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10 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 radio that best suits your needs and fits within your budget.

Best Apple CarPlay Stereo Reviews

1. Pioneer AVH-2500NEX

Pioneer AVH-2500NEX

  • 6.8 inch VGA display
  • Built-In Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Built-in HD Radio
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • 13-band graphic equalizer with selectable tone curves
  • 3.5mm rear A/V auxiliary input
  • Rear USB Input
  • 3 sets of preamp outputs
  • SiriusXM satellite radio ready

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The AVH-2500NEX is another great aftermarket Apple CarPlay head unit from Pioneer. It has 6.8″ customizable touchscreen with a few buttons on the left side of the panel.

This headunit sports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can seamlessly integrate your smartphone to your vehicle whether you’re an iPhone® or Android™ user.

In addition to DVD/CD player, AM/FM tuner, this headunit sports HD radio for static-free, crystal-clear sound. It also works with SiriusXM tuner.

Additionally, with your compatible iPhone, you can take advantage of Siri Eyes Free, using your voice to place calls, hear notifications, add reminders — even compose and listen to text messages.

In terms of sound tuning, Pioneer AVH-2500NEX boast a 13-band graphic equalizer with 7 preset EQ curves, Advanced Sound Retriever, high- and low-pass filters, and Auto-EQ for optimum sound quality that is tuned to your vehicle acoustics.

As far as expandability is concerned, this headunit is featured with a rear USB port, rear audio/video input (minijack), and dual camera inputs for both front and read view cameras. It also has a video output, and 6-channel preamp outputs for more flexibility, and complexity adding amps and subs to your audio system.

2. Sony XAV-AX1000

Sony XAV-AX1000

  • 6.2 inch LCD touchscreen display
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Compatible with Siri Eyes Free
  • Works with Apple CarPlay
  • 10-band equalizer
  • High- and low-pass filters
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • 5-channel preamp outputs
  • Inputs: front USB input, front aux input, rear-view camera input

Last update on 2021-02-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Sony XAV-AX1000 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 integration as well as an easy-to-use controls, and a responsive touchscreen.

Speaking of the display, the Sony XAV-AX1000 is designed to fit in the standard double-DIN (7-by-4-inch) dashboard opening common to many vehicles out there, and its 6.2″ 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-AX1000 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 front-mounted Aux and USB inputs and a dedicated rear camera input for connecting a rear-view camera.

The Sony XAV-AX1000 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/DVD player, a satellite radio, or built-in navigation.

3. JVC KW-V850BT

JVC KW-V850BT

  • DVD/CD receiver with AM/FM tuner
  • 6.8 inch clear resistive touchscreen display
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Works with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Rear USB input; rear A/V input (mini); two camera inputs
  • Rear video output (RCA); 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer)
  • 13-band equalizer with digital time alignment; 8 EQ presets and 4 user presets

Last update on 2021-02-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re on budget and looking for a cheap Apple CarPlay stereo that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, the JVC KW-V850BT is a great choice to consider. It’s a great alternative to the Sony XAV-AX1000 (Linked to above) if you need a cd player. It costs a bit more because it comes with a CD/DVD player and has a slightly larger (6.8-inch) display.

This JVC receiver packs in a decent array of features including Bluetooth connectivity for hands free calling and wireless music streaming, CD/DVD player, and rear-mounted USB port.

Additionally, this unit comes with 3 sets of 4V preamp outputs (front, rear and subwoofer), and deep sound-shaping controls such as 13-band graphic equalizer with 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. It also has subwoofer level, phase, and low-pass crossover controls.

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.

4. Pioneer MVH-1400NEX

Sale
Pioneer MVH-1400NEX

  • Digital multimedia receiver receiver with AM/FM tuner
  • 6.2 inch capacitive touchscreen display
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Works with Apple CarPlay
  • 13-band equalizer
  • Rear USB input; rear auxiliary input; rear-view camera input
  • 6-channel preamp outputs
  • Satellite radio ready

Last update on 2021-02-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’ve ditched CDs and DVDs in favor of digital formats and looking for budget-friendly CarPlay headunit, then Pioneer MVH-1400NEX is a great option to consider. It’s one of cheapest Apple CarPlay stereos that Pioneer has to offer.

This digital multimedia receiver features a stylish and futuristic look. It sports a 6.2″ capacitive touchscreen display with an easy to navigate menu.

This unit comes with Bluetooth connectivity for hands free calling and audio streaming. You can pair up to 2 phones to this units, so you can easily switch between them without having to connect or re-connect devices.

Sound shaping wise, this unit comes with a versatile 13-band equalizer, Auto EQ, high- and low-pass filters, and subwoofer controls.

Furthermore, with a USB connection to your smartphone, you’ll get a fuller in-dash experience using Pandora® and Spotify® Internet radio services. And for long drives, this headunit is satellite radio ready with the addition of SiriusXM tuner for access to satellite radio stations that’ll hang with you from coast to coast.

Additionally, you can take advantage of the rear view camera input to add a reversing camera to you vehicle so you get a better view in crowded parking lots or when you’re backing out of your garage.

If you’re looking for a little more punch, connect an amp or a sub to the 6-channel preamp outputs and kick things up a notch.

