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The Axxera AC536Bi has a lot of great features, though not nearly enough to compete with the best car stereos. Its audio performance was good, but not great, during our tests. However, its display is among the best on the market – it’s easier to navigate and read than those on most stereos. Priced under $100, this single-din stereo is a good value.
In our performance tests, the Axxera received a B for audio quality. This stereo provides excellent audio for its price, but it doesn’t have the signal clarity and frequency consistency of high-end models. In other words, if you're upgrading your car stereo on a budget, you'll be very happy with the AC536Bi’s audio performance.
It features seven EQ bands, which gives you more control over the audio than similarly priced stereos do. However, it pales in comparison to high-end stereos like the Pioneer AVH-501EX and JVC KW-R935BTS, which feature 13 customizable EQ bands, as well as time alignment features.
Unlike most other stereos under $100, the AC536Bi has a CD player, which is an outdated format for many people but still provides the highest fidelity audio for discerning listeners. You can also stream music via Bluetooth, a USB port or an AUX cord, so it's compatible with most digital formats.
That said, it isn’t compatible with lossless formats like FLAC and WAV – you can only listen to compressed formats like MP3 and WMA. Of course, most listeners can't tell the difference between the formats, so this is only a concern if you're an audiophile with a picky ear.
The Axxera AC536Bi’s best feature is its display. The interface is very easy to learn and navigate, which is why it received an A for ease of use. The buttons are clearly labeled and easy to find without looking at the stereo, so it shouldn’t be too much of a distraction while you drive. Also, it features buttons specifically for liking or disliking songs on streaming apps like Pandora, which is a neat modern touch.
In addition, the display received an A for quality. Rather than using outdated digital clockwork text like many of its competitors, it features a 320p full-color display that looks and acts more like a smartphone than a stereo display.
The max power output is above average at 260 watts, which is 60 watts per channel. However, the continuous power handling rating is 18 RMS watts per channel, which is slightly below average. Most stereos are rated for 22 RMS watts per channel. That said, the power difference isn't noticeable. On a positive note, the RCA output is rated for 4 volts, which is excellent if you have an amplifier or are looking to add an amplifier to your sound system.
The Axxera AC536Bi isn't the best stereo, but it's a very good budget option. Its audio performance is better than that of other stereos that cost less than $100, but it isn’t nearly as good as a high-end stereo. The display is both easy to use and great to look at, and the music playback is excellent for digital streaming. However, it isn’t compatible with file formats audiophiles prefer like WAV and FLAC.