Smartphone integration is key today for car owners who use music streaming services like Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora they can connect to their head units via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The differences between single DIN vs double DIN
Around the world, cars have either single DIN head units while others have the double DIN units installed. We will take you through a single DIN vs double DIN discussion in order to have a better understanding of the differences between them. The major differences include:
Double DIN units have a larger faceplate which measures seven inches in length by four inches in depth. On the other hand, single DIN head unit faceplates measure seven inches in length by two inches in depth. The double DIN head unit is twice the height of a single DIN head unit but equal in length. This is one of the most important factors to know about to avoid wastage by purchasing the wrong head unit.
The double DIN head units have more features than their single DIN counterparts. Most of them have a large touchscreen that makes using the stereo more convenient. However, the single DIN models are also functional and have practical features. Due to the bigger size of double DIN units, manufacturers have more space to play around with where they will naturally fit extra features such as a pre-amp.
Double DIN head units come with additional features like easy-to-control User Interface (UI) options and touch screens. This makes the end-user experience better by leaps and bounds. Some might even come with full touchscreen HD video screens, DVD players, smartphone compatible head units for the best content consumption experience which allow video streaming and graphical user interfaces.
This is one of the major differences between single DIN vs double DIN. The second type takes more space but they offer a great user experience with plenty of smart features including camera option, smartphone apps integration and much more.
Double DIN models are ahead in terms of functionality features but single DIN units fit a wide variety of dashboards. Besides that, they provide a clean interface with an easy-to-use control panel. They have an ardent fan following because not many people want to deal with a complicated stereo system when driving.
The final difference in double DIN vs single DIN is the usability. Touch Screen stereos come with many modern features such as support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. This allows smartphone integration with Android and Apple phones and tablets. To make it easier for the driver, they also come equipped with satellite radio, a GPS and rear-view camera option. Therefore, you will often find that modern features are a must in double DIN stereos which are the extra features and usability things to consider.
Pros and cons for single DIN vs double DIN
We are going to highlight some pros and cons of the two units:
Single DIN head units
- Single DIN head units are relatively easy to install due to their smaller physical size and less wiring.
- Single DIN head units can be an affordable but significant upgrade to a broken or outdated car stereo.
- Single DIN head units may have added features like an auxiliary input jack, USB ports or Bluetooth audio connectivity features.
- Single DIN head units are smaller hence there is not much room for many controls. The controls can be squeezed up hence making them difficult to access.
- Typically, single DIN stereos do not have a touchscreen but a small LED screen to indicate key functions of the unit. Some units come with a fold-out touchscreen, but these are relatively rare and more expensive.
Now let us take a look at the pros and cons of:
Double DIN head units
- Double DIN car stereos have more room for controls and other functionalities. The extra real estate means that the controls on double DIN models are often easier to access and use than those on single DIN units.
- Their size advantage allows double DIN stereos to offer room for a touchscreen. A touchscreen stereo offers some significant benefits. Compared to stereos without screens, touch screen stereos tend to be easier to use and readable. They also offer superior phone integration. Additionally, some touch screen stereos can be connected to features such as a rear-view camera system, on-screen GPS navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which are features typically not offered with single-DIN head units.
- Some double DIN head units come equipped with inbuilt pre-amplifiers which boost the sound reproduction capacity of the head unit.
- These units beautify the car’s dashboard eliminating the plain look.
- Double-DIN stereos are more technical to install than single DIN head units.
- Double-DIN units are more expensive than their single-DIN counterparts, not unless you are shopping from a premium car audio manufacturer.
Buying you head unit of choice: single din vs double din
Quick Buyer’s Guide
Buying a new car stereo head unit should be a fun factor for car owners. By reading our guide, you will be in a great position to have one of the best car audio upgrades of your life. Here are the things to consider while buying a car stereo.
It is always good to know what you expect from your car stereo beforehand. By doing this you can get exactly the features you want and do not want a money saving process.
But my current stereo is not rectangle-shaped, what do I do?
