The car stereo is the primary interface by which drivers and passengers interact with the sound system. Having a high-end car stereo can truly change the experience of a vehicle, especially if there’s any interest at all in the system of the vehicle.
Today, there are plenty of car stereos available with great amounts of functionality. Though this functionality should be the main factor in determining which stereo is best for your vehicle, knowing which brands produce the top stereos can help narrow your search and get you to the right product faster.
So in this article, we’ll consider the top 9 best car stereo brands on the market today.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Variety of stereos
- Performance of the stereos
- Price-performance ratio
- The company/brand must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The top 9 best car stereo brands in the world are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 9 best car stereo brands. For each brand, I’ll share their country of origin; a bit of history; an example of a notable stereo, and a link to their official website.
Kenwood is a brand synonymous with state-of-the-art Japanese technology. Since its beginnings as the Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd. in 1946, the company has continued to improve as a leader in audio/video and communications products.
The 2011 merger with JVC has given the Kenwood brand even more resources to produce world-class car stereos. Today, both Kenwood and JVC are still represented as brands of this larger corporation (and both are featured in My New Microphone’s best car stereo brands).
The brand’s excellent car entertainment range of products includes some of the best stereos on the market. From pristine audio in the high-end receivers to superb functionality in the multimedia and navigation systems, Kenwood will surely have what you’re looking for in a car stereo.
Notable car stereo: Kenwood Excelon Reference DNR1007XR (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
Kenwood’s Excelon Reference line of products is a great deal for Hi-Fi enthusiasts wanting a superb sound system installed in their vehicle. Setting a new standard in audio excellence, this high-end product line features state-of-the-art speakers, amplifiers, connectors and, of course, stereos. Kenwood’s DNR1007XR is a stand-out navigation multimedia receiver with Bluetooth and HD radio in the car stereo market.
The DNR1007XR is designed and manufactured with custom-made and rigorously selected parts, including pro-audio-quality power supply capacitors, high-end coupling capacitors, and cross-shaped panel structures. The result of such invested design is a highly flexible unit with pristine Hi-Res audio.
This High-Resolution audio can even be transmitted via Bluetooth thanks to the LDAC codec.
Fine-tune advanced sound properties to achieve professional sound quality. This stereo has a fantastic 13-band graphic EQ with Time Alignment technology. Users can easily (and visually) adjust the Q factor, slope, frequency, and gain at 14 points separately (Common: 9 / Front: 2 / Rear: 2 / Subwoofer: 1) for the perfect equalization for your car and speaker system.
But the audio specifications aren’t the only superior aspects of this stereo. The AAS display technology of the LCD panel provides a wide viewing angle, making it easy to see the monitor from any seat. Advanced navigation utilizes the industry-leading Garmin navigation software. The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gives users safe, smart and comprehensive control of the entire systems using an iPhone or Android phone, respectively.
The DNR1007XR’s user interface features a 10.1” HD display with a capacitive touch panel and floating mechanism with a 3-way position adjustment, making it a great tool for managing the virtually limitless options.
Improved safety is made possible with 4 independent camera inputs with adjustable parking guidelines.
Combine this top-notch stereo with the Excelon Reference line of speakers and amplifier for an excellent vehicle sound system.
Kenwood Corporation was founded in 1946 as Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd. by William Kasuga in Komagane City, Japan. In 1960, the company was renamed Trio Corporation and in 1986, the company bought the internal brand name “Kenwood” and made it the company name. In October 2008, Kenwood merged with JVC to form a new holding company called JVCKenwood. Today the company headquarters is located in Tokyo, Japan.
Official website: jvckenwood.com
Parent company: JVCKenwood
Sony is one of those brands that require no introduction at all. Furthermore, most people in the world have either owned or at least used a Sony apparatus at some point in their life. This reputation as a reliable, great-sounding brand was forged one great product at the time since the 1940s.
