Non-Ugly Car Stereo

Hello all, I am looking into a new car stereo for my first car, a 2000 4runner. Before I replace speakers, I want something that requires less skill: replacing a radio/stereo. I have been looking around the 25-150 dollar range and have only really found ones that are made out of shitty glossy plastic with chrome and lights. They look cheap and out of place and are a sign to criminals who walk by (I live in New Orleans) that you have something valuable in the car. 

Here are some examples of the ones I want to avoid:

These look gaudy and are (IMO) not very respectable, especially in an older car as I have. 

With desktop audio, it seems like there are so many options and cool looks, but with cars (and I am new to this) it seems like most of the things I am seeing are similar (they all look bad so far).

Any help in finding something good is appreciated. 

Try taking a look at Alpine or Pioneer stereos. Personally I would go for Alpine. And the only way you will get one that doesn't have an electronic display that is glossy and gaudy is to pick up one used on Ebay or maybe craigslist. Another place you could pick one up at is your local scrap yard, they are bound to have some old car stereos on display for cheap, just don't buy any speakers there.

I've had the same dilemma for years in car audio. All the decks are made of cheap plastic that feels like it is going to fall apart, and overly flashy LED's everywhere. Older classic muscle cars seem to have a nice selection of metal replacements, but audio quality is always in question with those.

Then I look at the cars capable of installing aftermarket decks, and quickly realized why this was: it is a VERY small market. Think about it, newer cars don't have a standard DIN radio; they all have custom made dashes and units with displays and everything, so there isn't even an option to install an aftermarket deck. People that have older cars that have the DIN sized radios usually aren't usually worried about high end audio, rather just making sure their stays on the road; and if they are worried about audio, it is the younger, boy racer crowd.

As an audio enthusiast who drives older cars though, I feel your pain. I've ended up coming to the solution that I will take a stock deck, and use a preamp from it, to a seperate amp, which will then power higher quality speakers. The nice thing about this idea is that you don't have to use the same manufacturer. You can easily swap decks around seeing they are the same size, and just find one that has a good preamp stage to feed your amp. Personally, I would only worry about the front stereo setup, and forget about the rear audio all together.

Yes, it's amazing how awful most of them are.  There are a few decent ones, but at least the first place I would go to look (Crutchfield) doesn't carry most of them.

Here's a decent place to look at some of the few options:


i would recomend the Pioneer deh-x9600bhs i use it my self and im not a fan of the flashy units either, this one is not to flashy. and you can usually find it at a discount price on ebay. its a 250 unit but most are a knocked off prices.


i agree with you i don't like any of the newer radios out on the market and i'm in the 12v world for my job so i'm very familiar with what's available. so i had to get creative. i have a 2005 mazda 6 and if you have ever seen the dash in it. the radio is integrated into all of the climate controls. the after market dashes look like shit too. so what i did was pull the factory infinity amp that is located under the passenger seat and put a rockford  3sixty.3 audio processor in it's location. it allowed me to keep the factory look as well as have an aux input and stream via bluetooth from the tablet i mounted in what would have been the factory navigation location. but i also have a sub box i build and amps/inverter behind the rear seats. 

the main reason behind this is because i like loud clear music but i also hate all of the after market head units and the shitty navigation in them. i wanted google maps so until a reputable manufacturer comes out with an android based head unit that doesn't suck (parrot astroid) i'll never put a regular head unit in any of my vehicles. or if i do it will be behind a flush mount for a tablet or my smart phone to connect to via B/T

and to what Blut Badsam said that's a pretty good head unit, and you can actually find last years model 8600 for about 40$ cheaper on amazon. i use it in my truck to connect my phone to it for media/phone. 


and i just noticed this is a really old post after typing all this.... damn it.

You say yo ulook at 25 to 150$ radio deck and you say they look cheap... what do you expect. at that price range yea they are gonna look shinny cause people want it to look good not sound good at that price.

(looking on crutchfield and non discounted price)

if you want to stay in your budget but it's on the high side get something like this.

If you can put out a bit more money you have have more powerfull RCA outputs if you plan to have external amps for speakers and subwoofers.

I do not know if you looked at this also but to make your life easier you will need these two parts to make your install.

Have fun!

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