I've done some research and it seems like Panasonic/Pioneer/Kenwood/Alpine are probably the best that I could do within the $150ish price range. It seems that I can't really go wrong with any of these brands, and because of the features and color scheme that matches my car's dash, I was going to go with a Panasonic CQ-C5301U model off of sonicelectronix.com. Unfortunately I'm going to be stuck with the Ford(1998 Contour) stock/standard issue speakers for the time being(probably at least until next summer), and I wanted to know if there would be any significant sound quality/output improvements between running an Alpine CDE-9843, Pioneer DEH-P4700MP, or Kenwood KDC-MP4028 with the stock speaker config instead of the Panasonic.
Also, I've never seen anything but bad remarks about Dual HUs and other Dual products on message boards. What specifically makes this company a bad choice and is it safe to say that the sound quality of the Dual XD7600 isn't in the same league as the other HUs and brands that I've mentioned? The XD760 matches the dash/interior of my car perfectly and it would be my first choice if it wasn't for the bad remarks that I've read about the company. Any other suggestions for lesser known brand names that I should consider as well? And is it wise to pay a little more by going through a large retailer like crutchfield or sonic electronix for the added backing and tech support?