The first Sony-labeled product to make it to the market was actually the TR-55, a transistor radio. This legacy has carried forward to the present day when Sony produces its world-class car stereos.
Sony has risen to prominence as a synonym of cutting-edge technology applied to improving the way humans experience audio. The brand’s Car & Marine products include some of the best car stereos on the market today.
Notable car stereo: Sony XAV-AX7000 (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
The XAV-AX7000 is a high-power media receiver featuring voice control for both Android and Apple smartphones and a Bezel-less capacitive touch screen with anti-glare technology. Furthermore, with the dual USB ports, you can connect the phone and another USB device simultaneously.
The ability to create your own virtual speakers on the dashboard with the Dynamic Stage Organizer offers superb versatility to go along with the unit’s four built-in 100-watt power amplifiers. Unlike standard amp head units, the XAV-AX7000 has power to spare, allowing it to drive a subwoofer and a full car speaker system simultaneously.
Achieve high-quality audio reproduction with the built-in Dynamic Stage Organizer, which adjusts the audio signal in each speaker to improve stereo positioning and make music sound like it’s coming from the dashboard. Refine the audio even further with a user-friendly 10-band graphic equalizer.
As we could expect from a top-performing modern car stereo, the XAV-AX7000 has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also beautiful navigation, WebLink compatibility, and rearview camera compatibility.
If you are looking for a state-of-the-art car stereo, Sony is a top brand to go for. The XAV-AX7000 is one of the options from this superb brand.
Sony was founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita in Nihonbashi, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan. The company is headquartered in Sony City, Minato, Tokyo, Japan.
Official website: sony.com
Blaupunkt was originally founded in Germany in 1923 as a headphone manufacturer. Today, the company is regarded as an innovator of car audio by fans and enthusiasts around the world.
The company is responsible for many turning points in the history of car audio like the first FM-capable car radio (1949), and the first in-dash CD player (1989), as examples appropriate to this article. The same early passion for precision and forward-thinking lives in every Blaupunkt product today.
It’s tough to go wrong with a Blaupunkt car stereo. The brand offers a wide variety of models to suit the specifics of any car.
Since all production was moved to China, the company has been able to offer the most modern features at more competitive prices. If you are looking for pure German engineering and no-frills designs, they can be yours at a fraction of the market price buying from Blaupunkt.
Notable car stereo: Blaupunkt Bremen SQR 46 DAB (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
Originally released in 1986, the Bremen SQR46 triumphantly returns with modern technological updates to make it current.
Utilizing a very similar display and set of controls as its predecessor, the Bremen SQR46DAB does look like it just came out from a time-travelling machine. The good news is that the crystal-clear FM receptor that made the Bremen so famous back in the 80s remains intact.
Beyond the retro look, this Blaupunkt unit packs some real modern features under the hood. For example, it is Bluetooth compatible and offers USB, SD, and SDHC up to 32GB.
In addition to the classic sound presets (Rock, Pop and Classic), the Bremen SQR 46 DAB featured 3-band semi-parametric equalizer for user-defined equalization. It also has X-Bass, which increases bass outputs at lower volumes for a more even sound across all listening volumes (our ears aren’t very sensitive to bass frequencies, especially at low volumes).
This superb vintage-style stereo offers 4-channel preamp outputs (4V) along with four 50-Watt power amp outputs and a separate subwoofer output.
Finally, it features short mounting depth, which is crucial to update the audio system in your classic car. If you want the best of modern times in a timeless package, this might be it.
Blaupunkt was founded as “Ideal Radiotelefon & Apparatefabrik” in 1923 by Robert Bosch in Berlin, Germany. In 1933, the company was acquired by Robert Bosch AG and much later, in 2009, by Aurelius AG. In 2015, the company filed for bankruptcy but the brand has since been taken on by GIP Development SARL and remains in production to this day. Today, the company is headquartered in Hildesheim, Germany.
