Navigating the soundscape of car audio systems to find the perfect one can be as tricky as choosing the right track for a cross-country journey. The car stereo landscape continues evolving with more choices than ever.
Those who seek a symphony of high-quality sound and all the modern features can find themselves in a dilemma as to which one will be the best car stereo under 500 for them. But no worries, as we’ve researched and brought out the top 7 stereos that you should check in the price range of $500.
Be ready to amplify your drive with an excellent sound system that will be worthwhile for you. Buckle up and ride along as we unveil the list of what can be your next friend in the drives.
Jump To Contents
- Best Car Stereos under $500 - Quick Guide
- In-Depth Reviews of the 7 Best Car Stereos under 500 USD
- 1. Sony XAV-AX4000 7-Inch Stereo Receiver - Our Top Choice
- 2. KENWOOD EXcelon DMX907S - Best for Sound Quality
- 3. Pioneer AVH-2400NEX Touchscreen Stereo - Best for Versatility
- 4. Alpine iLX-407 Digital Media Receiver - Best for HD Radio
- 5. JVC KW-M785BW Double Din Receiver - Upgraded Pick
- 6. Sony XAV-AX8000 Digital Media Receiver - Best for Floating Display
- 7. ATOTO S8 Pro Double-DIN Receiver - Best for Split Screen
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the benefits of upgrading to the higher-end car stereo within this budget than the lower budget ones?
- Do any car stereos under $500 offer support for HD radio broadcasts?
- Can I connect multiple devices to the car stereos in this budget?
- Can I get a high-quality display within this budget of car stereos?
- To Sum It All
Best Car Stereos under $500 - Quick Guide
1. Sony XAV-AX4000 7-Inch - Our Top Choice
"A premium car audio experience with outstanding audio, extensive customization and format compatibility, and exceptional value for money make it a standout option." ..See Full Review
2. KENWOOD EXcelon DMX907S - Best for Sound Quality
"This double din car stereo surpasses audio expectations with extraordinary sound clarity and depth by featuring high-voltage preamp outputs, advanced sound enhancement tech, and customization options." ..See Full Review
3. Pioneer AVH-2400NEX - Best for Versatility
"Combining contemporary design with versatile features, it provides exceptional quality, intuitive interfaces, and seamless integration with both Apple phones and Android phones to be a compelling choice." ..See Full Review
4. Alpine iLX-407 - Best for HD Radio
"Offering a premium audio experience with great value for money, this head unit has impeccable support for HD radio to deliver pristine sound quality and great connectivity, entertainment options, and an HDMI input." ..See Full Review
5. JVC KW-M785BW - Upgraded Pick
"This double din head unit offers exceptional value with innovative features: JVC Streaming DJ, advanced sound technologies for immersive audio, and splendid gesture touch controls for an intuitive experience." ..See Full Review
6. Sony XAV-AX8000 - Best for Floating Display
"Offering a game-changing floating display experience, it enhances accessibility and minimizes distractions on the road while impressing with its built-in amplifier, Bluetooth capabilities, and sound quality." ..See Full Review
7. ATOTO S8 Pro - Best for Split Screen
"It shines with exceptional split-screen multitasking capability, a full HD touchscreen boasting clear visuals, a fast system boot of 2 seconds, powerful sound quality, and versatile connectivity to enhance the user experience." ..See Full Review
In-Depth Reviews of the 7 Best Car Stereos under 500 USD
Let’s go in-depth about our selected top 7 car audio stereos and see what they can offer to you for uplifting your experience.
1. Sony XAV-AX4000 7-Inch Stereo Receiver - Our Top Choice
The XAV-AX4000 provides a premium car audio experience, making it a go-to choice for any enthusiastic audio car stereo user. We have found it to be the overall best head unit under 500 and the epitome of where value meets performance and taking the expectation to a newer level.
Sony's reputation for exceptional sound quality continues with the XAV-AX4000, with clear and detailed audio reproduction, thanks to the four-channel output.
You can play various digital audio formats, including MP3, WAV, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, and high-resolution DSD audio files. This extensive compatibility ensures that you can enjoy your favorite music in your preferred format.
This receiver does not lag if you are a traditionalist. It will cater to you with the AM/FM radio tuner, having 18 stations for FM & 12 stations for AM, and a CD player. All the usual video formats, like mpeg4, WMV, and mkv, are also available.
