This is Chris from Audiosavings writing a guide to help you chose the perfect in dash car receiver. (Hopefully you will buy it from audiosavings)
OK, so the first thing you really need to decide is if you want video capabilities to play DVD's and other video formats or if you only want a regular audio receiver. Most sites like ebay will seperate the audio receivers, and the audio+video receivers to seperate categories, but other than video capabilities the features will be repetative.
First, lets discuss real basic features.
The Power rating (how many watts) will determine how loud your speakers will go with each head unit. Generally the higher the power, the louder your speakers will be. However you need to be careful and make sure to check the RMS Watts power ratings. Ignore peak or max watts. A lot of receivers say 50x4 or 60x4 watts peak, but the RMS is never really more than 22 x 4. Focus on RMS ratings only.
There are lots and lots of diferent types of displays. Real basic receivers have LCD displays which will do the trick, but are not very fancy. They also have a tendancy to be hard to read in bright sunlight. The next type is a dot matrix display. There are some dot matrix displays which are better than others. It depends on how many dots the display has. More dots = higher resolution. There are some higher end receivers with full graphic display technologies such as OLED, full colod displays, etc. The higher end receivers tend to have nicer displays, which can display multiple lines of text, and they are easy to read during day or night. The video receivers have full TV screens anywhere from 2.5" up to 7". (Some can get bigger, but those are rare)
Mostly any receiver has a built in Equalizer to allow you to adjust the sound of the receiver. Most receivers will have a 3 band EQ with 6 or 7 preset equalizer curves. For best sound quality, some JVC, Pioneer, and other models will even give you a full 7 band Equalizer. Built in crossovers are usually found only in the really good models. This allows you to filter out low frequencies from your full range speakers, and filter out high range frequencies from your subs. This lets your speakers last longer and sound better. Definitely a good feature to look for in a receiver.
This is a great feature. The aux input will allow you to add portable audio devices and listen to them through your car stereo. You can connect anything from an ipod, MP3 player, or any other audio device. These days even lots of the entry level priced receivers have an aux input. (If you buy from Audiosavings, they usually give away the aux cable for free on most receivers)
The detachable front panel ensures the receiver does not get stolen at night. You can detach the faceplate and take it with you. More and more models have this feature.
Almost all the receivers now can play MP3 files. You basically burn the songs from your computer onto a CD-R or CD-RW disc, and in your burning program, you select data file instead of audio file. The tracks are compressed, and you can fit like 200 songs on each disc and play it in an MP3 capable receiver.
Pre-amp outputs allow you to install amplifiers and subs to your stereo system. If you plan to install a 4 channel amp for your speakers and another amp for your subs, make sure to buy a receiver with 3 sets of pre-amp outputs.
Now lets get to some more advanced features that are found in some of the newer models on the market...
But before we get to that, I almost forgot to mention something important. There are 2 main sizes of receivers. Single Din (2" tall - this is universal size) and double din (4" tall). To see if you can fit a double din in your vehicle, check if your dash has 4" of hight. If it does, you can install a single din or double din (single din would require a mounting kit). If its 2" of height, get a single din only.
OK, now where were we ? O yea, advanced features.. OK Check it out, Ill try to explain these as best as possible.
This is similar to an aux input only it will allow you to connect a portable USB thumb drive in addition to audio devices like MP3 players. The video models will allow you to store video files on the thumb drive in addition to audio files. Some USB inputs can control and charge your iPod also.
Before we explain this, note some receivers are bluetooth ready and require additional bluetooth modules to get bluetooth while some of the receivers have bluetooth built in (no accessories required).
The bluetooth receivers will display all your caller ID information and mute your music automatically, when you receive a phone call! They include a microphone, which is built into the receiver or they can be external, and mounted on your visors. When you talk using the hands free, the sound will come from your car speakers, and you can listen and talk freely! You can even search your phone book and dial through the receiver on most models with bluetooth.
Ipod and Iphone Ready
Again like with bluetooth, some models have Ipod interfaces built in, and some require additional Ipod Cables to get this feature working. When you have this feature, you can control and operate and charge your iPod or iPhone through the receiver. The receiver will display artist and song information on the display.
Satellite Radio Ready
Satellite radio ready means you can get XM or Sirius satellite radio on the receiver. This requires a subscription service, and a tuner and antenna that is not normally included with the receiver. Satellite radio is commercial free, it gives you high definition sound quality, and it is static free. It also gives you a ton of diferent channels of music and entertainment.
HD Radio Ready
Some models have this functionality included in the box, and with other models you need an HD Radio module that is not included. Some advantages of HD Radio are there are no monthly fees, and you get free radio sub-channels which you normally would not get! The reception is also crystal clear in high definition, and best of all the receiver will display the station name, song name, and more!
This should give you a real good idea of what to look for in a receiver. I hope this review is helpful in helping you chose a receiver.
To take a look at some of our receivers
Good luck in finding a receiver and feel frer to E-mail us if you have any questions. Our company has MECP certified car audio engineers to help you out!