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I often hear from readers about endless struggles when it comes to choosing a new component for their systems, with lots of doubts about compatibility and sonic matching. It’s something I go through all the time, endlessly comparing products to pinpoint their traits, strengths and weaknesses – but just once in a while, something emerges that’s so obviously superior that it stands clear of the competition, and becomes one of my go-to recommendations.

That was definitely the case with an enquiry from Neil, who’d seen our YouTube reviews and was looking for an amp to drive his Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 speakers: would he be better choosing the Cyrus i9 or the Michi X3, he wondered, given that he’d read that, while the 702s have reasonable sensitivity, they really benefit from a bit of power from the amp driving them.

He hit me right in ‘go-to’ territory, and I had no hesitation in suggesting he went for the Michi: I’d been blown away by it when first I heard it, and my appreciation of it continued to grow even when I heard the pricier X5 model. Yes, the X5 has more power, but seemed to bring nothing extra to the listening party, whereas the X3 had that indefinable magic about it, and is one of the most impressive integrated amps I’ve ever auditioned. I listen to all kinds of amplifiers, at all levels, but this one was – and is – special.

The X3 is a compelling buy on value terms, as well as being beautifully put together and a pleasure to use, and the fact that Bowers & Wilkins distributes Michi here in the UK, and uses the amplifiers to develop and demonstrate its speakers, sort of seals the deal. I’ve heard various 700 series speakers, including the latest S3 models, sounding very fine on the end of Michi amps.

But there’s a final twist: as I was reading this an email appeared announcing Series 2 versions of some of the Michi amps, including the X3, complete with a change of digital-to-analogue conversion and revisions to the main circuit layout. Can’t wait to hear what’s been done, given how good the original is, but right now any X3s still in the supply chain look like a very good deal: launched at £4700, it can now be found for just under £4000 with a spot of Googlage, while the Series 2 version is set to sell for £5999. 

I’m excited to hear what the new version can do, and you might want to wait to find out, too – but right now the original X3 looks like even more of a bargain, and one worth snapping up.