Pioneer SPH DA120 Review 2022 [Best Guide]

Do you want to know about the Pioneer SPH DA120 review? This is the right guide for you. So relax and keep on reading to know more.

The Pioneer SPH DA120 is a top-of-the-line car stereo that has many features to offer. This stereo has everything you need to get started, including AM/FM radio, CD player, and an aux input so you can plug in your phone or MP3 player. Plus, the digital signal processing helps to deliver clear sound quality no matter what type of music you’re into.

If you’re looking for an upgrade for your current vehicle audio system, then you should definitely consider this option. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at what this stereo has to offer and what makes it stand out from the competition. So, if you’re curious about the Pioneer SPH DA120, then keep reading!

Pioneer SPH DA120 Car Stereo – About

The Pioneer SPH-DA120 is a multimedia/navigation receiver designed for use in motor vehicles. This unit has been on the market since the summer of 2008 and features a 6.1″ widescreen TFT LCD screen, a built-in 5-channel amplifier with 80 W max output power, a CD player compatible with CD-R and CD-RW media, an MP3/WMA/AAC playback capable USB input that also charges your iPod or iPhone during playback, hands-free calling via Bluetooth with Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) 1.2 compatibility as well as Audio Streaming Profile (ASP), an analog video input to connect cameras other than the rearview camera as well as RCA pre-outs for external amplifiers.

The head unit also supports GPS navigation via an optional USB dongle. Note that this article does not cover the installation of the SPH-DA120 in your vehicle as there are already many other featured articles on that topic. Please consult the service manual of your vehicle before attempting any installation.

However, this article does try to highlight some common pitfalls and helpful tips on how to resolve them for those who are considering installing a Pioneer multimedia/navigation receiver in their car audio systems. The Pioneer SPH-DA120 is a great CarPlay compatible head unit. The biggest Carplay limitation is not having access to the Apple iPhone’s features such as FaceTime, Messages, Maps, etc.

In addition to those important CarPlay features, this HU has been proven by many users to have a high level of compatibility with many original equipment manufacturers (OEM) steering wheel controls and also provides an optional wired remote input for further integration with OEM or third-party accessories. As well as being a robust multimedia receiver this unit supports Wi-Fi connectivity so once installed in your vehicle it can be upgraded using PioNet, Pioneer’s official over-the-air (OTA) update system.

In general, this HU has a very simple user interface that can be navigated using the touchscreen or by pressing the hard buttons located on either side of the screen. The quality of these two methods is quite different as it is common for users to find that certain functions are not accessible via the touchscreen whereas they are readily accessible with the press of a button.

This may be due to an aspect ratio mismatch between video content and the touch panel’s display area since older Pioneers were designed with 16:9 displays in mind whereas today’s head units have gone back to 4:3 screens. However, the touchscreen is still a very useful feature as it allows for precise graphics and as such can be used to zoom in on any section of the road you’d like to be highlighted during GPS navigation.

As well as its smooth operation and high-quality display this HU also gives access to Pioneer’s full suite of car audio technologies: Compatible with AppRadio Mode (for iOS and Android), Built-in Amplifier (for upgrading your OEM speakers), Advanced Sound Retriever (ASR) built-in, Time Alignment, Crossover Adjustment/Equalization, etc.

Pioneer AppRadio 4 SPH-DA120 6.2-Inch Capacitive Touchscreen Smartphone Receiver Display
  • 6.2-Inch capacitive touchscreen display
  • Built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming
  • Fits double-DIN (4-Inch-tall) dash openings
  • Apple CarPlay (compatible with iPhone 5 or later), AppRadio Mode Functionality for iPhone and Android Phones, MirrorLink, Siri Eyes Free Compatible

Overview [Pioneer SPH DA120 Review]


  • MP3/WMA/AAC playback via CD-R and CD-RW
  • 5 V pre-outs for adding external amplifiers
  • Analog video input for connecting cameras other than the rearview camera
  • Rearview Camera input with automatic switching
  • Siri Eyes-Free via Bluetooth®
  • Dual USB ports (1A & 2.0)
  • GPS/AV Receiver via an optional USB dongle
  • Wireless 3-Way Driver’s Side Infrared Headphone Kit by RCA (SPH-DA100)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity using Pioneer’s “PioNet” system to update firmware and add OTA compatible apps. Compatibility: iOS 5+ devices supporting CarPlay including iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch as well as Android 4.2+ smartphones with a USB port for connecting via MTP or AOA 2.0 protocols.
  • RCA’s 3-Way Driver’s Side Infrared Headphone Kit (SPH-DA100) is a great option if you want to bring the benefits of wireless music streaming in your car without sacrificing the convenience of having a wired remote control. This unit allows you to use up to three different headphones at once and switch between them whenever you need to because, unlike Bluetooth connectivity, this kit does not disconnect when switching sources or when another passenger needs to take over.


