Although you won’t find the Rotel name on it anywhere, this integrated amplifier is the entry-level model in the revival of that company’s Michi halo brand, last seen at the beginning of the 1990s. Think Lexus and Toyota, or Cupra and Seat, and you get the general idea: this is an upmarket counterpart to the ‘cooking’ models elsewhere in the company’s line-up, and as the all-black looks – combining matt and gloss elements – suggest, it’s designed to be something special. And don’t let that ‘entry-level’ status fool you: this is not only a very sophisticated amplifier, with masses of power and wide-ranging flexibility, it’s also the sweet spot of the new line-up, with phenomenal performance for the money, that’s just shy of £4,500. If you were thinking that upgrading your amplification would mean a switch to separate preamplifier and power amplifiers, think again: this cool black box, with its distinctly understated design, does it all.
This may still be a relatively slender design – standing just 15cm tall, it’ll slot neatly into most hi-fi racks or look low-slung and minimalist on a sideboard – but it packs a mighty wallop, with a 350W per channel output into a 4ohm load making it more than capable of driving even big, demanding speakers to stunning effect, plus a massive transformer, designed in-house for this amp, and a dual-mono symmetrical layout, means it can keep on delivering even when working hard, maintaining superb stereo imaging and presence.
It has an excellent moving magnet phono stage for your turntable, plus three line-ins and a single set of balanced inputs for other sources, while the digital section has no fewer than six inputs – three optical and three coaxial – plus a USB Type B port to enable it to be connected directly to a computer for music playback.
At the heart of the digital section is a 768kHz/32bit converter, meaning the X3 can handle just about every ultra-hi-res music format you throw at it via that computer input, while there are also extensive options for integrating it into custom installations – you could even connect an external remote-control sensor to allow the X3 to be hidden away, but given the way the X3 looks, that might be a shame. Finally, it can drive two pairs of speakers, and has preout sockets to enable it to be used with external power amps or active speakers, and the whole thing is controlled by a sleek, simple remote handset unique to the Michi line-up, and sharing the cool style of the amplifier itself.
There’s more to the X3 than just sheer power, even if it will deliver up to 1.75kW per channel for instantaneous musical peaks, meaning its dynamic ability is never in question. Nor are tricky speaker loads any problem; there’s more than enough on offer here, thanks to that huge custom power supply under the lid, to allow this amplifier to drive and control even the most power-hungry designs.
But this isn’t an amplifier all about playing loud, though it will thunder out rock or big orchestral pieces in unstoppable fashion, and plumb the depths with hard-hitting electro beats; rather it’s about power with control, meaning there’s masses of detail in the sound, so it will please even those who like to follow the scoring in a classical piece, or spot the smallest nuance in a punchy R&B track. The bass is superbly punchy as well as deep, the midband open and full of information, and while the treble is crisp and extended, making it a delight with the sizzle of a cymbal or just the space around the performers, it’s also clean and sweep, meaning there’s nothing brash or ear-jarring about the sound.
Instead, the X3 carries all its ability lightly, giving the sense of an entirely effortless presentation, but one that simply brings you more of the music – and that’s the magic of this stylish, high-achieving amplifier.
Not much larger than a conventional integrated amplifier, so it’ll slot in almost anywhere, the X3 is basically a much bigger preamplifier and two mono power amps crammed into one sleek black box you’ll be proud to show off. And choosing speakers to match it is no problem – this compact powerhouse will drive almost anything, and do so exceptionally well.
The X3 is not only a worthy successor to the classic Michi amplifiers of three decades ago, but combines its winning sound with a sensible feature-set to make it fully equipped to serve the demands of the modern music enthusiast. Add in its cool, minimalist style – it really is quite a looker – and the ability to challenge more than a few much more expensive amplifiers, and this is a stunning buy.
Jodie Devos You Take My Breath Away
Taken from her And Love Said… album, this track finds the Belgian soprano covering one of Freddie Mercury’s simplest, and most romantic, songs: the effect of her voice and the minimal piano accompaniment is quite appropriately breathtaking via the ultra-detailed Rotel amp
Peat & Diesel Stornoway
The Shetland rockers are hard-hitting and borderline shambolic at the best of times, and here on their Live at Barrowlands 2020 set, the audience singing along with their combination of gruff vocals, accordion and a driving rhythm section powered by the Rotel, they’re a riot.
Dave Arch & John Parricelli Veles
Yes, the bandleader from the BBC’s Strictly, here showing his jazz chops with guitarist Parricelli on their True Colours album: it’s a wonderfully detailed recording with a real sense of spontaneity and musicianship, and the Rotel delivers every detail
Across the board and the world, reviewers are singing the praises of the Michi X3. What Hi-Fi? said that It would be hard to find a more composed or better built high-end integrated amplifier for the money, although they also felt that It’s it sound was a little lacking in enthusiasm compared to some rivals but also that it should be a must-have on your shortlist. Stereo Magazine said that the integrated amp's performance, was skillfully balanced between composure and commitment, leaving nothing to be desired in terms of sound, which made the Michi X3 considerably fascinating, offering much more than cool, dark visuals and sheer power. An EISA Award Winner for 2021-2022, the judging panel said of the X3 that its flexibility, build quality and sheer style, could take on all the super-integrated amplifiers and show most of them a clean pair of heels.
By any standards, this is an exceptional amplifier, from its style to its amazing sound: with masses of power and superb control, it will play any style of music in breathtaking fashion, is simple to set up and use, and will have you up all night exploring your music collection. It’s magnificent.
With its massive power, control and resolution, the Michi X3 partners well with the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 standmountersnin a small room, but if you have more space you could aim higher to the 803 D4 floorstanders