What you see can be deceiving technically. In the modern car audio world, it is somewhat technical to remove the factory stereo and just slide in a brand-new aftermarket stereo car head unit into its place. Nearly every vehicle requires an installation kit to let you install a new stereo and trim it out to look like a nice finish of the dashboard area.
Sourcing and acquiring the installation gear you need
This can be done via online car audio shops or visiting a car audio dealer shop. You have to understand your vehicle specifications in order to source and acquire a mounting kit to help you or your car audio technician fit the stereo into the dash. You will also be required to purchase wiring harnesses to help with all the wire connections. Many vehicles also need other adapters to make the stereo work safely with your car’s electronics.
Many car owners look forward to upgrading the stereo’s receiver. It is an opportunity to update the car’s entertainment system and enhance the dashboard technology. However, many people cannot decide between single DIN vs double DIN or the features they should look for in the stereo unit. You should get relevant information beforehand which we have explained at the beginning of this article.
Single DIN Vs double DIN sound quality
When it comes to sound quality, there is little to no difference between the single DIN and double DIN head unit. The real difference between the two receivers is in the size of the display and the features that can be added to the stereo system because of the size. Sound quality is dependent on the brand and model of the head unit, not the size, along with your speakers, amplifier, and subwoofer. So, car audio quality relies on the whole system setup and not the head unit alone.
Key features to look for in a car stereo head unit: single DIN vs double DIN
When you are deciding between single DIN vs double DIN, you will need to have a clear idea of the features you want in your car’s stereo system. These are some of the crucial considerations that are really worth it:
The major audio sources that you can choose from are the traditional CD player and an A/V receiver with a colour screen. Modern users will prefer a receiver featuring a USB port, memory cards slots and auxiliary input.
Smartphone and Apps Integration
Smartphones have become essential devices in the modern world today. Therefore, a stereo receiver that can connect to exterior devices via Bluetooth feature will be a blessing for the smartphone addicts. People who love to play music streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and more will be delighted to know that many units have functions to control these apps.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are the recent software updates in both the single DIN and double DIN units. They enhance smartphone integration which makes the functionality of the head units much more practical.
What is stopping you from getting a car stereo with smart features? Things like easy phone integration are great to have and make life much easier. Head units come preloaded with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters. These features allow the car owners to use their car stereo systems remotely. These features are practical during outdoor events such as picnics where people are sitting outside the car.
Not to mention, services like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay makes using your entertainment set easier and convenient. They have very nice interfaces, just like an ordinary smartphone UI and can play your Spotify or Apple Music library seamlessly.
They might seem to have lost popularity but all the car stereo receivers these days have built-in AM/FM radio. Radios are good for brief news bites and staying up to date with the present affairs while still on the drive. When buying a car stereo head unit, you should look for something more such as HD Radio and satellite radio. The HD radio enhances the audio quality of the local radio stations while the satellite radio feature allows people to listen to their favourite stations from anywhere.
Today, digital radios are swiftly replacing conventional ones. Not only are digital radios loved for their better, crisper sound quality, but they also win the game with their array of helpful functions such as the ability to play songs straight from your Spotify library. You can enjoy the music made to suit your taste without having to shift your concentration from driving in order to select music.
The GPS positioning system in a smartphone can be used to load navigational maps hence facilitating easy access to streets, parking spaces and traveling to unfamiliar places. A GPS lets you give your undivided attention to the road when you are crossing a new area and you can get to your desired location without asking around every shop around every block.
Aftermarket stereos do tend to come with integrated GPS systems sometimes but that does not mean that the price will be higher due to this. As smartphone integration becomes a necessity more than a trend, you can rely on using GPS navigation on the stereo unit. This simplifies the entire process of enjoying the content and lets you manage your device through the head unit for a safer and seamless driving experience.
Upgrading The System
Additionally, if you want to upgrade the sound system of the vehicle by incorporating extra subwoofers, amplifiers, or similar accessories, it is best to look for a unit with high voltage RCA pre-outs. Make sure the car stereo you are choosing is scalable which means that it will allow upgrades.
To do this, check the number of preamp outputs; you can find them on the rear end of the head unit. The perfect stereo head unit has an adequate number of outputs. Preamp outputs come with a specific line voltage label, for example 2V, 4V, 8V, and 16V in some models. The more the line voltage, the lesser the noise produced by the speakers.