It also features a 14-band graphic equalizer and can apply up to 12 dB of boost for precise adjustments to tailor the audio output to your liking. It provides dedicated stereo front and rear preamp outputs, as well as a single mono subwoofer output, all rated for 2 volts of output. This flexibility ensures you can expand your audio system with external amplifiers and speakers without any hesitation if you want to.
Wireless connectivity options, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, have been praiseworthy for seamless access to navigation, music, and messaging apps. With Android’s Google Assistant incorporation, you will just need to press the "mic" button or say "OK Google" to access a near-instant connection. There have been reports of occasional connectivity issues, mainly with iPhones, where manual connection attempts may be required. But once connected, you won’t have to worry about a near-native smartphone experience.
The robust Bluetooth connection with Bluetooth 5.0 and LDAC inclusion for Android ensures crystal-clear phone conversations and stable wireless audio streaming. While LDAC support is impressive, iPhone users are limited to the AAC codec, which is still considered of good quality. It has the HFP 1.7.1 (Hands-Free Profile) for hands-free communication and lets you focus on the roads only.
For music enthusiasts, the XAV-AX4000 offers broad compatibility with popular music services and apps, like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and other streaming platforms. iPhone users will appreciate the enhanced integration with Apple Music.
The double-din stereo features a user-friendly resistive touchscreen display, which offers great visibility, even in direct sunlight, thanks to its anti-glare film. The display doesn’t have a higher resolution, though, to provide more vibrant and detailed visuals. A minor drawback is that the touchscreen display may occasionally require multiple taps to register inputs.
The physical push buttons for volume, tracking, and menu access provide tactile control options and promote safer operation while driving. Overall, the interface is intuitive, with a fast bootup speed and a straightforward main menu and app drawer.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of the XAV-AX4000 is the exceptional value it offers for its price point. It is a must for you to check if you want to get a car audio stereo within $500.
2. KENWOOD EXcelon DMX907S - Best for Sound Quality
The Kenwood EXcelon DMX907S promises an auditory experience that transcends the expectations most users have.
The hallmark of this double din stereo is its ability to deliver sound quality that can only be described as extraordinary. With this receiver, you'll experience a level of audio clarity, depth, and richness that typically comes with a much higher price tag.
This car stereo features multiple preamp outputs with high voltage levels. These outputs provide clean, strong signals to external amplifiers and reduce the potential noise. It also incorporates advanced sound enhancement technologies like the top-notch Digital-to-Analog Conversion (DAC) for clearer sounds. It also uses custom-made and meticulously chosen parts like audio-quality power supply capacitors to offer you the best sound quality.
The DMX907S offers a feature-rich 13-band equalizer (EQ) that allows meticulous tuning with multiple presets and customization options. It just doesn’t stop at a superb EQ. It ensures you can access your favorite music files in whatever format you want, be it impeccable FLAC files or prevalent MP3 files. All the standard video formats, like mpeg4, WMV, mkv, etc., are available as well.
You also get access to HD Radio for high-quality digital broadcasts and additional radio stations unavailable through traditional AM/FM radio. Although physical media is becoming less prevalent, the absence of a CD/DVD player might bother some classic-lover audiophiles.
Audio is not the only great thing about this stereo; its compact-sized display can get you through everyday drives without any complaints. It features a sleek and modern look that complements any vehicle interior. Its build quality is robust. The customizable brightness controls and the user-friendly interface simplify the navigation through menus and settings, making it a pleasure to use while on the road.
We have found a few users who reported occasional touchscreen sensitivity issues during drives. But users also did not remain behind in praising the on-screen display of individual tire pressures and temperatures in monitoring their vehicle's performance.
It supports both wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to ensure the needed integration with smartphones. There are other connectivity options like auxiliary inputs and USB ports for your convenience. But you should keep in mind that keeping the factory USB port might require an adapter cable on your own.
Its built-in Bluetooth 5.0 lets you make or receive a phone call through the head unit wirelessly. It doesn’t include built-in GPS navigation, but you can rely on your smartphone for the navigation part.
In essence, this car stereo is a great one that prioritizes sound quality and great customer satisfaction through a combination of high-quality efforts. Its commitment to offer great user experience is further showcased through Kenwood’s regular firmware updates to keep your stereo up-to-date.
3. Pioneer AVH-2400NEX Touchscreen Stereo - Best for Versatility
The AVH-2400NEX from Pioneer stands as an excellent choice for a diverse group of users, from those who love the latest technology to those who appreciate fine music. Designed with a contemporary look, it fits seamlessly into the majority of car interiors. Moreover, the robust construction of this stereo ensures lasting performance and a promise of endurance.