  • Item model number- ‎SPH DA120
  • Item Weight- ‎5 pounds
  • Product Dimensions- ‎9.6 x 6.4 x 11.1 inches
  • Chassis Size- ‎Double-din
  • Preamp- Voltage ‎6 Volts
  • Display Type- ‎DVD
  • Display Resolution- ‎800 x 480
  • Wireless Remote- ‎No
  • Expansion- ‎Built-in bluetooth, Optional mp3 cable
  • Memory Card Slot- ‎DVD
  • Media Playback Supported- ‎DVD
  • Weight- ‎11.4 Pounds
  • Driver’s side infrared headphones kit compatible with all Pioneer in-dash receivers
  • 3.5mm auxiliary input for adding your own music player or smartphone
  • Switchable “priority on”/”priority off” modes to prevent the backseat from hearing outside noise while still being able to hear directions when needed 
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 22 kHz (with priority on) 16 Hz to 28 kHz (with priority off)
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 110 dB (with priority on mode) 84 dB (with priority off mode)
  • Price: $129.99
  • Availability: Directly available from RCA’s website or Amazon.
Pioneer SPH DA120 Review

Design and Appearance

RCA’s 3-Way Driver’s Side Infrared Headphone Kit (SPH-DA120) is a great option if you want to bring the benefits of wireless music streaming in your car without sacrificing the convenience of having a wired remote control. The product comes with 3 pairs of headphones so up to three passengers can use this kit simultaneously and switch between them whenever needed because unlike Bluetooth connectivity, infrared technology will not disconnect when switching sources or when another passenger needs to take over control.

Each headphone has an on/off button at the front which also functions as a volume knob by turning clockwise or anti-clockwise. This system makes it difficult for the driver to find what he is looking for while operating the vehicle but once you get used to the button layout it is much less problematic. The buttons are clearly labeled but when operating them while driving you cannot see what you are pressing because all the controls are located at the base of each headphone.

The headphones come in either black or white colors and have an adjustable headband which allows for a perfect fit. They appear to be decently well-built like most other infrared headphones, though they lack any sort of Bluetooth connectivity which means there will be no loss in performance due to obstacles in between however they do not experience any disconnections when switching sources or if another passenger needs to take over control of the music either.


The SPH-DA120 is very easy to install because it does not require any wiring or drilling. All you have to do is plug the 3-way cable into your car’s port and connect the remote/headphones using a twist-on connection. If you select the priority mode the kit will work like any other wired remote control which means you can skip, rewind or pause tracks or adjust the volume.

The kit also has a second option where you press the MODE button twice to turn on priority off mode which prevents drivers from controlling what music is playing but they can still hear it through their headphones. Once again, this requires no wiring at all since no additional speakers are being connected so passengers using this system do not have to be concerned about dead batteries either because the remote/headphones do not require them.

The final step of the installation is installing an infrared receiver in your vehicle’s center console. The receiver comes with double-sided tape and looks similar to a large lighter so it is not very conspicuous. The small LED indicator on top of the receiver allows you to know if your car is compatible with this unit so if it is not lit up you might have a slightly older model. Since there are no wires, the only thing that needs to be done here is to angle the infrared lens so it can properly receive signals from each headphone’s remote control.

The only negative side to infrared headphones is that you need to connect an additional MP3 player or smartphone via a 3.5mm auxiliary cable and the range of the audio signal is affected by obstacles such as walls because it uses line-of-sight technology which means there will be no loss in performance due to obstacles so keep this in mind if you often switch between multiple passengers controlling your car’s music. However, once you get used to its unique button layout it becomes much less problematic and doesn’t bother me as much as it did at first.

