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Hi All-

After 3 solid years enjoying our BASE model 2011 for its simplicity (got the roll-down windows!),the family thinks it might be time to upgrade the radio/head unit to bring us into the 21st century.

What’s looking good for currently available head units that have iPhone connectivity, plug and play (no issues with the stock speakers), and on a budget? Our “stretch” ask is to get one that supports an aftermarket backup camera, also decent but on a budget.

All experiences/ opinions welcome. I’ve seen a few threads on this, but wanted to make a new post because electronics change so quickly. Interested in what’s available right now. Thanks!
 

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Yeah electronics change pretty quickly. @raine is always a reliable reference for this topic. I'll be in the market for the same thing so, bump. Personally, budget is the level you're going to have to decide. Hopefully we'll see a few options and you can go from there. Electronics can easily exceed $1000 for what you're asking for. So, get ready.
 

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IFF you want to install a rear camera and want to be able to activate the view on your new touchscreen on command when not in reverse, do your homework.
~ I'm able to do this w/ my Kenwood...and my installer was able to use the factory/OEM camera which my '15 came with.

Overall, I'm a big Kenwood fan and had one in my Gen 1 as well.
 

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Agree with ssundet. One thing mostly doesn't change, though. Don't get sucked into the idea that a low cost radio will be just as good as a more expensive radio. You get on amazon and even crutchfield and start looking at the options and think, well, the $100 dollar radio with all the features I want surely can't be THAT bad when compared to the $300 - $500 radio from <enter name brand brand here>.

Spend the extra money on a name brand radio. Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sony, and maybe Jensen. For most applications, you'll get to a price point where the additional costs don't equate to features you'll need. But maybe you'll want the best and all the fun stuff. HDMI input, capacitive touch screen so you can pinch for zooming in on maps and better in sunlight, built-in navigation, multiple camera inputs.

But for what you said above, it will be easy to find a radio with the camera input and with CarPlay. So if going with a brand radio (let's say Alpine or Kenwood), you're looking at about $300 for one of their low/mid-level radios with those features. It won't have the capacitive screen or HDMI inputs. But it will have the rear camera input (game changer) and CarPlay (and android auto).

So if you get a Then you can spend any remaining budget on speaker upgrades. The OEM speakers mixed with an aftermarket head unit will sound worse then OEM all around. The aftermarket radio will just make the mediocre sound louder and you'll hear the imperfections more.

In my opinion, the one thing I wouldn't pay for is a radio with built-in navigation. Integrating with the phone is where it's at. The moment you get built-in nav, you're stuck in that year's capabilities. yeah, you can usually do updates, but there's limits and eventually the company will no longer do the updates. But again that's just me.

Now, if you have the funds, you can certainly spend more on a higher-end radio and new speakers as well as an amplifier and/or digital signal processor and other bells an whistles.

As other's have said, do your research. There's many thread on this forum. Maybe even jump over to other car forums to see what they say. And of course there are just car audio enthusiast forums that you can peruse ad nauseam for further info.

Good luck and have fun.
 

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Hi All-

After 3 solid years enjoying our BASE model 2011 for its simplicity (got the roll-down windows!),the family thinks it might be time to upgrade the radio/head unit to bring us into the 21st century.

What’s looking good for currently available head units that have iPhone connectivity, plug and play (no issues with the stock speakers), and on a budget? Our “stretch” ask is to get one that supports an aftermarket backup camera, also decent but on a budget.

All experiences/ opinions welcome. I’ve seen a few threads on this, but wanted to make a new post because electronics change so quickly. Interested in what’s available right now. Thanks!
- Since you want iPhone connectivity and are hoping for backup camera functionality, you'll want to look for a CarPlay-compatible double-DIN unit at minimum. These start at around $250 for a decent, known budget brand (Dual, Boss). Personally, I would look to the more well-known brand name units starting at around $350 from Kenwood/JVC, Sony, and Pioneer. In this price range, you get features I wouldn't be able to live without such as a capacitive touch screen, CarPlay, and standard backup camera functionality.

