Car radios in test

The best car radio for us is the Sony DSX-A410BT. The model offers 4x 55 watts of power and a 10-band equalizer in the classic 1-DIN format. Via Bluetooth, the radio can be paired with the smartphone to use the hands-free function. Due to the low price, the model is also our price tip.

Maik Rowinski

From Maik Rowinski

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PlaceProductRatingPrice
1 Sony DSX-A410BT Very good (1.4) 94,80 €
2 JVC KD-R981BT Good (1.5) n.v.
3 Alpine CDE-196DAB Good (1.5) n.v.
4 Pioneer MVH-190UB Good (1.7) n.v.
5 JVC KD-X341BT Good (1,8) n.v.
6 JVC KD-X441DBT Good (1.9) n.v.
7 JVC KD-R881BT Good (2,0) n.v.
8 Blaupunkt Stockholm 230 Good (2.0) n.v.
9 Pioneer DEH-X7800DAB Good (2,1) n.v.
10 Kenwood KMM-BT203 Good (2,2) n.v.

Sony DSX-A410BT

  1. 4x 55 watt power
  2. USB playback
  3. relatively inexpensive
  1. no CD player

94,80 €

JVC KD-R981BT

  1. 4x 50 watts of power
  2. CD& USB playback
  3. variable lighting
  4. good price-performance ratio

Alpine CDE-196DAB

  1. 4x 50 watts power
  2. CD& USB playback
  3. variable lighting
  4. DAB+ Reception
  1. relatively expensive

Pioneer MVH-190UB

  1. 4x 50 Watt power
  2. USB playback
  3. very good value
  1. no Bluetooth
  2. No CD player

JVC KD-X341BT

  1. 4x 50 watt power
  2. with Bluetooth
  3. USB playback
  1. no CD player

JVC KD-X441DBT

  1. 4x 50 watt power
  2. variable lighting
  3. DAB+ reception
  4. with Bluetooth
  1. no CD player

JVC KD-R881BT

  1. 4x 50 watt power
  2. variable lighting
  3. CD& USB playback
  4. with Bluetooth

Blaupunkt Stockholm 230

  1. 4x 50 watt power
  2. CD, SDHC& USB playback
  3. DAB+ reception
  4. with Bluetooth
  1. relatively expensive

Pioneer DEH-X7800DAB

  1. 4x 50 Watt power
  2. CD& USB playback
  3. DAB+ reception
  4. with Bluetooth

Kenwood KMM-BT203

  1. 4x 50 watt power
  2. USB playback
  3. with Bluetooth
  1. no CD player

Buying advice and guide

Sony car radio Lifestyle

© Sony / Sony car radio controlled by smartphone

Car radios have developed into multimedia all-rounders nowadays. The devices are available in every price range and offer an immense range of functions.

On the one hand, they can play a wide variety of audio media and formats, and on the other hand, the powerful devices are equipped with navigation function and GPS, and can also be paired with the cell phone or smartphone as a hands-free device. In addition, they have multiple ports so that external devices such as MP3 players or iPods can be connected.

What are the advantages of digital radio reception?

In many areas of daily life, z.B. From television to telephone and other devices, digital radio technology has long been used. This also applies to digital radio reception in Germany.

Sony Lifestyle car radio

The situation is quite different with permanently installed car radios, in this case a conversion is quite expensive or not possible at all. Sometimes digital radio is only available in combination with a cost-intensive equipment line or is not offered at all. So, considering the long life of cars, it is recommended to invest the extra price for a DAB+ radio.

The Sound quality of DAB+ is clearly better than those on the frequencies from 30 to 15.000 Hertz limited ultra short wave. The unpleasant noise is eliminated and during a car ride there is no need to regularly adjust to a new frequency. With DAB+ there is also helpful program-accompanying additional information such as traffic data or more.

Which features are important?

Power per speaker output

Essential are the power of the model in watts and the number of available speaker outputs. High-quality models can simultaneously operate four speakers with an output of 25 watts. By using a power amplifier, this performance can be maximized even more. However, the indication of the wattage of car radios is rather important for advertising effectiveness. Due to the low operating voltage of 12 volts, only 20 watts RMS per channel are possible even with modern power amplifiers.

