In front of the power amplifier area is a preamp that makes use of a 100 step rotary encoder for volume level and one more for input selection. At first look the Rotel Michi X3 looks to be a quite minimalist design and style in the manner of European competitors, with no form of bass or treble adjustment but that is not the case. The X3 has got bass, treble and balance adjustment but they are all in a menu driven system. This makes the front panel neat but it does necessarily mean that if you are an inveterate tweaker; the sort of person that has ideal configurations for different albums, this may not be the amplifier for you.
The glossy black glass on the front panel looks elegant with the black matte chassis. With only two round knobs (the input selector and volume knobs), a recessed on/off button, a headphone port, and a Michi logo on the middle top, the front panel looks exceptionally clean. The display is only noticeable when the display is on. The product’s overall rough feel and sophisticated appearance are further enhanced by the sophisticated design elements, like ridges around the knobs’ sides and curved edges on the massive metal heatsinks that cover both of the product’s left and right sides. Overall, the product has excellent build quality.
If you have a lot of different sources although, the Rotel Michi X3 should be at the top notch of any shortlist. It arrives fitted with a balanced input on an XLR connection, three RCA line inputs and a relocating magnet phono level. There are then no less than 8 digital inputs; three optical, three coax, an Apt-X capable Bluetooth connection and USB inputs for connection to a PC or Mac and straight attaching thumb drives. Decoding is set up via AKM DAC of unspecified nature and this gives the X3’s USB input 24/384kHz and ‘DSD through DoP support’ (strangely with no figure provided although the X3 has been able to work with DSD128 while under analyze). All of this is output to two pairs of speaker terminals, a pre-out and a 6.35mm headphone socket.
What the X3 will not do is work as a network audio device. The Ethernet connection on the backside has a similar role to some other Rotel integrated amplifiers, AV receivers and processors and that is to offer a control point for the X3 rather than an additional source. As ever before, something like the SOtM SMS-200 will provide a network control point for the USB input if you would like so this isn’t truly much of a detractor to the total overall performance. In a ideal world, the phono stage would certainly offer moving coil support, but it is not like you don’t have inputs to connect a separate unit to if you wanted.
The Michi X3’s volume may be fixed so that it can be used as a pass through when combined with other preamps or home theater components. In fact, all inputs have the option of being fixed or variable for unmatched versatility. Two 12-volt triggers, a network port, an external remote jack, an RS232 connector, and a USB power port should not be overlooked. It is obvious that the amp’s creators placed a strong emphasis on sound quality, but it is also obvious that they paid close attention to every aspect of its usability.
Two sets of speakers and headphones are supported as well as two mono subwoofer outputs, two pre-outs, and outputs for two sets of speakers and headphones. The final of them is the one that should be given the most thought if you want to bi-amp suitable loudspeakers by adding a second power amplifier (like the S5). In reality, the Michi X3 is not designed to be used only as a preamp because there is no way to turn off the power amp portion, which can clip if the pre out is wound up too much, as PM discovered during lab testing.
It abounds with attractive design details as well. The heatsink is external but rather than having the fins exposed, there’s an outer surround to them which means that picking out the X3 up is rather much less not comfortable than most competitors. The remote control handset is also outstanding to use as it sits in the hand magnificently but, thank to being made of metal, it feels substantial. The scroll search for inputs is just about quick enough to obviate the need for direct input selection too. It is also superbly created. Granted that Rotel bolts a £350 amp along with extraordinary thoroughness, you can surmise that the X3 gives away nothing to anything I have personally tested, including the devices forcing on ten grand. Photo: Rotel
As mentioned before, the Rotel arrived here with me having little real idea of what it was really going to be like. The sound quality has been covered already but it’s really worth absolutely nothing that the other thing that has come across in its time on test is not sonic but it is almost as perceivable as the audio efficiency. This is an amplifier that has been designed from the outset to be something that shows what Rotel is capable of when it feels like it. Each aspect of the design and specs is a carefully considered triangulation of what else is accessible and to produce an amplifier that stands comparison to just about any of them.
And, fine detail niggles aside, it really does just that. Just like all units with digital inputs, the value proposition of the Rotel is partially going to depend on how much equipment you actually have but viewed as an almost full system in a box, the extensive specification and consistently enjoyable performance is one of the most compelling mixtures available anywhere near the cost point. It’s been a while between Michi generations but the top quality is there for all to see and the Rotel Michi X3 comes really recommended as a final result. Video: YouTube/Rotel HiFi
USB Audio Class 2 (up to 24/384)*