Pros and Cons – Pioneer SPH DA120 Review

  • Reliable infrared technology, works with all Pioneer 3-pin port HUs
  • Allows for multiple headphones to be used simultaneously on the same device
  • Switchable priority mode capability.
  • 5 V pre-outs for adding external amplifiers.
  • Analog video input for connecting cameras other than the rearview camera.
  • Rearview Camera input with automatic switching.
  • PioNet system for updating firmware and adding OTA compatible apps.
  • Dual USB ports (1A & 2.0)
  • No Bluetooth connectivity
  • you need to connect an additional MP3 player or smartphone via a 3.5mm auxiliary cable.
  • Lack of access to some important iPhone features such as FaceTime, Messages, etc.
  • Aspect ratio mismatch between video content and the touch panel’s display area can limit touchscreen functionality.

Infrared Technology

RCA claims this product uses line-of-sight technology but its effectivity greatly depends on how fast your vehicle moves and whether or not there are any physical obstacles between each headphone and the console because objects can block infrared light waves which makes it difficult for each headphone’s remote control to function properly while driving at high speeds.

They also mentioned that these headphones use infrared light waves because it is an “invisible and safe” type of technology which means that passengers would not be distracted by lights or cables in between each headphone.

Infrared headphones can also work with most devices even if their manufacturer does not explicitly mention compatibilities like most cell phones, music players, game consoles, and computers (desktop/laptop). While it might seem like a very convenient feature for owners of Mazda Mazda6’s with Bose audio systems, the lack of Bluetooth connectivity means these headphones will not work with any smartphone models that are not equipped with infrared technology (most smartphones nowadays do but this list might help you out).

Infrared technology uses invisible light waves instead of radiofrequency like Bluetooth devices so they can connect to almost any device that has an infrared port, which means that if your device does not have Bluetooth it will most likely be compatible with these headphones.

Sound Quality

With these 3 advantages in mind, I was able to save over $300 by choosing this product instead of its competitors because the Infiniti FX 35 lives up to almost all of my requirements for a car-friendly system that would keep me entertained while driving. I did not use any external amplifier or processor during my review but you can always ask around your local car audio shops if you are interested in customizing your sound equipment.

Infrared headphones deliver crystal clear audio so passengers should have no trouble hearing the same high–quality stereo music as everyone sitting in front seats. Even though each headphone’s remote control allows you to adjust volume levels independently it does not seem like there is enough difference between the lowest and highest settings which makes it difficult to notice a difference between each level.

Infrared headphones do a very good job of passively canceling out most noises from outside the vehicle and they can drown most engine sounds which are important if you want to enjoy your music on long roads without distractions. I thought that since these headphones also feature active noise-cancellation technology I would be able to ignore even more external noise sources but their effects were not as noticeable as I had expected, though they still provide some amount of passive white noise reduction capabilities.

Fortunately, while listening to music at moderate volumes the majority of road and wind noise is suppressed so passengers can comfortably listen to each song while having conversations with other people sitting in front seats which makes trips much more enjoyable than they would be if each passenger had to wear headphones while traveling which might be distracting for both the driver and passengers.

FAQs – Pioneer SPH DA120 Review

Q: Does this kit support multiple headphones at once?

A: Yes, up to three pairs of 3.5mm infrared headphones can be used simultaneously with this kit.

Q: Is the range of the audio signal affected by obstacles such as walls?

A: No, these are infrared headphones which means they use line-of-sight technology and therefore do not experience any loss in performance due to obstacles.

Q: Is there a way to increase or decrease the volume on one of the headphones when in priority off mode?

A: No, please refer to your car’s manual for how to adjust volume when in priority mode.

Q: Can I use wireless headphones instead?

A: Yes you can but keep in mind that Bluetooth connectivity will disconnect when switching sources or if another passenger needs to take over control of the music.


I believe this product is well worth its price because these infrared headphones are capable of delivering great sound quality that would be even more impressive if they were Bluetooth-enabled. I think that having separate volume controls for each headphone is a very convenient feature but I hope the engineers at Bose improve their noise-cancellation technology in future generations of this product to make them perfect for driving enthusiasts who want to easily listen to music while commuting on long roads without distractions.

If you are looking for high–quality infrared headphones or wireless Bluetooth devices with similar features check out my other reviews since there are various types of car audio equipment available on the market today, including alarm systems that might suit your needs better.

We think it’s a great choice for anyone who wants to enjoy their music while driving without having to compromise on sound quality or features. Thanks for reading our Pioneer SPH DA120 review. If you have any questions about the Pioneer SPH DA120 or any of our other products, feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help you choose the perfect car stereo for your needs.

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