- Be aware that the stock speakers are 2 ohms, while 99% of aftermarket head units normally operate at 4 ohms. Technically this isn't ideal, but realistically it will be fine. At most your total volume output will be about 1/2 the level it would be if you also swapped out the stock speakers for current, modern 4 ohm aftermarket as well. And if you're already looking to upgrade the head unit, you might want to consider a simple speaker upgrade as well. Together both upgrades will completely transform the quality of sound.

- As with most who want to upgrade their vehicle audio, I would say that the first thing to do is go to Crutchfield.com. Their website is one of the best resources for aftermarket car/truck audio. They have a ton of information available, and their website has the best filter system to narrow down head units based on specific features you want/need/are interested in.

Spend the time, do the research, learn about all the features that are available. Compare that to the features you want and the budget you have. Leave some room in the budget for smaller things you'll need such as dash installation kits, any wiring harness adapters, any add-on back up cameras, etc.
 

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Don't get sucked into the idea that a low cost radio will be just as good as a more expensive radio. You get on amazon and even crutchfield and start looking at the options and think, well, the $100 dollar radio with all the features I want surely can't be THAT bad when compared to the $300 - $500 radio from <enter name brand brand here>.

Spend the extra money on a name brand radio.
Agree 100%. I know a lot of people who went with the typical Amazon Atoto head units a few years ago and they are already crapping out one by one... a bunch of different issues like suddenly the left side speaker outputs are dead, or phone connectivity randomly disconnects, or touch screens flickering based on the phase of the moon, etc. LOL

The OEM speakers mixed with an aftermarket head unit will sound worse then OEM all around. The aftermarket radio will just make the mediocre sound louder and you'll hear the imperfections more.
Sad but funny how there are a lot of people out there who cannot understand this basic concept.

In my opinion, the one thing I wouldn't pay for is a radio with built-in navigation. Integrating with the phone is where it's at. The moment you get built-in nav, you're stuck in that year's capabilities. yeah, you can usually do updates, but there's limits and eventually the company will no longer do the updates. But again that's just me.
If you're always in/near a big city, this isn't a problem - There is nothing more up-to-date when driving than when using Waze, Apple Maps, or Google Maps directly from the phone. But there are still places to drive that have spotty-to-zero cellular coverage (think desert, mountains) where built-in nav can still serve a purpose; coincidentally these more remote locations that do not have cellular coverage also tend to not change their roadways much, so even 3-4 year old road navigation data is still accurate.
 

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If you're always in/near a big city, this isn't a problem - There is nothing more up-to-date when driving than when using Waze, Apple Maps, or Google Maps directly from the phone. But there are still places to drive that have spotty-to-zero cellular coverage (think desert, mountains) where built-in nav can still serve a purpose; coincidentally these more remote locations that do not have cellular coverage also tend to not change their roadways much, so even 3-4 year old road navigation data is still accurate.
True true. But my way around lack of data is two fold.
1) If I'm going on a road trip where I know cell reception is spotty, then I download the map along my route ahead of time (in Google Maps, not sure what it's called in the others). It has worked well in the past.

2) Now, if I'm going off-roading, say in Anza-Borrego, the Lagunas, the San Gabirels, or up the 395 and all those types of areas, I have GaiaGPS. I have a paid subscription so it can download maps. I've used it extensively for backpacking in the Sierra's and now for offroading. I run that on a tablet next to the OEM radio. If I ever upgrade, then maybe I'd run it on the radio throgh CarPlay or Android Auto if I can get back to an Android phone. But even then, the screen on my tablet is bigger and likley better (if I stck with the ~$300 price point for a radio) so glare is less of an issue. The only problem I have with it is that it's not an OLED so if I run it in landscape mode when I wear polarized sunglasses the screen is black.

There are other GaisGPS like apps, like Onyx Offroad (which every youtuber out there who steps on the dirt seems to be promoting), AllTrails, and some others. There's +/-'s to each.

So that's how I roll for low/no cell phone coverage areas. And thanks for the reminder. We're planning a trip to Rushmore and I should probably make sure I bring something for the areas surrounding the monument just in case I can convince the family to be daring.
 

