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post #1 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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My Experience With Retro Solutions/Xenon Depot Compared.

Firstly, let me say that everything that I am writing below is based solely off of my own experience with these two companies and their products. I understand that your experience may differ and this is not meant to be a benchmark to measure both companies by. I OWN A 2008 COUPE

RETRO SOLUTIONS
I began my search for a HID kit with the following goals in my mind:
- Increased light output (as much as possible)
- Best price/quality ratio

As you can see, that is a very short list of goals. Those two goals lead me to Retro Solution’s product, as they were
- 55watt (reported 20% output increase over 35w)
- Cheaper than Xenon Depot

So, with much glee, I placed an order with Retro Solutions for a 5000k 55 watt kit. Retro Solutions promptly shipped out my kit, and I received it within a week. As most of you know already, the kit includes:
- Ballasts
- Bulbs
- Fancy suitcase

I installed the ballasts under my bumper, as was recommended by the vast majority of users here as being the “correct” way to install a HID kit. The lack of a proper mating connector wasn’t too much a problem for me, and I made sure to secure the leads properly. I carefully installed the bulbs, and was very happy to see that they worked. They ignited with no problem, with a bit of an audible hum from the ballasts that proved to be indiscernible when the car was in motion. I was very happy with the amount of light output, as it was much more intense and pure than my stock bulbs.

After about 3 weeks of usage, my driver’s side light stopped working. After some troubleshooting, I determined that it was due to the ballast not igniting. I contacted Retro Solutions, via email and let them know about the situation. I was contacted via phone regarding this issue. He acknowledged that it seemed that I had defective ballast, and I had to give them an 80 dollar deposit for a new pair of ballasts to be sent to me.

I received the new set of ballasts and installed them. Taking the bumper off for the second time was a crappy experience. I could tell that the clips were getting weaker and more worn out. I think I realized at this point in time that mounting the ballasts under the bumper was a big mistake, but still decided to mount the new ballasts under the bumper.

When I went to test the new ballasts, I noticed that now the passenger side was not igniting. I swapped them back and forth, and it seemed that I had received another defective ballast. I put my stock bulbs back in and sent Retro Solutions another email detailing my problem.

At this point, Retro Solutions seemed to believe that I had a defective electrical system that was not putting out enough power to properly drive the HID’s. Their solution was to send me a relay kit.

I received the relay kit, and installed my HID kit AGAIN. This time I learned from my mistakes, and installed my ballasts in the space behind the headlight. I did not want to risk ruining my bumper by taking it off yet another time. I’m sure that you can guess the result. One of the ballasts did not ignite. I contacted Retro Solutions yet again, and was told to send the entire kit back. I drove to the post office with my sad dim stock bulbs lighting the way, and mailed the entire kit including the replacement ballasts back to Retro.

Retro received my package and informed me that sure enough, 1 ballast out of each set was defective. With a failure rate of 50%, I must have done something really horrible in a past life to deserve such bad luck. I asked to downgrade for a 35watt kit, believing that the higher power draw of the 55watt kit may have caused problems. They promptly sent me a replacement kit, which I did not install.

XENON DEPOT
It was at this time that I began to reconsider the goals and qualities that I wanted to look for in a HID kit. Having to remove one’s bumper twice will make anyone re-think that. My goals changed to the following:
- Increased light output over stock
- Maximum reliability
- Maximum quality
- Excellent customer service (reachable via phone if need be)

I approached the folks at Xenon Depot. I originally chose not to go with their product as they did not offer a 55watt kit, and their product is more expensive. I spoke with Steve on the phone, and he was very helpful. I ordered a 35watt 4300k kit, and Steve rush processed the order in so I could get it installed before I went on a road trip the following week. Very good customer service.

I received the kit, As most of you know already, the kit includes:
- Ballasts
- Bulbs
- Gloves for bulb protection during installation
- Relay harness with dual relays
I installed it in the wheelwell, NOT behind the bumper. I did not want to remove the bumper again. There is more than enough room in the wheelwell for the ballasts. I also installed the relay kit that was included. I fired them up, and BAM, they worked. I’ve had them installed for about a month now, with no problems. Knowing about my problems in the past, Steve graciously gave me a phone call to check in and make sure everything was going well.

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post #2 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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Below you will find a breakdown and part by part comparison of the two kits and my experiences.