It has a vibrant and responsive screen to offer you a clear and crisp visual experience. You can adjust the angle of the screen to minimize reflections, ensure optimal visibility, and address any issue of screen glare.
Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to navigate through menus, customize settings, and access various functions with just a tap or swipe. It features an intuitive Pioneer home menu screen that consolidates all your audio sources and functions into one accessible hub. The absence of dedicated physical buttons for more functions is one of the lackings out here.
This double din receiver achieves a perfect harmony of compatibility with both iPhone and Android devices with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively. The Siri integration needs a simple push and hold of the home button to let you make calls, send and receive texts, and look up locations, including gas stations and malls.
It has great Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free communication, which is necessary nowadays for safe driving.
This versatile stereo includes USB ports for connecting external devices such as flash drives and smartphones. Additionally, there are RCA outputs for connecting amplifiers and subwoofers and enhancing your audio experience.
This head unit excels not only in its versatile features but also in delivering exceptional audio quality. It provides ample power to drive your car's speakers and deliver clear and powerful sound.
Pioneer's unique MIXTRAX feature creates a club-like atmosphere in your car by automatically remixing your music with DJ-inspired effects and transitions. Sound customizations are also supported with the help of a great 13-band EQ.
Advanced Sound Retriever is also designed to restore the audio quality of compressed music files, such as MP3s, to a level closer to the original source. You can enjoy your digital music collection with enhanced clarity and depth.
Talking of audio formats supported, it lets you enjoy high-res FLAC files up to 192kHz/24-bit with playback output the same as CD quality. You’ll get access to all the video formats without any compression. It lacks a built-in CD/DVD player, which might disappoint those who prefer physical media.
Another frustrating thing some users have noticed is the built-in cooling fan, though necessary for temperature control, can be somewhat noisy. While the noise is usually drowned out by music when driving, it might be noticeable during quieter moments.
This stereo’s emphasis on versatile functionalities while keeping most of the required stuff is the main reason why it is a must-check for you.
4. Alpine iLX-407 Digital Media Receiver - Best for HD Radio
The Alpine iLX-407 is a great choice for enjoying a premium audio experience while getting all the required modern-day features.
The standout feature of this head unit is its impeccable support for HD radio with the built-in tuner. It will satisfy any audiophile who relishes the pristine sound quality that modern HD radio broadcasts deliver. The unit's HD radio tuner ensures that you can tune into more favorite stations than the traditional ones. With unparalleled clarity and minimal interference, you can say goodbye to the hisses, pops, and static that often plague traditional radio signals.
Despite its advanced capabilities, this head unit doesn't forget traditional entertainment options. It features an AM/FM radio tuner, ensuring that you can tune in to your favorite local stations. Additionally, with the HDMI input, you can connect external sources like a CD or DVD player. It is perfect for those who cherish their physical music collections.
The stereo offers six-channel preamp outputs with a 4-volt signal level. This high-voltage output provides a strong, distortion-free signal to ensure you actually get the high-quality music that it promises to serve you.
The 5-band EQ might not give you the best opportunity to fine-tune your musical experience, though.
The receiver offers the standard connectivity options with its auxiliary inputs and USB ports. It also supports various high-quality audio formats, including FLAC and WAV.
Beyond its HD radio capabilities, the iLX-407 excels in Bluetooth connectivity. The seamless integration lets you do hands-free calling and music streaming through your smartphone and also use the available external microphone for crystal-clear conversations.
This receiver offers compatibility with both iPhone and Android devices by incorporating the latest integration abilities. You can access internet radio stations, navigate with real-time traffic updates, and use voice commands like they are some effortless tasks. With intuitive interfaces designed for easy navigation, this car audio stereo ensures that your smartphone becomes an extension of your vehicle, enhancing connectivity and safety.
It is compatible with popular music services and apps, catering to both iPhone and Android users. iPhone enthusiasts appreciate the convenience of Apple Music integration, providing direct access to their library. Android users, on the other hand, can seamlessly stream music from their preferred apps like Spotify.
Its compact-sized screen might not be the best one you will get on this list. The resolution of the screen cannot provide enough clarity in challenging conditions and might even feel as bad as older LCD screens. However, the touchscreen responsiveness on the display has been found to be good by most users.