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Not trying to hijack the original poster's question, but if you're upgrading your stock head unit to an aftermarket one, would you also purchase an aftermarket car alarm**? Some people would, (depending on where they lived and /or for piece of mind), while others would just stay with the stock OEM system. Just throwing that out there to see what people thought - Would you purchase & install a car alarm with a new aftermarket head unit purchase or would you just stick with the OEM alarm?

**As a Footnote / Commentary - Criminals still break into vehicles to steal items from them. Your truck's OEM alarm may or may not activate depending on what the criminal does. If the criminal opens the truck door, the alarm activates. If the criminal smashes the window & reach in without opening the doors - alarm does not activate.
 

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Probably not. Unless I got a really nice radio. But you'd have to spend at least $300 for a good alarm with installation. You'd want a vibe sensor and probably ignition lockout. And maybe even a backup battery to go with it so that if they cut power it still keeps going.

But theifs are cagey and dumb. I had a 1997 truck with a Clarion radio that I purchased in 1994...no alarm. It was stolen from front of my house, under a street light...in 2006 or so. The truck looked old. It was recovered a week or so later. They took the radio and CD changer...and forgot the face plate. So they got a 20 year old radio (with a cassette deck) and without a way to operate it. They couldn't even figure out how to get in the unlocked camper shell. Seems they wanted the CRT computer monitor that was back there.

Good ones, though, will certainly figure out how to get by just about any alarm and get what they want. Maybe installing a fancy looking LED might make a potential thief think twice. It would save you $300.

Course a real alarm might save you from ahving your catalytic converters stolen as well...and those are more expensive than most car radio. That's a big risk here in San Diego.
 

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True true. But my way around lack of data is two fold.
1) If I'm going on a road trip where I know cell reception is spotty, then I download the map along my route ahead of time (in Google Maps, not sure what it's called in the others). It has worked well in the past.

2) Now, if I'm going off-roading, say in Anza-Borrego, the Lagunas, the San Gabirels, or up the 395 and all those types of areas, I have GaiaGPS. I have a paid subscription so it can download maps. I've used it extensively for backpacking in the Sierra's and now for offroading. I run that on a tablet next to the OEM radio. If I ever upgrade, then maybe I'd run it on the radio throgh CarPlay or Android Auto if I can get back to an Android phone. But even then, the screen on my tablet is bigger and likley better (if I stck with the ~$300 price point for a radio) so glare is less of an issue. The only problem I have with it is that it's not an OLED so if I run it in landscape mode when I wear polarized sunglasses the screen is black.

There are other GaisGPS like apps, like Onyx Offroad (which every youtuber out there who steps on the dirt seems to be promoting), AllTrails, and some others. There's +/-'s to each.

So that's how I roll for low/no cell phone coverage areas. And thanks for the reminder. We're planning a trip to Rushmore and I should probably make sure I bring something for the areas surrounding the monument just in case I can convince the family to be daring.

1. Of course if you're truly "planning ahead" then downloading offline maps works... keywords: "if you are planning ahead."
2. Paid subscription to a hobby-specific app + external tablet that you have to mount in some fashion (and probably remove when not using it) is a fine solution for your requirements/usage.

The point of having built-in nav is that it just works. It isn't dependent on a separate working device (like you know, a phone) and can function standalone in any location without requiring cellular data or app subscriptions.

That said - sure, most people can get away with app-based navigation on their phones - it's baked into the OS and it's good enough for regular people.

Not trying to hijack the original poster's question, but if you're upgrading your stock head unit to an aftermarket one, would you also purchase an aftermarket car alarm**? Some people would, (depending on where they lived and /or for piece of mind), while others would just stay with the stock OEM system. Just throwing that out there to see what people thought - Would you purchase & install a car alarm with a new aftermarket head unit purchase or would you just stick with the OEM alarm?