Ballasts Both companies’ ballasts were very heavy duty, and had impeccable sleeving and connectors. The rubber jacketing of the wiring along with the crimping at the base were perfect with both products. Xenon Depot’s ballasts have a “breakout” box in addition to the main ballast housing, which creates another thing to have to mount. I had no trouble zip-tying it to the main ballast box. Xenon Depot's ballasts also feature grooving, increasing the surface area for increased cooling, like a heatsink.

Bulbs/Light Output – In terms of light output, when it was working, Retro Solutions’ 55watt kit puts out noticeably more light. It extended further, and was more intense at close ranges as well. However, I believe that due to either the return wire, or due to the more intense light, the Retro Solutions’ bulb cast more shadows. It didn’t bother me personally, but it may bother others. In contrast, Xenon Depot’s 35watt kit put out a good amount of light, MUCH better than stock, and cast a more even field of light. If the only thing you are concerned with is the amount of light output, go with Retro Solutions’ 55watt kit. It produced noticeably light for me until one of the ballasts stopped working. If you are looking for the most even field of light, then I would recommend Xenon Depots 35watt kit.

Relay Kits – This is an area of much debate. Explained simply, a relay kit allows for your HID kit to be powered directly from your battery instead of from the electrical subsystem that originally powered your stock headlights. The relay kit uses the stock headlight’s electrical subsystem as a signal to turn the HID’s on or off. When the relay kit tells the HID’s to turn on, it takes the power DIRECTLY from your car’s battery.
What’s the advantage? Pulling power directly from the car’s battery allows for a much higher and quicker power draw. This ensures that your HID kit will get all the juice it needs. Additionally, and most importantly, a relay kit can prevent damage to your stock electrical system. While this may be a farfetched possibility, a relay kit is a good precaution in exchange for peace of mind and the preservation of your car’s warranty.
So what is the point of debate? Retro Solutions insists that their ballasts do not require that much power, and therefore the utilization of a relay kit is totally unnecessary. While this may be true for 90% of the cars out there, there is the possibility of some cars with weaker electrical subsystems. Retro Solutions thought that my car may suffer from a weak electrical system, and ironically suggested a relay kit for me AFTER I had problems. Having to remove my bumper a second time to try out the relay kit was a pain in the ass, and totally unnecessary if I had installed it to begin with. I would have much rather had it be an included feature to be installed along with the kit.
Contrastingly, Xenon Depot recommends the installation of a relay kit with their HID systems. I spoke with them regarding this, wondering if their ballasts had unusually high power draw and required a relay kit. Xenon Depot confirmed that this was NOT the case, as their ballasts have low power draw, and that many users report success without the usage of a relay kit. Xenon Depot recommends the usage of a relay kit in order to ensure that their kit works with 100% of vehicle electrical systems out there, and that safe is better than sorry. I would have to agree. While installing the relay kit took me an extra 10 minutes, I feel that it is well worth it to invest the extra time in a HID system that will be place for the lifetime of my car.
Retro Solutions’ relay kit consists of one relay switch that is used to switch on both headlights. I had to extend the power wire from it to be able to reach both of my ballasts. I had to cut the wire, and solder a longer one in its place. I feel that they should include a longer wire to ensure that it will reach everyone’s setups.
Xenon Depot’s relay kit consists of TWO relay switches, one for each headlight. I feel that this offers several significant advantages. If one relay switch fails, you still get one working headlight. If one fuse blows, you still have one working headlight. This basically doubles the reliability of the relay harness. Additionally, the quality of the relay harness was far superior to Retro Solutions’. The jacketing was of far better quality.
Finally, in regards to relay kits, there has been no specific or scientific data provided regarding the actual power draw of these kits, so there is no way to tell if a relay kit is absolutely necessary or not. However, I would heavily recommend using one for peace of mind.

Installation location – While most people recommend installing the ballasts behind the bumper, in my experience, this was my most heavy regret when installing my HID kit. Yes, your installation MAY be perfect and work the first time, but if you ever have to do any maintenance or replacement of the kit, you will be kicking yourself in the head. There is more than enough room behind the headlight to install the ballasts, and there are several places you can SECURELY zip tie the ballast to. This way, if you ever have to replace, check, or repair your install, you can get to the entire kit in a matter of seconds instead of minutes. Additionally, if you break your wheel well liner, it is going to be MUCH cheaper than if you break a body clip of your bumper or scratch the paint job.

