Rotel Michi X3 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

Sure, its massive power output – both continuous and dynamic – does make it especially suitable with speakers of lower sensitivity or challenging impedance, but even more impressive is its ruthless control, allied to unfettered dynamics and crisp cleanliness, even when charging hard, with just about any loudspeaker.

The result is a sound with clout and sparkle in equal measure, wonderfully open and detailed soundstaging where the recording permits, and reliably sharp focus and clarity. And while the X3 sounds excellent with fine recordings, whether on vinyl, CD or via a computer, there's nothing po-faced about the sound here. Play a rough but exuberant track or two, and it's a whole barrel of fun.

521rotel.remLoading up Peat & Diesel's recent Live At Barrowlands 2020 set [Wee Studio WSPD 5; Bandcamp download] via Roon on a Mac mini, the X3 conveys all the excitement of the sell-out gig at the legendary venue, and the wildly enthusiastic audience clearly singing every word. Triumphant and thrilling just about sums up this live set, the Stornoway trio creating a massive sound and clearly buzzing as much as the audience on the whole experience. And the Michi X3 delivers it red in tooth and claw, from the powerful drums to the rasping vocals.

Delicate Touch
Keeping it Caledonian, the gentler sound of Heron Valley's Erie Storm EP (another Bandcamp download) plays to the speed and deft touch of the amplifier. The instrumental and vocal definition here is as notable as the way the rhythms drive along with a mixture of delicacy of touch and outright slam as the opening 'Take You There' builds from its gentle interlude in the middle section to the drive towards the end of the track. And while I'm no connoisseur of the pipes, the sheer brio of the second track, 'Annas', with its lead instrument set against a driving rhythm section powered by the Michi X3, would surely put a smile on any face.

I spent some time comparing the internal digital section of the amp with an external alternative, switching to the iFi Audio NEO iDSD [HFN Mar '21] connected to the X3's balanced inputs. Now, while this excellent £699 DAC maybe just had a slight edge on bite and snap with some tracks – and especially multi-DSD ones beyond the Michi X3's capability – it was a pretty close-run thing, and shouldn't detract at all from the ability of the internal digital capability here.

Real Breeze
Playing 'You Take My Breath Away' – yes, the Freddie Mercury song – from Belgian soprano Jodie Devos's enchanting And Love Said… recital [Alpha Classics ALPHA668] shows the lightness of touch of the X3, setting the voice against simple piano in an entirely credible acoustic, and letting notes hang in the air in a wonderfully affecting manner.

Then, via the sometimes offbeat logic of Roon Radio, in the next moment the amp can turn up the wick to power through Dire Straits' 'Sultans Of Swing' [from the Best Of… compilation of the same title; Vertigo 558 658-2], with flat-out drive in the bass and percussion and ultra-fine detail in Knopfler's intricate guitar-work, bringing the much-heard tracks fresh and breezy all over again.

The same goes with the high-speed pianism on Bob James's Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions [2xHD Historic 2XHRRE1196; DXD], whether playing straight down the line on 'Serenata' with Bill Wood on bass and drummer Omar Clay, or hanging a little looser with Larry Rockwell and Robert Pozar on the opening tracks of the set.


Large screened transformer feeds a strictly-regulated PSU [centre], supporting the left/right bipolar power amps [far left/right]. Phono stage, line preamp and AK4490EQ-based DAC stages are on three stacked PCBs [top]

The combination of great recordings and the kind of loving transcription that are the hallmark of the 2xHD project makes the music spring to life anew, and the Michi X3 has all the speed, warmth and control to make the most of it. And that held true whether with my big old PMC OB1 speakers or the smaller, faster Neat Iota Xplorer.

And if there was any doubt of the massive clean power here, a swift play of the big, magnificent LSO/Noseda recording of Shostakovich's 9th Symphony [LSO Live LSO0828; DSD256] shows that soundstaging, agility and massive clout off to great effect. Despite the dynamic swings involved – and you can crank the volume level as high as you want – there's no hardening of the sound or suggestion of the X3 raising a bead of sweat as it breezes through the huge musical event.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Combining 'drive anything' confidence with speed, warmth and the ability to switch from pile-driver to a gossamer touch when required, the Michi X3 carries its massive power lightly, and is all the more rewarding as a result. Add in its flexibility, build quality and sheer style, and you have an amp able to take on the burgeoning ranks of super-integrateds and show most of them a clean pair of heels.

The Rotel Co. Ltd
Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Rotel Europe, Worthing, UK
01903 221 710