RRP: £355.00Buy it here. Check out RetroSound’s current US stock here.

I have known about RetroSound for years, but this is the first time I have tried a car stereo of theirs. So, as you can imagine, I was excited to get stuck into this RetroSound San Diego Ghia review. I realized that I had had some preconceptions though. To say a reviewer never has any, is piffle. You have to be able to identify them as such, is all, and be honest. I saw a system of many knob choices to go on your selected front panel, to fit your chosen body. I didn’t realize the chromed knobs were metal castings and that fit and finish of all parts was top end.

The chromed parts are perfect and can sit alongside classic car OEM controls and match completely. So I was wrong to think it was just ephemeral. This device is not just about looking good, but is very well-engineered, too. The assembling of all the parts ends up as a beautiful looking, solid head unit. I got the feeling it was designed to last for as long as your classic would live. In testing it ran no hotter than 47C on a day so hot I tested it shirtless, wearing wet flannels on my shoulders. The heatsink on the back is a good chunk of metal.

The really clever thing is RetroSound’s spindle InfiniMount technology. What was once a set of shafts that were used to mount the radio, are now two separate assemblies. A pair of two-way short-twist controls that can do Left and Right and a push function for the middle knob. The center knobs can also fully rotate. That gives you a host of control options, plus the row of five push-buttons. Each spindle-knob assembly is on a short telephone type wire and plugs into the main body unit. They mount on said InfiniMount brackets. These allow huge mounting flexibility. You get all the parts you need.

RetroSound San Diego many parts

Setup and operation

Making the images and video was fun. I plugged in the DAB antenna and an old type FM aerial. The 3.5mm tip-ring-sleeve analogue Auxiliary socket got an ironic signal up it. Ironic as it was analogue, from a small pocket-DAB unit’s headphone output! It has a weak signal but you can hear it perfectly via that Aux.

I plugged a USB stick onto each USB socket. Each of them has a little cap you can seal it with if unused, as do the RCA output cords. You get Front, Rear and even Subwoofer RCA outs with this Motor 6 main body module. The sophistication is higher than normal in that you can choose your subwoofer crossover frequency, between 80Hz, 120Hz or 160Hz.

I stuck the thermocouple upon the chunky rear heatsink. Despite me running it hard on a steaming day, it didn’t get above 48C.

RetroSound San Diego built

How well does it work?

Simply put, it’s brilliant. Where some FLAC readers do not like FLAC16, this unit ate them happily via the trailing USB-2 socket. It played the Peter Gabriel Live in Athens but it didn’t read the other stick on the USB-1 port. That had some WAV files and m4a tunes that the device isn’t rated to read. It is cool that you get two USB’s, though. You can get an accessory to extend one of these to appear on your dash in the cigar-lighter position. I would hide USB-1 away, laden with on-era driving tunes, and use USB-2 as the changeable one. There’s no SD card slot but the version 5 Bluetooth is awesome for streaming. It was fast to pair and the whole scrolling of the video title I was watching, was cool as heck. Sound quality was definitely good enough for playing tunes from YouTube.

The on-board TrueRATING 4x25W amp has some real muscle, enabling that impressive sound quality. Clean and crisp with great detail, it made my B&W LM1 test speakers sing. As so often with a really good unit, I found myself relaxing, taking a break and just listening to music. It was actually a wrench to get back to work. And that is the best compliment you can pay electronics. It transported me off to a better place. The bizarre thing is, it looks like it was from a Karmann Ghia, or some old ‘splittie’ bus.

Google “Fluffy’s Vee-Dub collection” and marvel at literally millions of dollars worth of classic VW buses. The RetroSound system will have a match for all of them, and you wouldn’t know until you played the tunes.

It has to be said, the features and technology on this are darn clever, making a worldwide-applicable radio in one unit.

Tech specs:

  • Single DIN mech-free DAB+/FM/AM 30-preset radio with USB/Aux/Bluetooth (V5) streaming and calls
  • Onboard Power: 4x45W @4ohms
  • FM configurable to USA/EUR/AUS/JAP/RUS broadcast standards. Local/Distant settable signal sensitivity
  • Front, Rear and Sub RCA out, 2x 2.1A USB on cables with socket caps, wired microphone included
  • Fully modular designed system of high quality, that can be configured to fit any car of any era
  • Plays MP3, FLAC, WMA files via USB
  • Made for iPhone/iPod

Well, that’s the end of my RetroSound San Diego Ghia review. Need something a little less niche? Check out our single-DIN car stereo group test.