5. JVC KW-M785BW Double Din Receiver - Upgraded Pick
JVC’s KW-M785BW is one of the reputed car audio stereos that offers a multitude of features for making your daily commute more enjoyable.
This stereo covers you whether you're an iPhone user or prefer Android devices. It offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility wirelessly or via USB. The Mirroring for Android Phone feature further enhances your connectivity options by simultaneously displaying your Android phone's content on the receiver's screen.
It supports 2 Phones Full-Time Connection, meaning you can simultaneously connect two phones via Bluetooth for added convenience. It can be greatly useful if you have an iPhone and an Android, as you won’t have to take the hassle of connecting them separately. The system offers improved sound quality with HFP 1.8 Wideband Speech, contributing to enhanced voice recognition accuracy. It also has the standard USB input available.
But the most exciting feature is the JVC Streaming DJ - it lets you and your friends take turns streaming music from up to five connected Bluetooth devices. There will be no more fights to decide who becomes the DJ during the road trips.
This double din stereo shows the investment behind the advanced sound technologies to provide an immersive audio experience. With 4.0V High-Voltage 3 Pre-Outs and the built-in MOSFET amplifier, your audio signals remain pristine, ensuring the best possible sound quality when connected to external amplifiers.
The time alignment feature adjusts speaker timing to create a balanced sound stage, while Sound Response minimizes time distortion, resulting in clearer audio playback, even with compressed audio files. Space enhancement offers virtual surround sound to make your music feel more expansive.
Moreover, sound lift lets you virtually adjust speaker height and enjoy a more tailored listening experience. You can enjoy music in various audio file formats, including MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, and high-quality FLAC.
This stereo is SiriusXM Ready (but that requires an optional tuner), which provides access to over 100 channels of music, sports, and entertainment. It is also compatible with iDatalink Maestro RR/RR2, which retains factory steering wheel audio controls, factory amplifiers, secondary displays, and even vehicle information when connected to compatible vehicles.
The display of this double din receiver is undoubtedly a good one with a vibrant and visually pleasing experience for users. In direct sunlight, the screen's brightness may not be as high as some users would prefer at any angle.
The Gesture Touch Control is a game-changer when it comes to user-friendly operation. Instead of fumbling through buttons and menus, you can touch and move your finger over the screen to perform various operations. It will also lead to some users missing the tactile familiarity of a physical volume knob, as this receiver relies on touch controls.
6. Sony XAV-AX8000 Digital Media Receiver - Best for Floating Display
The floating display concept might not be immediately apparent to all, but once experienced, it becomes clear why it's a game-changer. Sony’s XAV-AX8000 is the best floating display experience you will get your hands under $500.
It isn't just aesthetically pleasing; it brings practicality and value to your driving experience. It provides several advantages, such as better adjustability, enhanced accessibility, and a more immersive screen. With an impressive 8.95-inch touchscreen, the XAV-AX8000 provides ample space for intuitive navigation, crisp visuals, and easy touchscreen controls.
It will be almost like having a mini tablet seamlessly integrated into your dashboard. The raised position of the screen means you don't have to divert your eyes far from the road to check navigation directions or song choices. Some users, though, dislike the fact that there are fewer physical buttons for quick access to functions.
Another complaint users have is that it employs a resistive touchscreen, which, while responsive, might not match the tactile precision and clarity of a capacitive touchscreen.
The XAV-AX8000 boasts a built-in amplifier and five channels of 5-volt preamp outputs. The final result is a clear, distortion-free sound that will delight even the most discerning ears. The 10-band EQ is certainly not the most customizable one you will get in this price range, and other sound settings may require some time and expertise to achieve the desired sound profile.
Bluetooth capabilities are built-in for hands-free calling and music streaming, enhancing both convenience and safety. The USB port is intelligently located on the back to ensure easier access. It serves a dual purpose, enabling you to plug in your phone or a USB memory stick for playing music or video files. A rear-view camera input is also included to facilitate the installation of a backup camera for enhanced safety while reversing.
Although it seamlessly integrates with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it requires a wired connection to your smartphone for these features to function. While this ensures stable connectivity, it is usual nowadays to prefer wireless integration for added convenience.
You know you can rely on this car audio stereo when a company as big as Sony goes on bragging about the “Quick Wakeup” feature. It helps the stereo have a startup time of less than 6.5 seconds. As much as it is remarkable and convenient, it gives you an idea of how performance-centric this receiver is.