Official website: blaupunkt.com
Parent company: Aurelius AG
Though the Clarion brand name only came about in 1970, the company behind the brand has been around since the 1940s.
Today, as a part of Faurecia, Clarion designs, develops, manufactures, and sells automotive products worldwide. They grew a reputation for excellent attention to detail in design and outstanding manufacturing quality, all at competitive prices.
Indeed, the company provides OEM products to customers like Suzuki, Ford, Saab, Volkswagen, Toyota, Peugeot, and Subaru, among many others. Whether it’s within the stock system or a car stereo upgrade, Clarion is a fantastic choice.
So, if you are looking for simplicity, reliability, and great sound, you have to check Clarion out. Car manufacturers like the ones mentioned above choose Clarion for simple and reliable audio systems with exceptional sound quality to satisfy their customer’s needs, and you certainly may want to as well.
Notable car stereo: Clarion CZ309 (link to check it out at Clarion)
The Clarion CZ309 has been upgraded from its original CD receiver design to include many more modern features. This stereo brings together the past and the future, offering a CD player along with a USB, Aux-in, SD-card player to which you can even plug a smartphone.
Furthermore, the unit is prepared to receive CD-R and CD-RW discs you can burn at home, and, since it reads MP3 format, you can put your favourite songs together and create an old-school physical playlist. Finally, to really bring the unit into modern times, the Bluetooth interface allows for easy music streaming and hands-free calling.
This radio/stereo provides 11 preset equalization patterns and an EQ USER sections where listeners can freely customize the level and range of the bass, midrange and treble frequencies.
The four power amp outputs offer 45-watts of maximum power output.
This is a serious choice for those looking for a classic approach with great sound but without the bells and whistles of many large touchscreen units.
Clarion Co., Ltd was originally founded in Japan as the Hakusan Wireless Electric Company in 1940. In 1943, it merged with Takizawa Wireless Electric Industries Co., Ltd., being renamed Teikoku Dempa Co., Ltd. and in 1970 the company rebranded as Clarion. In 2019, the brand was acquired by the French company Fauceria. Today the Clarion headquarters is located in Saitama, Japan.
Official website: clarion.com
Parent company: Faurecia
Since being founded in 1927, JVC has been making a name for itself as a top brand for audio/video technology. JVC even received an Emmy Award in 2001 for its “outstanding achievement in technological advancement”.
Just like it happened with Kenwood, JVC products have reached a new plateau post-merger. Generally speaking, JVC’s car entertainment products perform well above their price class, delivering superb sound without breaking the bank. From the company’s subwoofers and backup cameras to its in-dash receivers and multimedia stereo units, you can except JVC products to hold incredible value.
When it comes to car stereos, JVC offers a wide variety of superb units. Find the ideal stereo for your vehicle and enjoy the improved audio and flexibility.
Notable car stereo: JVC KW-Z1000W (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
With its big 10.1” HD (1280×720) screen and an HDMI input, there is no doubt this is way more than just a car stereo. Indeed, the company calls it a Digital Media Receiver, and it packs enough features to entertain the entire family on a long trip.
To begin with, this powerhouse is compatible with iDatalink Maestro, which allows you to integrate the unit with your car’s info and controls. On top of that, the ability to see on the screen the car’s cameras or your phone’s content through HDMI is great for both safety and entertainment.
As we’d expect, it also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
For the hi-fi lovers out there, this Hi-Res certified unit (playback of up to 192kHz/24bit audio) includes an impressive 13-band EQ to fine-tune the sound of any source. Time Alignment technology can also be dialled in to affect the phase relationships of sound waves within the vehicle and present certain listening positions with the ideal sound quality.
Bluetooth streaming also sounds surprisingly good thanks to the LDCA codec, which sends approximately three times more data (at the maximum 990kbps transfer rate) than conventional Bluetooth.