5. Alpine-iLX-W650

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Alpine-iLX-W650

  • Shallow-mount chassis design (2-13/16 inch deep)
  • Touchscreen swipe controls
  • Work with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 7 inch capacitive touchscreen
  • Siri Eyes free control
  • Rear USB port; two camera inputs
  • Works with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • 6-channel preamp outputs

Last update on 2021-02-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

There is a wide variety of receivers out there that give you a ton of bells and whistles including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD Radio, built-in Bluetooth®, and SiriusXM connectivity. However, very few of them boast the shallow chassis of Alpine’s iLX-W650 (only 2-13/16″ deep), making it a great receiver for a smooth installation in many “problem vehicles.

The unit at hand sports a 7” capacitive touchscreen with 800×400 resolution. This display is enhanced with swipe control over volume, track-skipping, and more.

In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM tuner, Pandora and Spotify control, this headunit is satellite radio ready, so you can add a satellite radio tuner and enjoy your favorite music, sports, entertainment, and more anywhere you go.

In terms of expandability options, the Alpine-iLX-W650 comes with a rear USB port, two camera inputs for front- and rear-view cameras, and three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs for expanding your audio system.

Sound sculpting wise, Alpine-iLX-W650 is fitted with a 9-band parametric EQ with a variety of EQ presets to tailor the music to your listening preference. There’s also high- and low-pass crossovers, time correction, and media Xpander.

6. Kenwood Excelon DNX694S

Kenwood Excelon DNX694S

  • 6.8 inch touchscreen
  • Built-in HD Radio tuner
  • Variable illumination color for keys
  • Compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Built-in Garmin navigation system
  • 13-band EQ
  • Compatible with SiriusXM satellite radio tuner
  • Two detachable rear USB inputs; SD card slot; rear A/V input; two camera inputs
  • Rear A/V output; 6-channel preamp outputs

Last update on 2021-02-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is what you can get if you’re willing to shell out upwards of $500. 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 concerned, 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.

7. Pioneer AVH-3300NEX

Pioneer AVH-3300NEX

  • 7 inch motorized fold-out VGA touchscreen
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Apple CarPlay compatible
  • Android Auto compatible
  • 13-band graphic equalizer with 7 preset EQ curves
  • Rear USB port, two rear audio/video inputs, rear-view camera input
  • Video output, 6-channel preamp outputs
  • SiriusXM radio ready

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If 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.

8. Alpine iLX-107

Alpine iLX-107

  • 7 inch capacitive touchscreen
  • Works wirelessly with Apple CarPlay
  • 9-band parametric equalizer
  • 6-channel preamp outputs
  • Rear USB port; rear auxiliary input; rear camera input
  • Built-in 5Ghz Wi-Fi

Last update on 2021-02-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The 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. It’s actually one of the best wireless CarPlay head unit out there, all things considered.

The iLX-107 is featured with a large, 7-inch touchscreen 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.

9. BOSS Audio BVCP9685A

BOSS Audio BVCP9685A

  • 6.75 inch touchscreen with icon-based controls
  • Works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • 10-band equalizer
  • Two rear USB ports; rear auxiliary input; rear-view camera input
  • 6-channel preamp outputs

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Whether you’re simply aiming for a better music experience while cruising in your car or you want something more advanced, yet reasonably priced, Boss Audio Systems is the brand you need to be looking for.

Boss Audio offers a wide range of car audio components for competitive prices, and the Boss Audio BVCP9685A is no exception. Not only it’s budget-friendly, but it’s very well-designed, and it comes loaded with a variety of out-of-the-box features.

Speaking of which, Boss Audio builds both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into their competitively priced BVCP9685A digital multimedia receiver for hands-free access to smartphone functions, so whether you’re an iOS or Android user, you’ll benefit from a 6.75″ touchscreen variable color illumination and voice control of your favorite smartphone features.

The BVCP9685A’s comes with two rear USB ports to let you connect a smartphone as well as access your digital music library loaded onto a flash drive, rear auxiliary input, and rear-view camera input for adding a reversing camera. Further, this receiver also offers a 10-band equalizer and three pairs of preamp outputs for adding amps to power your speakers and subs.

10. Atoto SA102SL

ATOTO SA102SL

  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • 7 inch capacitive touchscreen
  • Works with Apple CarPlay
  • Two USB inputs
  • Reversing camera input
  • Front AUX Audio In
  • 2x RCA Video Output
  • One Micro SD slot

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re on a strict-budget and looking for an aftermarket double DIN headunit with Apple CarPlay that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, then this ATOTO headunit is for you. It’s actually one of the cheapest Apple Carplay Stereos in the market.

This headunit comes with a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, and Bluetooth connection for hands free calling and audio streaming. Unlike the other receivers we listed here, this unit doesn’t support dual phone connection.

In terms of inputs and outputs, this headunit has a reversing camera input, 2 USB ports, Aux input, and a micro SD slot. It also has a separate subwoofer output, and 2 RCA video outputs for adding headrest monitors,

As far as sound tuning controls are concerned, this headunit is fitted with preset 7-band EQ with 12 section adjustable frequency.

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.

Alex Brown

Hey There, my name is Alex Brown, I'm an LA-based sound engineer with over 10 years experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. I've installed highly competitive car audio systems, and everything from navigation systems to full car stereo systems, remote starters, alarms and beyond. I enjoy creating solutions and simplifying everyday needs. I also love helping people get great sounding gear, thereby, saving the world from bad sound one customer at a time.

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