Overall – My PERSONAL recommendation, based solely on my own experience, is blatantly obvious. Retro Solutions sent me 2 sets of ballasts, and I experienced a 50% failure rate with them. They also insisted that their systems are 100% “plug in play”, and do not require a relay harness, but later sent me one as a troubleshooting measure. I found that very ironic. Xenon Depot’s kit worked the 1st time I installed it, and I have not had any problems in the last month. They include a very well constructed relay kit with their HID system, which is a major plus in my opinion. Their kit is more expensive than Retro Solutions’, but I would have gladly paid several hundred dollars more to make up for my lost time.

Sugguestions - One thing that I would suggest to both companies is to run the positive and negative wires of the relay harness together, to allow grounding at the battery. They could be run in the same sleeve for 0 additional bulk. This would negate the need to find a good ground location near the ballasts to ground the relay kit to. Exposing bare metal and drilling and tapping a hole for a good ground is a pain in the ass to do in small locations.
I would also liked to have seen better installation literature from each company. I understand that there are too many cars to create installation literature for independently, but I would like to suggest the following model:
- Company creates a branded installation template
- Company offers 1 free kit on popular car model message boards in exchange for a moderator or respected user to fill in the installation template with images and written instructions.
This would allow for much more easy, trouble free installation, at a minimum cost to the HID dealers.

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post #3 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 05:17 PM
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Nice writeup. I helped a friend install a retrosolutions 9006 kit and it has been running for a year no problems. I guess it's hit or miss. Good point about the relay, I would want one whether it's "needed" or not.

Not to thread-jack, but I'm wondering about DDM tuning HID kits. Ridiculously small ballasts and the 35w is 70 bucks on their website. I have read good and bad things about them. Few people have any problems with the kits, but customer service supposedly isn't the best and they are usually on backorder. Any opinions on that company?

2008 NBP EX Coupe | 5000k HIDs | LED interior/reverse | Harmon Kardon Ipod Interface | 35% tints | Hyper Yellow DRL | LED Halo Fogs | Silverstar Turn Signals | Chrome Grille Strips/Mesh lower grille | Taillight Tint
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post #4 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 06:22 PM
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Great post, but you're 21 hours late, since I have already ordered my 4300k Philips kit from Xenon Depot last night.

As they say better late then never, as this was the kind of post I was searching for in quite some time. Your post and experience was very insightful to me.

From day one I know what I wanted in a hid kit, but was unsure with who to go with. I have gone to local retailers in my area, each boasting their kit is better, as well as searching the net. I've been wanting a hid kit since I got my car in January, but was in no hurry to get just any kit.

In the end XenonDepot had what I wanted, which were relay harness and external igniters.

Also Steve service was great!! Had spoken to him on the phone on 2 different occasions, before and after I had placed my order. He really took the time to answer my questions and go into details so that I get a better understanding and learn from his field of knowledge.

2 thumbs up for Steve

DevinKato, thanks for sharing your experiences with both companies. It put my mind at ease knowing that I made the right choice for myself. Both companies are great, but as I stated before having a relay harness and external igniters was the up most importance for me.

Yes it's true that Xenon Depot is a little more expensive, and a tad more for the 4300k Philips kit but worth every penny in my opinion.

All in all I enjoyed your post was very informative.
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post #5 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 06:27 PM
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John, what is the benefit to having external igniters?

2008 NBP EX Coupe | 5000k HIDs | LED interior/reverse | Harmon Kardon Ipod Interface | 35% tints | Hyper Yellow DRL | LED Halo Fogs | Silverstar Turn Signals | Chrome Grille Strips/Mesh lower grille | Taillight Tint
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post #6 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 06:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nighthawkcoupe View Post
Nice writeup. I helped a friend install a retrosolutions 9006 kit and it has been running for a year no problems. I guess it's hit or miss. Good point about the relay, I would want one whether it's "needed" or not.

Not to thread-jack, but I'm wondering about DDM tuning HID kits. Ridiculously small ballasts and the 35w is 70 bucks on their website. I have read good and bad things about them. Few people have any problems with the kits, but customer service supposedly isn't the best and they are usually on backorder. Any opinions on that company?
I got the DDM tuning kit and so does AznX TL (he actually recommended the kit) The kit is great. The ballast are super slim and I had no problem mounting them under the hood. Had them for 2+ months, and they fire up every time.

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post #7 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 06:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shinosis View Post
I got the DDM tuning kit and so does AznX TL (he actually recommended the kit) The kit is great. The ballast are super slim and I had no problem mounting them under the hood. Had them for 2+ months, and they fire up every time.
Thanks man. 35w or 55w? Did you install a relay as well?