JVC original K2 technology reproduces the original master sound by effectively “filling in” information lost due to audio frequency and sample rate frequency restrictions of certain digital audio formats (I’m looking at you, mp3!).
Although the features are just too many to list here, you get the idea. If you’re in the market for a one-stop solution that sounds amazing, this can be a great candidate. Check the rest of the specs and watch promotional videos here.
JVC (Victor Company of Japan, Ltd.) was founded in 1927 as a subsidiary of the United States company, the Victor Talking Machine Company. In 2008, JVC merged with Kenwood Corporation to create JVCKenwood. The company headquarters is located in Yokohama, Japan.
Official website: jvc.com
Parent company: JVCKenwood
Since Pioneer’s 1938 start as a radio and speaker repair shop, it has grown immensely to become a synonym of quality and performance around the world.
The company played a crucial role with its innovations in the CD revolution and became the go-to choice for DJs around the globe. It was through creating bold, cutting-edge products in that field that Pioneer could gain enough insight on audio and performance to reinvent the car audio scene globally.
Today, Pioneer car stereos are sold worldwide and still represent excellence in automotive audio. The same revolutionary spirits that lead the brand to worldwide acclaim are beating inside the heart of every product bearing the Pioneer logo.
Notable car stereo: Pioneer DMH-WT8600NEX (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
This is the kind of flagship car stereo you can expect from such a brand as Pioneer. Indeed, the all-in-one approach features a capacitive touch screen on the 10.1” floating screen to effortlessly control the plethora of options available. The slim single-DIN chassis fits into most car dashboards with ease.
To begin with, Hi-Fi lovers will love to play their favourite music utilizing the front USB input to feed FLAC files to the Hi-Res playback. Adjusting the 13-band graphic EQ makes dialling in the perfect equalization fast, easy, and as involved as most listeners could ever want.
The built-in MOSFET amplifier offers 50-watts peak power x 4 channels. 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, sub) allows for ample expandability if and when it’s needed.
On the other hand, if you want to stream or listen to crystal-clear digital radio, you can use Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Alexa, and Pioneer’s own CarAVAssist app that allows you to stream from the phone straight to the car’s screen.
Finally, it is fully compatible with Bluetooth technology and can even run the car’s cameras through the screen with a 720p resolution.
The top of the crop in car entertainment receivers can very well be this Pioneer unit.
Pioneer Corporation was founded by Nozomu Matsumoto in 1938 in Tokyo, Japan. The company headquarters remains in Tokyo.
Official website: pioneerelectronics.com
Pioneer is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top Best AV Receiver Brands In The World
• Top Best Subwoofer Brands (Car, PA, Home & Studio)
Founded in Tokyo, Japan, in 1967, Alpine Electronics, Inc. started as a joint venture between Alps Electric (Japan) and Motorola (US). It wasn’t until 1978, though, that Alps could buy Motorola out that the name Alpine finally came through.
Slowly but steadily, Alpine became one of the main go-to brands for audio electronics in the world. Nowadays, Audi, BMW, Honda, and Dodge, among many others, can be seen in the company’s client base. Why is this important? Well, because you can’t go wrong installing in your car a stereo system by the same brand BMW relies on for customer entertainment, right?
Be sure to check out Alpine’s car audio products before making any decisions, as their cutting-edge technology can solve most of today’s car entertainment needs. When it comes to car stereos/receivers, more specifically, Alpine is a top brand.
Notable car stereo: Alpine X308U (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
Although the screen in this Alpine multimedia receiver is a tad smaller than the competition at 8”, it is still packed with all the features you expect from a strong company like Alpine.
Focusing on the audio aspects first, the built-in HD radio tuner works seamlessly with SiriusXM, and you get full access to your car’s factory features through the iDatalink Maestro Module. Finally, you can feed FLAC files to the Hi-Res sound system and use the 9-band EQ to fine-tune the sound pumping from the 50 watts x4 power amp.
