Single DIN vs Double DIN Head Unit: What Are the Major Differences?

As a car owner you probably need to upgrade your entertainment system at some point, however a lot of people don't fully understand the differences between a single DIN and double DIN car stereo. This article explains both types of stereo units, and the factors that make each type unique.What is a 2-DIN stereo? Basically, a 2 DIN car radio is bigger than a 1-DIN unit, but most cars have one or the other, and car owners need to learn more about these units and what makes each one unique.

If a car expert suggested that you purchase a double DIN unit instead of a single DIN, its probably because your car came with that particular type of stereo from the manufacturer, and replacing it with the same feature is the best way to upgrade your car audio system. Single DIN and double DIN are the two main stereo sizes and its actually quite easy to determine what type your car has.

If your car has a 1-DIN stereo, then the front face should measure about 7 x 2 inches (or 180 x 50 mm); but if it's a double DIN then it most likely measures 7 x 4 inches. The front should be the same width but it will be twice as tall. For anybody who needs to make an upgrade, if you bought a car that had a 2-DIN stereo when you bought it, you can choose to take it out and replace it with more modern 2-DIN unit, or instead, you can select a classic 1-DIN stereo that matches your car (if you prefer a touch of the old-school). 

If, however, your car came from the manufacturer with a 1-DIN system, then you will likely have to choose another similar stereo; but the good news is you will find a great selection of stereos to choose from.

What does single DIN and double DIN mean? 

Deutsches Institut fur Normung, or DIN, is the name of a standards organization from Germany that set the standard for creating car stereos, and car makers refer to it when creating head units. This standard was adopted by the International Standards Organization as ISO 7736, and automakers have used it to create car stereos for virtually all brands of cars from all over the world. Consequently, head units that fall under "DIN" are sometimes referred to as DIN car stereos, simply because the organization Deutsches Institut fur Normun was the pioneer that created the standards. 

Differences between single Din and double DIN

Even though ISO 7736 is the recognized standard for all car stereos around the globe, there are some minor differences between the two models - and these differences often create fit issues. The main variant of these two types of DIN models is known as the double DIN. The reason people call it double DIN (or 2-DIN) is because a car radio of this type measures the same size as two single DIN stereos, stacked together like two bricks. 

To be specific, a double DIN car stereo measures 150 mm in length, but at 100 mm height, it is twice as tall as its smaller counterpart.It's also important to talk about depth, because cars don't have the same type of head unit receptacle. But neither of these car stereos specify the range of depth for other car radios to follow.

This means that auto manufacturers produce head units with varying depths, and cars that have a particularly smaller receptacle for holding the unit might present problems when fitting certain types of stereos. Though most modern car stereos are designed to fit into most modern cars, they don't all measure the same depth and so you might face challenges with some models.

This is why it's so important talk to a fit guide expert before you go on to make a purchase. Aside from simply checking to see whether your car radio is a 2-DIN or 1-DIN, (or other relevant form factor), it makes sense to involve a fit guide as this will eliminate most fitting issues.

Other differences between 1 DIN and 2 Din stereos include the following:

a) Features

A double DIN unit has more features than its single DIN counterpart, and the main reason is its larger size. This typically includes a larger touchscreen that makes it easier to use the device - however, single DIN units are still very functional. Other features include:

  • More storage space
  • Easier controls
  • DVD player - with digital display 
  • check
    HD video screen
  • check
    Advanced connectivity

b) Usability

This is the main difference between these two head units. A double DIN unit comes with a variety of smart options such as a camera option and integration with smart phones, and this means it offers a better user experience. It's important to note that even though double DIN units are more advanced in terms of the type of features they offer, single DIN units are still practical and some models have a nice assortment of features. If you want to determine which one is better between a single and double unit, start by measuring the face place of your current unit.

Remember, if it's a single DIN head set you can only upgrade to a similar unit - but with a double DIN you may be able to switch things up a bit.

Which one is better?

If your major concern is going from a 2-DIN stereo to a smaller single DIN, this shouldn't worry you at all. Aside from the larger size and usability features, double DINs aren't necessarily better in terms of sound quality. The best car stereos have a pre-amp output that allows a dedicated car amplifier to improve the sound quality.

So unless your double DIN unit comes with an inbuilt amplifier that rivals most car amplifiers, there isn't much of a difference. The major advantage to owning a 2-DIN head set is the display, which makes it much easier to use the unit when driving. A good display unit also means that video display will be of high quality, and this makes it more appealing. To be fair though, some single DIN units allow a flip-out touchscreen to be fitted in, so what matters here is your preference. 

What to look for in a car stereo

You need to have a clear idea of the features you want in your car stereo so that you know what to look for. For instance the audio sources are a major feature. For this reason you can choose between a CD player and AV receiver (preferably one with a color screen), however most people today prefer to use a USB port and auxiliary input. Another thing worth considering is smartphone integration. A car stereo that can play your music via Bluetooth will be an added bonus, and anybody who uses music streaming services like Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora will appreciate smartphone integration. 

Since all car stereo receivers have built-in AM/FM, you can look for additional capability such as Satelite radio and HD Radio, which is a technology that enhances the quality of sound on your radio. So with all these factors considered, which one do you prefer - 2-DIN, or a 1-DIN stereo?

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