In some cases, a single DIN and double DIN stereo unit might be the straight replacement needed for your vehicle. In other cases, a vehicle-specific dash kit may be best for a seamless installation. Ensure that you have the right dash kit for your car to allow seamless disassembly. You can purchase the vehicle-specific tool kit from a car audio shop either online or physically. In case of any problem, ask for consultation from a car audio installation technician.
These days, modern car manufacturers in the industry are investing in detachable touchscreen screens which can be used as tablets. These head units used as detachable Android tablets are a modern trend in the car audio industry. Not only can they provide a seamless experience inside the vehicle when you are driving, but they can also be helpful outside such as in picnics, barbeque vents where they function as regular smart tablets.
These tablets feature a genuine Android OS along with a 13-band equalizer to fine-tune your music. In addition, it is also resistant to serious vibrations and severe temperature and the detachability feature will give you the added benefit of anti-theft properties. The tablet can connect with the rear camera of the vehicle automatically once shifted to reverse gear and can be linked with the optional parking sensors.
Back seat car users can also detach the tablet and use it to stream their favourite content. Whether a good stereo unit is a business need or something you need to kick back and relax in your vehicle, or even act as a learning medium for your children, this will be the one simple solution to all your demands.
The head unit is tasked with receiving inputs from the audio sources. Both single DIN and double DIN head units have the same capability. They output the sound to the vehicle’s speakers through the internal amplifier. Two power ratings are used by the internal amplifier: RMS (Root Mean Square) and Peak Power (PMPO).
Peak power expresses the maximum amount of power an amplifier is equipped to produce at certain moments in a media file being played, which might be some milliseconds, while RMS power describes the amount of power an amplifier will make consistently with regular usage. If you are a music aficionado where you run the speakers at full volume 24/7, RMS rating is more important for you.
Usually, a high RMS power is considered good as it provides more leeway when it comes to volume without exceeding the amplifier’s limit. Low RMS power leads to audio sound distortion. Remember also that more wattage does not equal better audio quality. It is decided by numerous factors such as quality of the digital-analog converter audio source, digital signal processing, equalization, , and also car speakers.
For instance, Audio tuning features are becoming a regular thing in most modern car stereo head units. You can use the “Time Alignment” feature to correct course in case the tune goes out of sync, “Bass Boost” feature to make the lowest sound frequencies sharper, and the “Bad-equalizer” for overall soundstage control.
Everything comes at a price and this will mostly influence the type of equipment that you install into your car audio system. A perfect balance needs to be achieved between need and the will to pay for it. You can find many decent car stereos in the market that will not lead to a bank heist.
However, if you are in a position to splurge a little, you can take things to the next level through adequate budgeting. This way, you can get a clearer picture to begin weighing out your options between features and pricing. Once the over-budget stereos have been eliminated, choose the best one within your budget.
The verdict: which is better, single DIN vs double DIN?
After analysing these factors, details, features and differences regarding single DIN vs double DIN car head units, by now you must have a pretty good idea about the right one to choose for your needs. Starting with their audio quality, both single DIN vs double DIN sound quality performance is the same.
A double DIN car head unit will offer many more features due to the bigger display screens. On the other hand, a single DIN head unit is much more compact making it easy to install in most cars because few have enough space for a double DIN head unit. Simply because the single DIN stereo has fewer features does not make it inferior to a double DIN in any way.
A double DIN is a better choice if you want to upgrade the system in the near future or immediately. Double DIN head units help to elevate and beautify the entire look of the car’s interior. Gone are the days when you had to refer to your smartphone GPS maps to see the route because now it will be displayed on the double DIN stereo screen.
When you put all the features together you get two solid options good for a vast array of things. Before finalizing anything, have a budget in mind and try to stick to it. You do not have to go out of your way to afford a car stereo head unit as there are quite a few affordable options that are equally amazing.
If you have gone through this single DIN vs double DIN comparison review article by carsaudio, make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. We will be delighted to hear your response to our informative single DIN vs double DIN article.