The capacitive touch screen in the mainframe works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Bluetooth. Moreover, the HDMI input and output allow you to feed other screens or to watch content from your phone so that everyone in the car can see it with you.
If you are in the market for a one-stop solution for your car receiver, this is a great competitor.
Alpine Electronics was established in 1967 as Alps-Motorola, a joint venture between Japan-based Alps Electric (founded 1948) and U.S.-based Motorola (founded 1928). The company became Alpine Electronics in 1978 when Alps bought out Motorola’s share of the company. It is headquartered in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.
Official website: alpine.com
Parent Company: Alps Electric
Alpine is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top Best Subwoofer Brands (Car, PA, Home & Studio)
RetroSound was born out of a need in 2008. The company’s headquarters are in Nevada, USA, surrounded by an always-growing restored cars market.
The problem that the RetroSound founders came across was the lack of modern replacements for old, restored, classic cars’ audio systems. They were looking for an old frame that wouldn’t look bad in a retro car but would provide users with all the modern features we can find in automobiles today.
Hence, packing state-of-the-art technology into faithful reproductions to replace old stereos, RetroSound created a perfect niche to fill. Furthermore, it has earned its stripes as part of the SEMA organization since 2012.
With 16 global media awards to be proud of, this company, with a meteoric rise, even received the “Best New Product Award” at the prestigious ARMO Awards in 2019. So if you own a classic and want to overhaul its sound system, strongly consider giving RetroSound a chance.
Notable car stereo: RetroSound Long Beach SXM (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
The RetroSound Long Beach SXM is an upgrade for classic cars that features everything you might need to drive a 20th-century car listening to 21st-century music in modern formats.
Firstly, the capacity of mounting the body remotely with an optional extension cable makes it ideal for purists. Secondly, the dual rear-mounted USB ports for iPod/iPhone or a USB flash drive allow you to play music for ages non-stop. Thirdly, the retro-style push-button interface mixed with the 32,000-color display makes the user interface easy and intuitive.
Finally, the company grants three months of free “All Access” SiriusXM subscription upon activation and a two-year warranty.
If you want to overhaul your classic car’s audio system without breaking its style, the Long Beach SXM could very well be the option for you.
Retro Manufacturing (RetroSound) was founded in 2008 by Steve Harrington and Robin McNeal in Henderson, Nevada, USA where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: retromanufacturing.com
Parent company: Retro Manufacturing, LLC.
Boss Audio Systems
By 1987, car lover and speed enthusiast Sam Rabbani couldn’t find the perfect sound system for his car; they were either too expensive or simply not good enough. So, he set out to create the best audio products for people like him at an affordable price. The result was a true revolution and earned Boss Audio Systems the best “budget” brand on this list.
Driven by Rabbani’s spirit of not taking no for an answer, it only took the company three years to reach the $1M milestone and outgrow its initial facilities. Increasing demand for affordable, quality car audio allowed for fast growth, and nowadays, the company commercializes over 500 products in 130 countries.
Boss Audio Systems built a reputation as the go-to brand for those searching for a great-sounding stereo system for their car and a great price/features and price/quality balance. If that sounds like the stereo you’d like, don’t hesitate to give BAS a chance.
Notable car stereo: Boss BE950WCPA (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
This is a great car audio system for people who don’t need to play CDs or DVDs on their rides. Although it doesn’t receive any old-school discs, you can play MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, and APE files. Plus, it is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can effortlessly play your music and get phone calls through a Bluetooth connection.
The 80-watts of pure power can be divided into the front, rear, and sub, and each section gets a separate preamp. Finally, it also features a USB, rear camera, aux, and steering wheel control input so you can turn your car into a full multimedia wonder.
If you want a versatile and powerful system with a smaller 6.75” screen, this Boss Audio Systems units is a great choice.
Boss Audio Systems was founded in 1987 by Sam Rabbani. The company headquarters is located in Oxnard, California, USA.
Official website: bossaudio.com