This stereo claims to be the perfect solution for anyone who wants to upgrade the audio in their classic car, or who just simply enjoys a classic aesthetic. To find out more, have a read of this full Caliber RCD 120DAB-BT-b review.

RRP: £199.99. Buy it here.

Initial impressions

The RCD 120DAB-BT-b’s model number means it has DAB and bluetooth and is the black chrome one. There’s also a shiny chrome version, if you’d rather. The printed manual covers eight languages and starts with installation of the included phantom-powered DAB+ antenna. It requires part to be over metalwork, rather than glass. I had left the sticky-back covers on and just added BluTack to ‘install’ it to my office window. Of course, I had fitted it wrongly and DAB didn’t work. Then, after Reading The Flipping Manual, I re-fitted it, with the black bit over the aluminium window frame. Then it was fine. There is an FM tuner but Caliber didn’t bother with AM.

Caliber RCD 120DAB-BT-b REAR

The carton has the legend “RETRO LOOK Chrome Finish” on its flanks, so it’s clearly aimed at that retro market. Known for their good value for money stuff, Caliber are a Dutch company. They are great at offering more for the money than other brands. Indeed, if you are looking to get a chrome-era radio, then there’s these or the RetroSound products to choose from. The latter gives you a gazillion permutations and combinations of front panels and knobs and noses, whereas Caliber offers just a few. But then, you don’t have to pay for ‘modular’ engineering and this is half their price.

The right hand knobber is a twist-and-push control. One wiggle each way for up and down and shove it to confirm. The left is your volume knob. Between, on a classic sticky-out snout, are six push buttons. Instead of hinged doors, you get dangly plug-covers over the USB and AUX sockets. The unit is a classic soft-open face-off. Press a button and it opens slowly. The CD eject button is internally lit, while the SD slot is to its left. A red flashing ‘security’ LED shows when the panel is off.


Setup and operation

I made another blue… I haven’t played with a box-fresh in-car CD deck in a while. Delivered new, they have transport-securing bolts fitted. I offered the slot a CD, and it snatched it up, only to then spit it back out! I hadn’t undone and removed the restraining bolts. Then it loaded the disc really fast and read it in a trice, playing it with very little wait at all. That was after closing the face back up. It feels solid and reassuringly chunky although the buttons are not crisp like on a £400 Blaupunkt.

It says that the unit can read MP3 and WMA files. Sure enough, it ignored the legion of M4A files and then startled me. I saw and heard the Peter Gabriel Live In Athens title and it was playing happily. This is a FLAC32 file. It could see and read all my FLAC albums. But here’s the thing. As well as being able to read files it doesn’t say it can, it also ate my 32GB MicroSD. It was in the SD adaptor. But the system is only rated up to 16GB. Maybe that’s the ‘reliable’ limit? I have way less data than that on there, but the SanDisk is still a 32GB.

The 1.2V pre-outs are not huge by modern standards but are plenty for driving amplifiers well enough. Great fun to play with and looks like it belongs in an old chromey-knobbed car with chrome body trim. The look is pure cat’s-eye Ray-Ban era, the sound is updated old school!

As the Propellorheads say, “Bang On!”

Caliber RCD 120DAB-BT-b digital display

How well does it work?

The Aux was quieter than others. I turned up both the volume of the device output and the unit to hear it better. The priceless recordings from the Panasonic voice recorder of my lad as a toddler. I was a bit sad that the unit couldn’t play M4A stuff. While this is true retro in flavour and up to date in format technologies, it is trailing slightly in this. The stupid cheap ten dollar radio read everything. The posh Blau read stuff it wasn’t even supposed to. The JVC/Grundigs read MP3, FLAC, WMA, OGG, MPEG1, 2, 4, H264, JPEG, MKV, BMP, and PNG files! So not having M4A is a pity. But it’s a moot point, as both sound great. The display shows a cute LCD indicator dedicated to source and file type. The USB logo will flash as will the MP3 one. Then, the display scrolls the ID tag information. All one white light shade but still groovy.

Although intuitive to play with, you do need the manual for some stuff. Like knowing about a LONG press, as again its a quick bop of a button to do stuff. The ‘how to’ is itself a task. You get teeny weeny print and a diagram with labels 1 to 22. You have to pick a button and then look it up on a table to work out stuff. The table’s lines are exactly 1mm apart. The print fits within this at 0.3mm high. It is the most user-confuser manual I ever saw. Caliber need to look at the full colour comic approach that Grundig use.

It’s generous to include an antenna but a bit parsimonious not offering even a baggie for the gorgeous nose panel. Beautiful, shiny, great sounding, even if the 4x75W claim is a bit ‘enthusiastic”.

Tech specs:

  • 1-DIN CD-Tuner with DAB+/FM & USB/SD/Aux/Bluetooth streaming and calls
  • Onboard Power: 4x75W MAX, this is what others call ‘4X50W’ and likely to be 4x22W RMS
  • 2V Front and Rear RCA out, front USB and Aux, SD & CD slots under faceplate
  • DAB+ antenna and wired microphone included, but no case for faceplate
  • Plays CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA and plays FLAC32, despite not being rated for it
  • Red security LED flashes when front panel is removed – looks like an alarm

For more single-DIN car stereo options, have a read of our group test!