**As a Footnote / Commentary - Criminals still break into vehicles to steal items from them. Your truck's OEM alarm may or may not activate depending on what the criminal does. If the criminal opens the truck door, the alarm activates. If the criminal smashes the window & reach in without opening the doors - alarm does not activate.
If they want to break-in they will break in. Alarms won't stop a thief, and these days most people don't care if they hear someone else's alarm anyways.
Swapping to a double-DIN head unit isn't an automatic thief magnet anymore... I'm sure you're aware that a lot of current vehicles have screens of all shaped and sizes in their dash now.
 

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Thanks to everyone for the feedback. I’ll look into the brands mentioned and start from there. It sounds like $250- $300 is the reasonable bottom end to start looking. And it sounds like I WON’T find anything designed around the 2-ohm speakers, but we can try it out, and the worst effect we’ll see is a reduction in volume.

I find this consumer space a pain to navigate, because I’d usually rather spend my money on quality, and forego paying for added features,(which in my mind just add complexity and represent something else to go wrong). Whereas, in the lower end of the market (the place where SIMPLE quality should be a great selling point???!), companies usually try to differentiate with lots of different gadgets, all with proprietary trademark names. Makes me want to give up sometimes! Haha rant over, thanks again for the help. Will update here when/if we make the change.
 

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Thanks to everyone for the feedback. I’ll look into the brands mentioned and start from there. It sounds like $250- $300 is the reasonable bottom end to start looking. And it sounds like I WON’T find anything designed around the 2-ohm speakers, but we can try it out, and the worst effect we’ll see is a reduction in volume.

I find this consumer space a pain to navigate, because I’d usually rather spend my money on quality, and forego paying for added features,(which in my mind just add complexity and represent something else to go wrong). Whereas, in the lower end of the market (the place where SIMPLE quality should be a great selling point???!), companies usually try to differentiate with lots of different gadgets, all with proprietary trademark names. Makes me want to give up sometimes! Haha rant over, thanks again for the help. Will update here when/if we make the change.
There are some aftermarket head units that are designed to work with 2-ohm speakers, but I wouldn’t use that as a key metric when it comes to shopping for an aftermarket head unit - especially for the Frontier. The OEM Frontier speakers are not high quality at all. So if you upgrade your head unit, you will not only hear a reduction in volume, but once you compensate by turning the volume up more you will just hear amplified mediocre sound, as @California Gator explained earlier above.

So maybe ask yourself if you are looking just for more modern features in the head unit, or if you are also wanting to actually improve the sound quality. If you want to get better sound with this upgrade, then you will have to look into upgrading to better speakers.

Keep in mind you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get good sound. Even something simple like a $300-ish head unit (that has the features you are looking for) combined with a pair of $50 basic but brand name aftermarket speakers for the front door will be a thousand times better sounding than insisting on keeping the 12-year old OEM speakers you have now.
 

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There are some aftermarket head units that are designed to work with 2-ohm speakers, but I wouldn’t use that as a key metric when it comes to shopping for an aftermarket head unit - especially for the Frontier. The OEM Frontier speakers are not high quality at all. So if you upgrade your head unit, you will not only hear a reduction in volume, but once you compensate by turning the volume up more you will just hear amplified mediocre sound, as @California Gator explained earlier above.

So maybe ask yourself if you are looking just for more modern features in the head unit, or if you are also wanting to actually improve the sound quality. If you want to get better sound with this upgrade, then you will have to look into upgrading to better speakers.

Keep in mind you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get good sound. Even something simple like a $300-ish head unit (that has the features you are looking for) combined with a pair of $50 basic but brand name aftermarket speakers for the front door will be a thousand times better sounding than insisting on keeping the 12-year old OEM speakers you have now.
Agreed. The OEM speakers are junk, including the RF option. I went with Morels out of Israel and the difference is unreal, but that should be true for any decent replacement set that costs more than $50.00 or so. If they don't, keep shopping, they won't be worth the replacement time.
 

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I have had ATOTO headunits twice and will vote for you to get an ATOTO HU. especially if your on a budget here is my experience:

I had an ATOTO on my Crown Victoria before I sold it, that was still going strong for 4 years..

I have an ATOTO unit on my frontier and its been on for for 2-ish years, no issues at all except one button is now slanted (half depressed, but still works).

