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Also known as a receiver, or most often referred to as the stereo, the Head Unit in any vehicle is the source of all media to be played over the speaker or video system of your car stereo. Todays head units can play a multitude of media from many different sources while offering you hands free connectivity to your wireless devices for making calls and connecting with your apps so you can keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and both off of your phone.
Todays receivers can play audio and video from sources like a USB thumb drive, a CD, an 1/8″ auxiliary input and even connecting wirelessly over Bluetooth or (BT) from your phone. Select head units can display GPS through built in navigation or through the Google Maps app from your smart phone through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. Backup cameras, sideview cameras, and even frontal cameras can now be added to vehicles and viewed on select car stereo units. Options like HD radio, Sirius/XM, and DVD playback integration are available in todays head units along with capabilities like displaying crucial vehicle information such as low tire pressures and other vehicle warning messages when vehicles are equipped to communicate with iDatalink Maestro devices. Some car stereos are even able to connect a CB style mic for communication between the driver and the passengers of larger size vehicles like busses.
DIN or DDIN?
DIN and DDIN refer to the spacing of a head unit. A DIN size receiver is half of the height of a DDIN. A DDIN size unit would be just about any touch screen size head unit on the market today. A DIN unit is typically just a radio and typically does not have a touch screen. A DIN head unit may still play a DVD and if available may provide a storage pocket built into the dash kit under your new stereo unit after replacement. Some DIN size mountable car and truck receivers do have a touch screen like the floating 11″ screen of Alpine’s ILX-F511.
Todays vehicles are moving away from the typical standard DIN and DDIN size openings. New vehicles today have just an infotainment screen or their head units are designed to integrate into the dash sometimes with the vents and the HVAC controls all integrated as one unit.
Replacing your Head Unit?
Did your head unit finally bite the dust? Do you want to level up on your car stereo game? Do you just require an upgraded unit for added functionality? Whatever your reason may be Jackson Tint and Sound can help you pick out the right head unit with your desired accessories and provide you with simply the best professional installation within your budget.
Dash Kits: Most vehicles will need a dash kit that will allow your head unit to adapt to the footprint in the dash that your factory stereo currently fills. Some dash kits will provide the addition of a storage pocket to fill the space leaving a nice clean look.
Wiring Harness: As todays vehicles continue to progress in the advancement of their car stereo designs it is necessary to use a wiring harness to safely connect to the pigtail harness of your new car stereo. These wiring harnesses are typically colored to match the wiring of your new receiver. Some vehicles require the head unit to communicate with the factory amplifier and a special wiring harness is necessary for this communication. Some vehicles have no accessory power and instead send a digital accessory signal to tell the factory radio to turn on. Some cars will even require an antenna adapter to convert the factory antenna connection to a standard Motorola style FM Connector. We stock many common wiring harnesses, dash kit adapters and antenna adapters for car stereo replacements.
Steering Wheel Controls: If you have radio controls on your steering wheel and you would like to retain these controls for operation of your head unit than a steering wheel control interface module will have to be added to the car when replacing the stereo. Even if you don’t use these controls much you can still benefit from the resale value of your vehicles car stereo being in 100% working condition. These control modules must be connected and pre-programmed before completing the head unit installation. The receiver will also require an input for the steering wheel control module.
Sirius X/M: If your vehicle is currently equipped with Sirius X/M, or if you’ve had it added on before to your existing stereo, or if you would like to add Sirius X/M service to your new or existing head unit, you may require a Sirius X/M tuner added on.
In some cases we can add an extension from the factory Sirius X/M system in your vehicle but most times we cannot. Some head units will retain the factory Sirius X/M function through connectivity with iDatalink Maestro modules but you might not find the service available under the source media page of the stereo. Instead you might have to navigate to a satellite menu page within the unit to get to your Sirius X/M service which our President has found to be a nuisance of extra steps when driving while regularly changing media sources. If you purchase a Sirius X/M Ready stereo and would like to add the Sirius X/M service, then adding a Sirius X/M tuner to your head unit would be necessary. We have in-dash tuner and dash mountable tuners that can be moved between vehicles and your home with the addition of other Sirius X/M docking stations.
So Many Choices, Where Do I Begin?
Spacing: Can you fit a DDIN or do you need to find a DIN size head unit? Do you need a custom fit stereo from the Restyle line at Alpine? Is there enough depth behind the factory stereo to accommodate a larger DDIN size head unit? Is there enough space to accommodate the connections of all the accessory wiring? Jackson Tint and Sound can help you narrow down what automotive receivers are your best options and what obstacles might be found. We have decades of A/V installation and car stereo experience to help you select the right unit.
Accessory Functions and Capabilities: Why are you replacing your head unit and what kind of functionality do want to integrate into it? Most customers will find that it is time to replace their car stereo because their current make and model has ran it’s life span. Others are looking for BT hands free calling and connectivity with their phone to stream music media directly from their phone storage or through apps like Pandora and Spotify. Perhaps you would like a backup camera image to show up on a larger screen from a DDIN head unit. Perhaps you would like to watch a DVD while camping. All this is possible and the right receiver depends on your specific needs and budget.
Most head units will work with Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto offering you the ability for easy streaming of music and in some cases certain apps like Maps, Spotify, and Pandora. Most head units that work in this way require your phone to be connected directly to the stereo with a wire. However every phone can play music media from any app over BT audio when connected to the unit with a wireless BT connection. Some stereos are even offering WiFi connectivity now for faster transfer times of information.
Will your head unit be exposed to water, dust, salt? Marine Grade head units for these applications one might find in a boat, convertible or an ATV are specially designed to be water resistant and host corrosive resistant components and added protection from salt water, dust and debris.
Your car and truck AV receiver is the brain of your car stereo. It can simply tune your favorite radio station and get you down the road or your it can be a full infotainment system with HDMI inputs for the addition of external video inputs like DVD players and video game consoles. Some receivers come with full tuning capabilities like time correction and 9 band parametric equalizers and can distribute multiple video outputs to other TV’s!
The head unit is the first and only device in your car stereo that reproduces your media. Essentially, no matter what speakers, amplifiers, or subwoofers you have in your car, those devices only sound as good as the signal they get from your stereo receiver. Pairing a full set of JL Audio speakers and subwoofers for instance with a Pioneer head unit is a waste of your JL Audio speaker’s potential. With that said, your head unit will only sound as good as your media type. Compressed audio from an MP3 streaming over BT will never sound as good as a 16bit 48kHz audio file as you would find on a CD or a high resolution 32bit 128kHz streaming audio file from the Tidal app. Now you can put everything onto a USB thumb drive as a media option and just plug it into your car!