Although the floating screen is the best aspect of XAV-AX8000 single din stereo, its other features don’t remain behind to make it one of the choices you should consider.
7. ATOTO S8 Pro Double-DIN Receiver - Best for Split Screen
- Dimensions (D*W*H): 4.96 inches x 9.92 inches x 6.2 inches
- Display size: 10.1 inches
- Display resolution: 1280x720 pixels
- Preamp channel: 4 channels
- Power output (wattage): 49 W × 4 or 196 Watts
- EQ: 9 EQ Modes and 32 adjustable frequency bands
- Weight: 6.78 pounds
Split screens allow you to run multiple apps or functions side by side and offer a newer level of convenience and multitasking rarely seen in car stereos. ATOTO S8 Pro excels in this certain territory by offering an unparalleled multitasking capability.
First, let’s discuss the ATOTO S8 Pro's Full HD 5-Touch capacitive and floating touchscreen. With a luminance of 600cd/m2, you're treated to clear and vibrant visuals, even in glaring sunlight. The 178° full-viewing angle and this floating screen adjustability ensure that everyone in the car enjoys a perfect view.
Now, to the star of the show, the split screen functionality lets you keep your navigation app running while accessing other functions. Whether it's checking real-time traffic updates, watching your favorite movies, or even monitoring your fuel efficiency, you won't miss a beat.
Some users, though, reportedly miss the presence of physical buttons, which can be easier to use while driving, especially for basic functions like volume adjustment.
With S8 Pro’s Fast System Boot, you can start your car and access the system in a mere 2 seconds. This swift startup not only ensures that you're ready to hit the road without delay but also showcases how powerful it is in terms of performance.
When it comes to sound quality, the ATOTO S8 Pro doesn't disappoint. It comes equipped with a built-in digital signal processing system that elevates audio quality to new heights. The inclusion of a Toshiba amplifier provides an extra punch of power and provides you with music as dynamic as you desire. The sound customization is enough for most customers, but still, the 9-band EQ is sub-par compared to what other stereos of this list offer.
It supports audio formats of the highest resolutions like FLAC, WAV, etc, while even being able to run the standard files of MP3 formats. In terms of inputs and outputs, it offers you AUX audio and video inputs, FCAM front camera video input, rearview camera input, 4-CH RCA audio out, separate subwoofer out, and more.
For seamless smartphone integration, the ATOTO S8 Pro offers both USB and Wi-Fi connectivity for iPhone and Android devices with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively. You can effortlessly mirror your phone to do hands-free calling, music or video streaming, navigation, and more while keeping your focus on the road.
Featuring Bluetooth 1 technology, it facilitates effortless hands-free calling and audio streaming. Even in noisy environments, the built-in noise cancellation technology ensures crystal-clear conversations, so you can stay connected without distractions.
One of the notable downsides customers face is the bothersome need for frequent firmware updates. We have found users need to perform updates approximately every month to ensure optimal performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of upgrading to the higher-end car stereo within this budget than the lower budget ones?
Upgrading to a higher-end car stereo within this budget offers sound quality, advanced music technologies, more sophisticated features, increased customization, and much more.
Do any car stereos under $500 offer support for HD radio broadcasts?
Can I connect multiple devices to the car stereos in this budget?
Yes, even some of the car stereos on the list allow you to connect multiple devices simultaneously via Bluetooth. For example, the JVC KW-M785BW can connect two phones simultaneously through Bluetooth.
Can I get a high-quality display within this budget of car stereos?
Yes, you can get a high-quality display within the budget of these car stereos. Several models featured in the article offer impressive touchscreen displays with good resolution and visibility. Additionally, the Sony XAV-AX8000’s screen is of floating design and the ATOTO S8 Pro Full HD 5-Touch Capacitive Touchscreen.
To Sum It All
Each of the car stereos we mentioned offers its own distinctive blend of features and capabilities, catering to a diverse range of tastes and requirements.
The variety of options presented here means that your ideal car stereo is within reach, ready to elevate your driving experience. Whether you prioritize sound quality, versatility, connectivity, or a combination of these features, there's a car stereo on this list that aligns perfectly with your needs.
Ultimately, the decision lies in your hands, guided by your unique preferences and priorities. With these options at your disposal, it's time for you to make an informed choice and embark on a journey where your favorite tunes complement your drive.
Different Budget Stereos You May Check: