5 Best Apple CarPlay Stereos Reviews

CarPlay is Apple’s answer to the car infotainment system. It’s meant to help you keep your eyes and hands off the phone while driving and is supported by a wide (and ever-increasing) number of car manufacturers. That means, chances are that the next new vehicle you buy or lease will support your iPhone in a big way.

Run by your iPhone smartphone, CarPlay is designed to replace the navigation, media, phone and messaging controls of your car with those of iOS without using the phone itself. It is, of course, only compatible with Apple handsets.

CarPlay is not an in-car system that runs iOS. It’s a connectivity solution that casts a familiar iOS interface to your car’s infotainment system display, allowing you to control some apps and your device either with said infotainment touchscreen, knobs, buttons or even your voice.

Nowadays, Apple CarPlay is becoming a must-have feature for iphone owners who are in the market for a new car. Its integration into your car’s infotainment system goes far beyond hands-free calling and wireless music streaming to safely provide many of your iPhone’s functions whilst driving.

You don’t have to feel left out If your vehicle is a couple of years old and it’s lacking this feature and you have no intention to buy a new one anytime soon. While CarPlay is mostly advertised as an option on a new vehicles, there are multiple ways to bring it to your older car by using aftermarket solutions from companies like Pioneer, Kenwood, JBL, JVC and Alpine.

That said, choosing the best apple CarPlay stereo can be a tedious task. The sheer number of CarPlay head units out there is enough to make your head spin.

Here at CrystalStereo, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve put together this resource – a one-stop-shop, all-inclusive guide to help you find the best apple carplay stereo that best suits your needs and fits within your budget.

So, without any further adieu, let’s get into it.

Receiver ImageReceiver NameRating
Pioneer AVH-2300NEX
4.5/5
Alpine iLX-107 4.6/5
Sony XAV-AX100 4.3/5
JVC KW-V830BT 4.3/5
Pioneer AVH-1300NEX 4.5/5
Soundstream VRCP 65 4.3/5
Pioneer AVH-3300NEX 4.8/5
Kenwood DDX9703S 4.3/5
Pioneer MVH-1400NEX 4.4/5

Top 5 Best Apple CarPlay Stereo Reviews

#1- Sony XAV-AX100 Review

best carplay head unit reviewThe Sony XAV-AX100 is one of the best Apple CarPlay stereos on the market, all things considered. This unit is relatively affordable compared to its rivals. It’s very well designed and offers a seamless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as an easy-to-use controls, and a responsive touchscreen.

Speaking of the display, the Sony XAV-AX10 is designed to fit in the standard double-DIN (7-by-4-inch) dashboard opening common to many vehicles out there, and its 6.4″ LCD touchscreen display is quite responsive without any lag or delays we saw in some other models.

Unlike other double-DIN stereos we listed here, this unit features a traditional knob for volume control, making it a lot easier to use while you’re driving than models with touchscreen-only controls.

In addition to the Sony’s built-in voice-command system, this head unit is featured with Siri Eyes Free which lets iPhone owners use Siri to switch radio stations and control your favorite features with simple voice commands outside of CarPlay.

Similar to most new aftermarket head units, the Sony XAV-AX100 boasts a variety of features including Bluetooth for hands free calling and wireless music streaming, plenty of radio-station presets, various audio shaping controls to optimize the acoustics in your vehicle, and preamp outputs for expanding your audio system. Not to forget a rear USB input and a dedicated rear camera input for connecting a rear-view camera.

The Sony XAV-AX100 is one of the cheapest apple carplay stereos which offers the best combination of performance, cutting-edge features and sleek design, without making you pay for extras you may not need such as a CD player, a satellite radio, or built-in navigation.

#2- JVC KW-V830BT Review

best carplay stereo reviewIf you want built-in navigation and a CD player, the JVC KW-V830BT is a great choice to consider. It’s a great alternative to the Sony XAV-AX100. It costs about the same and it packs in a few extra useful features including a slightly larger (6.8-inch) display that’s sharp and clear with easy-to-use, big buttons, built-in GPS navigation, CD player, 2 rear USB inputs instead of just one, as well as satellite radio.

In addition to all of those features, this JVC also has Bluetooth connectivity for hands free calling and wireless music streaming, 3 sets of 4V preamp outputs (front, rear and subwoofer), and deep sound-shaping controls such as 13-band graphic equalizer with 8 selectable tone curves, digital time alignment, sound lift to compensate for low speaker positions, and volume link EQ to boost some specific frequencies to compensate for engine and road noise.

If I had to pick some criticisms to this head unit, I’d say that the lack of that large, easy-to-grip knob might be a huge disappointment to those of you who are used to it.

#3- Kenwood Excelon DNX694S Review

Kenwood Excelon DNX694S reviewThis is what you can get if you’re willing to shell out upwards of $700. The Kenwood Excelon DNX694S is one of the best apple carplay stereos that you can buy, all things considered.

The Kenwood Excelon DNX694S is a premium double DIN car receiver. It boasts a huge array of features. It actually has almost any feature that you can think of including Bluetooth, CD player, built-in Garmin navigation system, HD Radio, various audio shaping controls and a variety of expandability options. Not to mention top-notch audio components for truly immersive sound.

This headunit is featured with 6.8″ touchscreen which offers plenty of real estate for accessing your sources and other important info. You also get variable-color backlighting for coordinating your stereo with your car’s other interior lighting.

While most budget-friendly double DIN car receivers out there are generally featured with 1 USB input, this Kenwood has two, which means that you you can use one phone to operate Apple CarPlay or Android Auto while charging a second phone.

As far as sound shaping controls are concered, the Kenwood Excelon DNX694S sports 13-band EQ, digital time alignment, space enhancer, sound realizer, sound elevation, bass boost, and loudness.

This headunit also has extra video inputs and outputs for connecting more external devices, such as cameras and rear-seat DVD screens.

As for cons, it’s really difficult to think of any. If anything, I’d say that because the DNX694S is loaded with a huge array of features, its menus can be a bit complicated, cumbersome, and distracting to use while you’re driving. We’ve also found that its screen tends to be a bit less responsive.

#4- Pioneer AVH-3300NEX Flipout Stereo Review

Pioneer AVH-3300NEX carplay head unit reviewIf you’re looking for the best CarPlay head unit but your car has only a single-DIN (7-by-2-inch) dash opening for the stereo, then you don’t have to feel left out. The Pioneer AVH-3300NEX, with a slide-out touchscreen is a great option to consider. Dollar for dollar, it’s one of the best flip out head units out there.

At a first glance, this headunit looks quite similar to a single DIN headunit, however, it’s equipped with a motorized and retractable 7 inch touchscreen with plenty of customization options.

Its display is designed to slide out of the head unit and flip up to be viewed with a push of a button. It’ll also fold up when you turn off the radio (or even when you just want to hide it while listening). If you still have CDs, you’ll be happy to know that this receiver has a CD player.

This Pioneer is a solid choice. It’s one of the simplest head units to use, with a handy volume knob and big buttons on the front for common functions. Further, It’s featured with a ton of bells and whistles including Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free, Pandora and Spotify control with iPhone and Android. Not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The only downside we can reasonably think of about this car stereo is that its screen might block AC controls or vents on some car models as it extends about 4 inches above the stereo.

#5- Alpine iLX-107 Car Stereo Review

Alpine iLX-107 CarPlay Receiver reviewThe Alpine iLX-107 is the only car stereo in this list that doesn’t require you to connect your phone to the stereo via a USB cable in order to run Apple CarPlay, which can be really convenient.

The iLX-107 is featured with a large, 7-inch touchcreen which sits flush with the bezel, making this head unit the most sleekest and seamless-looking one when compared to the other car stereos in the market. That said, this unit has no knob button. However, it has easy-to-use big volume buttons right below the screen. They’re designed to quickly increase or decrease the volume as you hold them

This headunit has a host of extra features such as satellite radio and HD Radio, multiple color choices for the controls, and the capability to pair with up to five smartphones over Bluetooth.

That said, if you want the convenience of CarPlay without the clutter or hassle of a cord, the Alpine iLX-107 is for you. However, this head unit is significantly more expensive than most CarPlay receivers in the market.

CarPlay tips: Connection options

Before we jump into the benefits that Carplay has to offer, along with how to fix the most common problems, let’s first take a closer look at how to connect your iPhone to CarPlay.

The most common way to pair up your iPhone to your CarPlay headunit is by using a Lightning cable – simply plug it into the USB port in your car, and you’re good to go. Once that is done, it instantly casts the familiar iOS user interface on the infotainment display. This way, you can use some functionality of your iPhone while keeping your eyes and hands off the phone, which makes it really convenient – or that’s the idea, anyway.

Some luxury vehicle and some high-end headunits offer wireless AirPlay support via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This allows you to access CarPlay without the clutter or hassle of a cord.

#1- Buy an additional Lightning cable

If your headunit doesn’t support wireless CarPlay, we highly recommend you to invest in a separate Lightning cable to leave in your car as remembering to take your existing cable everywhere will quickly become tiresome. That said, make sure you buy a a cable that offers both charging capabilities and data transfer, as many cheap cables only offer the former.

#2- Voice control using Siri

One of the biggest benefits to CarPlay is the ability to use Siri when driving. Using Siri, you can talk to your vehicle and tell it what to do. And that includes playing music, ask for directions, switching radio station, reading your texts as well as dictating a reply.

#3- Use Siri for directions

With Siri activated, you can simply say “take me to 18 Davis Place” or “find the closest gas station” and it’ll find the quickest route for you. Note that It’s also worth adding the addresses in your Contacts app as it’ll further speed up the process, as you can simply ask Siri to direct you to Mark’s place.

#4- Read and send texts using Siri

Siri can also be used to not only dictate new text messages, but to read incoming texts for you, allowing you to keep hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Simply activate Siri, say something like “Send a text to Mom saying I’ll be home in 20 minutes” and it’ll compose the message for you.

If you’re worried about Siri misunderstanding you and sending something completely different to what you said, you can rest assured because Siri will read the message to you to confirm before sending it.

#5- Use Siri to browse for music

You can ask Siri to browse your playlist and play your favorite song. Simply activate Siri and give it commands like “Play the latest Rihanna album”.

#6- Create and download playlists

With Siri, you can not only browse and play your favorite songs without touching your phone, but you can also play anything from Apple Music when using CarPlay. Bear in mind that streaming music will eat up your data. That’s the reason why we recommend creating car-specific playlists before driving and making them available offline. This way you can enjoy your favorite tracks even if you drive to areas that have spotty 3G/4G reception.

#7- Use Siri to make calls on the go

With Siri activate, you can also pick up and make calls on the go without distracting you from the road. Simply say “Call John” or “return my last call” and Siri will do it. Of course, most the options that Siri can do are also available via the CarPlay dashboard in the Phone app, but it’s not recommended that you interact with the touchscreen while driving.

#8- Siri can do a lot more

Siri can not only play your music, switch radio station, or make calls. It’s also be able to perform tasks like sending WhatsApp messages, answering questions such as “what time is it in Berlin?” while on the go if your iPhone is running iOS 10. In a nutshell, almost anything that Siri can do on your iPhone can be done via CarPlay.

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