2008 NBP EX Coupe | 5000k HIDs | LED interior/reverse | Harmon Kardon Ipod Interface | 35% tints | Hyper Yellow DRL | LED Halo Fogs | Silverstar Turn Signals | Chrome Grille Strips/Mesh lower grille | Taillight Tint
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post #8 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nighthawkcoupe View Post
John, what is the benefit to having external igniters?

Well the LOCAL retailer I went to in my area was selling Inighted HID kits and they had external igniters. (There system was more of a modular one)

He explained to me should the igniters fail, it would be cheaper to replace, whereas it would cost more to replace a balast with a built in igniter.

Not to mention having an external igniter makes you have a more compact balast that would be easier to fit in tight locations.

The ones from XenonDepot if I understood correctly are connected to the balast and are not detachable as the Ignited kits i saw at the retail store, (can't have everything i guess) but its better then nothing.

If that salesperson was not pushy and aggressive, I probably would have ended up buying one from him, in the end I didn't like his methods of bashing other companies and walked out.
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post #9 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 07:49 PM
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Nice write up indeed. One thing you did fail to supply was wether you installed this on the Coupe or Sedan. This won't have anything to do with your review of the kit, but might have a difference in mounting locations.

Again great comparo write up for the ppl on the fence about which one to go with.

I pretty much went with Xenon as well as for the accesibility of Steve and the included relay. Plus Steve and I spoke in length about bulb types and engineeing of the ballast. He always responded quickly and intelligently to all my inquiries. Customer service is a top notch.

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post #10 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 08:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nighthawkcoupe View Post
Thanks man. 35w or 55w? Did you install a relay as well?
35W...didn't use a relay

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post #11 of 25 Old 10-30-2008, 10:58 PM
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Great write up.
Still looking for the right kit (although this write up nudged me 90% towards Xenondepot) and either a local shop or someone from this board (obviously someone close to the Sacramento, CA area) to help me with installations (for a fee of course).

Thanks!

08 Accord V6 Coupe Auto NAV PMM/Black

Haves:
20% Tint / 55W 5K HID / Debadged / Rebadged with HFP Emblems / No DRLs / 7th Gen Coupe Headrests / Oddyssey Lower Grill / 20" Privat Vulkans 20x8.5 45 ET / 245 35 20 Nitto Extreme ZR 555's / HFP Suspension / TSX RSB / Magnaflow CBE / Crosstour Shifter / Xpel Fog Light Film

Wants:
Rearview Camera / Hacked Navi

Previous Rides:
2000 CLK 320
1995 3000GT
1988 Supra Turbo
1982 Supra
1985 Accord
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post #12 of 25 Old 10-31-2008, 12:03 AM
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Great write up
I install 55w 5000k from retrosolutions work like a charm, no problem so far. Of course I used harness just to be safe with 55w.
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post #13 of 25 Old 11-03-2008, 09:24 AM Thread Starter
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Correct, the XenonDepot ones are connected to the main ballast, and are not detachable unless you cut through the sleeving, and do some wire splicing probally. Mine are still working perfectly. Had some heavy rain out here last weekend, couldn't be happier. Maybe some HID fog's 3000k would be nice Another project perhaps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John_R View Post
The ones from XenonDepot if I understood correctly are connected to the balast and are not detachable as the Ignited kits i saw at the retail store, (can't have everything i guess) but its better then nothing.
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post #14 of 25 Old 11-03-2008, 12:58 PM
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that's great, however my $70 ebay kit has yet to let me down, and they look great. 6 months and counting.
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post #15 of 25 Old 11-03-2008, 01:25 PM
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As I mentioned on my other thread I need help FAST!
I finally took the plunge and installed 55w 5K HIDs yesterday. As OP mentioned, I do see some slight shadow/streaks in front of the car (10-20ft). Other than that, I'm pretty happy. I believe my kit is similar if not the same as Retro's.


08 Accord V6 Coupe Auto NAV PMM/Black

Haves:
20% Tint / 55W 5K HID / Debadged / Rebadged with HFP Emblems / No DRLs / 7th Gen Coupe Headrests / Oddyssey Lower Grill / 20" Privat Vulkans 20x8.5 45 ET / 245 35 20 Nitto Extreme ZR 555's / HFP Suspension / TSX RSB / Magnaflow CBE / Crosstour Shifter / Xpel Fog Light Film

Wants:
Rearview Camera / Hacked Navi

Previous Rides:
2000 CLK 320
1995 3000GT
1988 Supra Turbo
1982 Supra
1985 Accord
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