Equalizer for sound optimization

An equalizer is an electronic control unit designed to boost or cut selected frequencies of an amplifier’s sound spectrum. Depending on the type of device, two different types of equalizers are available. On the one hand the equalizer presets, with these you can choose between preconfigured equalizer settings. On the other hand, the so-called multi-band equalizers, which allow you to boost or cut certain frequencies yourself.

Removable control panel

The display should be completely retractable in the car radio and the front panel should be removable to effectively protect the car radio from theft. Modern car radios are additionally protected by a security code, which is requested when the car radio is disconnected from the power supply.

Security code when disconnected from the power supply

Since about the 1980s, car radios have been protected against theft with a predefined code number. This usually four-digit PIN code reactivates the device after it has been disconnected from the power supply. Input is made via the control buttons on the device.

Playable music formats

In the past, the car radio was more or less exclusively a radio receiver. A built-in cassette player offered the possibility to listen to own music as well. Today a CD player belongs to the minimum equipment. Higher quality models also offer a built-in DVD player to play music and movies.

USB port with direct playback function

A USB port is a useful feature for taking personal music files into the car on a USB stick. In addition, the USB port can be used to connect and charge other devices such as the cell phone.

Memory card slot

Very practical is also a microSD card slot to transfer larger amounts of data. A Bluetooth interface enables wireless data transmission and the use of a hands-free car kit.

Double tuner for better radio reception

For optimal radio reception you should buy a car radio with dual tuner. This allows radio signals to be searched in parallel on two tuners at the same time. If the frequency on the main tuner becomes weaker, the radio automatically switches to the second one.

Integrated navigation system

The combination of car radio and navigation device is today already possible for a low purchase price. Such a model saves the space-intensive installation of two different devices and has all functions available.

What is the difference between 1-DIN and 2-DIN models?

Nowadays, a car radio offers, among other things, connection options, USB interfaces and numerous additional functions. Previously, vehicles had a single DIN slot measuring 182 x 50 millimeters, while the radio in modern cars often occupies two DIN slots.

There are two ways to replace the car radio: Either by means of a special installation frame or one reaches for the double DIN radio. Because these are higher, they offer more space for display, buttons and all connections.

The displays are also easier to read and the controls are also more clearly arranged. Basically, the installation of a double DIN radio is only possible if 2 slots are available in the driver’s cockpit.

Often USB inputs and SD card reader are installed, often there are also Bluetooth modules for hands-free and wireless audio playback.

How to realize the installation and removal of the car radio?

Sony Lifestyle car radio

If you are now the proud owner of a new car radio, the old one must first be replaced with the new one. When installing and removing it is important to pay attention to a few things, but it is actually quite simple. Basically, do not force it out or use tools like screwdrivers.

Basically to note:

  • In some car brands such as Audi, VW and Opel, the plug assignment of permanent and switch plus is often reversed. For a new car radio to work, the pin assignments must be changed.
  • In a very old car, an adapter may need to be plugged in between the wiring.

Remove the old car radio:

  • First disconnect the battery and remove the cover of the old car radio.
  • Unlocking pins are needed to remove the radio from the bay. These were supplied with the radio or can be borrowed from a garage.
  • Carefully remove the old unit from the clamping device so that no connectors are torn out.
  • Disconnect all connections.
  • Remove the installation frame of the old device using a slotted screwdriver.

Installation of the new car radio

  • When buying, make sure that the connectors are compatible and that the model (1-DIN or 2-DIN) fits.
  • The new mounting frame is inserted; bend the metal tabs accordingly.
  • Connect the connectors.
  • Push the cables back with feeling and insert the device only halfway to perform a small test at this point.
  • Plug in the control panel of the new radio and switch on. If everything works, you can finish installing the car radio. If not, the wiring is probably not proper.
  • If the car radio fits correctly, attach the cover of the new car radio.

Maik Rowinski

Maik Rowinski, Editor-in-Chief

Maik is one of the founders of this project and as chief editor he is a part of this team. As a trained plant mechanic, technology nerd and passionate do-it-yourselfer, Maik is our expert for the categories electronics, DIY and recreation.

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