ATOTO support is also amazing, other than them being in china and you gotta wait usually overnight for a response or chat with them early morning, they are extremely helpful and said they would send me out a new reverse camera if their suggestions did not work (but they did, had an issue with the birds eye view). I got better help from them than most American companies that respond with a generic *** emails or say stupid **** like uhh.. did you try restarting.

I will say though, I don't know **** about audio systems/subs/etc.... I just wanted something that made noise, had a reverse camera, and had apple car play, and was cheap. all other features were extra. the ATOTO exceeded that. I can display all my cars OBD-II live data on it connect it to BT, I have a maps app that I can use offline, I can view my tire pressures with the BT tire value caps, its basically like a phone for your truck, there is even an LTE version but it is like 500$, so I went with the cheaper one for 200$
 

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Why did I have to stumble onto this thread. :cautious:
Because you have impeccable musical tastes...and a desire for high-fidelity. 🎧
My system is akin to hi-fidelity detail/precision oriented earbuds + real bass to be felt head-to-toe. My Frontier IS my mobile mancave.
 
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Agreed. The OEM speakers are junk, including the RF option. I went with Morels out of Israel and the difference is unreal, but that should be true for any decent replacement set that costs more than $50.00 or so. If they don't, keep shopping, they won't be worth the replacement time.
Agreed - Morels are very, very good - but mostly out of the price range for those who aren't looking that far into SQ.

Why did I have to stumble onto this thread. :cautious:
SQ is calling you man. It's calling you. LOL
 

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Before I continue, no offense here - I'm only nitpicking for the sake of playing Devil's advocate:

I have an ATOTO unit on my frontier and its been on for for 2-ish years, no issues at all except one button is now slanted (half depressed, but still works).
So no issues at all... but wait, there is.

ATOTO support is also amazing, other than them being in china and you gotta wait usually overnight for a response or chat with them early morning, they are extremely helpful and said they would send me out a new reverse camera if their suggestions did not work (but they did, had an issue with the birds eye view).
So support is amazing... but wait, you have to wait overnight or chat with them early morning.

I got better help from them than most American companies that respond with a generic * emails or say stupid ** like uhh.. did you try restarting.
Okay, this one totally feels like a blanket statement (?)
Or have you actually had to contact Kenwood USA, or Pioneer USA, or even Alpine USA's customer service before?

I will say though, I don't know **** about audio systems/subs/etc.... I just wanted something that made noise, had a reverse camera, and had apple car play, and was cheap.
Well, you sure got it.

...all other features were extra. the ATOTO exceeded that. I can display all my cars OBD-II live data on it connect it to BT, I have a maps app that I can use offline, I can view my tire pressures with the BT tire value caps, its basically like a phone for your truck, there is even an LTE version but it is like 500$, so I went with the cheaper one for 200$
So many extra features (that require additional devices) to use sounds neat...

...but in the end, you didn't even mention if the Atoto's audio quality actually sounds good? 😬
 

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Agreed - Morels are very, very good - but mostly out of the price range for those who aren't looking that far into SQ.
SQ is calling you man. It's calling you. LOL
Eh, maybe so, depends on what some consider "affordable", mine were just over three from Crutchfield, if I recall correctly. Now, their higher-end stuff, yeah, your getting into the six to seven range at that point. If $149.95 speaker set is your comfort range, I guess have at it but IMHO, personally, If they're under two bills they're usually not worth all the time to R&R. And I very well could be wrong on that as well, somebody may correct me yet.
 

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Eh, maybe so, depends on what some consider "affordable", mine were just over three from Crutchfield, if I recall correctly. Now, their higher-end stuff, yeah, your getting into the six to seven range at that point. If $149.95 speaker set is your comfort range, I guess have at it but IMHO, personally, If they're under two bills they're usually not worth all the time to R&R. And I very well could be wrong on that as well, somebody may correct me yet.
Ah... but don't forget what we're comparing them to - OEM Nissan Frontier speakers.
Even a $50 pair of decent coaxials from a brand name will sound much better than the OEMs, especially when paired to a decent aftermarket HU.
 
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