Michi P5 Review: Accurate and detailed

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Michi is Rotel’s flagship product line. Lovers of high quality vintage audio will obviously remember these reference-grade models. The Michi series included the following devices released at different times: Rotel RHB-10 power amplifier, Rotel RHC-10 passive phono preamp Rotel RHQ-10, Rotel RHA-10 active preamp, Rotel RHT-10 FM tuner, Rotel RHCD CD player -10, Rotel RHB-05 power amplifier.

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And now, more than half a century after the first launch of the series, Michi is back. No wonder this name is translated from Japanese as “direction”. The vector set by undoubtedly successful predecessors is continued by modern equipment. There is also continuity: this is not only a high level of models, transferred to modern technologies, but also a laconic, verified design. Now the series includes three models: a preamplifier and two power supplies – stereo and mono.

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The Michi P5 preamplifier is the result of three years of work by Rotel experts who have carefully considered each component to ensure “the highest audio integrity, eliminating unwanted noise and distortion.” The model received an exhaustive set of input switching – for both analog and digital sources. The Michi P5 preamplifier supports Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology, as well as a high-quality phono stage. Rotel Michi P5 compatibility with automation and control systems is implemented on RS232 and Ethernet interfaces.

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Designed, according to Rotel, to deliver crisp detail and the highest fidelity to any music style, the dual DAC feeds the Class A preamp input circuitry, delivering detail, precision and utmost fidelity to the music while maintaining critical rhythm and synchronicity for all genres of music, whatever your listening style. They are powered by 17 independent voltage regulators connected to two custom designed toroidal transformers along with perforated fast discharge (ESR) storage capacitors to provide ripple-free separate power supply for all critical circuits.

Accuracy and detail are especially important when reproducing sound, and it is equally important that listening to music is enjoyable and interesting. Building on over 55 years of Rotel audio component design, the P5 excels in every aspect. Manufacturing in our own factory ensures this preamp is manufactured to the highest quality standards, allowing it to proudly wear the Michi logo.

The Michi premium brand, created by Rotel specifically for high-end components, has been around since the 90s. But then the market was so overheated that the manufacturer’s efforts went unnoticed. But today almost everyone knows about Michi’s comeback – thanks to an award from the EISA association, awarded in the High End nomination. Connoisseurs of the brand will surely remember the flagship Rotel components released a quarter of a century ago in luxurious lacquered wood finishes, the name of which was supplemented with the letters “Michi”. They were made relatively few, they were not widely distributed, and the recognition of “the best components in the history of Rotel” from music lovers came only when this technique became … a vintage rarity.

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Why did it happen? According to one version, the equipment turned out to be expensive, and the buyers were morally not ready to buy High End from a hi-fi brand. On the other hand, Michi was initially launched in a limited edition – sort of like the 30th anniversary of the brand. According to the third version, the Japanese family enterprise in those years was simply not up to the high end – the question arose about building its own plant in China and expanding the production program with new available series. Be that as it may, but returning the forgotten sub-brand, Rotel took into account the past experience and did everything to make the new items cause maximum intrigue.

This is evidenced by the following fact: after spending three years on the development of a new line, the company did not lay out all the trump cards at once. At the moment, the P5 preamplifier, M8 monoblocks and the S5 stereo power amplifier are presented. A pair of X5 and X3 integrated circuits have been announced, but for completeness, a CD streamer and a vinyl turntable certainly suggest themselves in the line, but Rotel is still silent about them.

The second noticeable fact: the word “Michi” on the components is now written large and designed like a logo, and “Rotel” does not appear anywhere except the back panel. Hence, completely different associations – the emphasis is placed on the originality and technical novelty of technology rather than on the continuity of traditions.

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The third (although the first in importance) item is market positioning. Today I will test what Michi claims to be the best of the best. The characteristics of the components, their functionality and workmanship are the same as for equipment from a very high category, but the price is the same as for Aordable High End components. Such a powerful superiority is, of course, achieved through production in China, but the company has done everything to ensure the “Japanese” level of quality, having organized a separate assembly and control line for Michi at its Zhuhai plant. Personally, I am both for this approach, otherwise we would see twice as large numbers on the price tags for each component.

Finally, design. No intricate textures, catchy details and other luxurious philistinism. Everything is done in accordance with the trends of modern techno fashion: simple shapes, rounded outlines, perfect glass blackness of the front panels, in which LCD matrices are organically inscribed. The components have noticeably wider bodies (almost 49 cm), and when you try to lift any of them, you realize that they are literally packed with “iron”.

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It has an unusually advanced processor-controlled switch and an extensive system settings menu. It has eight digital inputs (if you count together with USB Type-B and a Bluetooth receiver), two stereo pairs of balanced, four linear, phono for vinyl and a full ammunition “preouts” for any system expansion. In particular, two XLR stereo pairs and the same number of RCA outputs allow you to spread a stereo signal to as many as eight amplifiers. At the same time, there are separate monophonic outputs for subwoofers and ordinary linear (with a fixed level).

Built P5 on two large motherboards. On the upper floor – all analog switching on high-quality relays and the amplification itself, carried out in class A. On the lower floor – all the “digital” and control. The DAC based on a pair of AK4490 is probably made according to a balanced ideology, in addition, it implements MQA decoding, which is the first sign of the P5’s readiness to receive streaming content in the Master Quality Authenticated format (it is offered, in particular, by Tidal). At the same time, he himself cannot work with streaming sources – the LAN socket, which you will find on the rear panel, is intended for integration into control systems. If you want to listen to music from streaming services, then with decent quality it can be done directly from a smart via Bluetooth (aptX and ACC codecs are supported).

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The manufacturer does not specify how the P5 electronically controls the volume and tone (if this is done with digital algorithms, then some advanced chip is used that provides a bandwidth of up to 100 kHz and extremely low distortion). In line with the traditional Rotel school, the power supply is built with a significant margin: two toroidal transformers, 17 independent stabilizers, plus a serious capacitive buffer on “fast” capacitors for powering critical circuits.

All inputs to P5 can be configured to your liking. The system menu is used to switch the RIAA-corrector for MM / MS heads. Also, a headphone output is added to the path, made on a standard quarter-inch jack.

How impressive it looks before, but the M8 monoblocks are actually something! These 60-kilogram machines, operating in class AB and capable of delivering almost two kilowatts each, are unprecedented for their price category. On them you will also find LAN / RS-232 terminals for integration into external control systems, but, of course, this is not the point of “eighth”. There are two transformers in each monoblock – shielded tori of our own production. Energy is stored by four giant capacitors with perforated plates (this technology allows large containers to release their charge faster). The output stages contain a group of 32 transistors, divided into two “flow” heat sinks with active cooling. And this arrangement suggests that the M8 is partially unified with the S5 stereo power adapter. Here’s the same pair of push-pull amps only they are connected by a bridge, and two pairs of output terminals are connected in parallel and can serve, for example, for a by-wiring connection. The M8 display constantly shows the current temperature on the radiators, and the choice of the level indication – with a spectrum analyzer or VU-meter – is carried out with the same remote control as in the previous one.

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As you can see from the illustrations, for the test we took a serious music source and two different floor pairs – the relatively “light” Bowers & Wilkins 802 D3 and the extremely demanding Dynaudio Condence 30 (they are much more expensive than the tested amplifiers). And for the first session, we connected exactly the Danish systems.

The sound turned out to be a little darkish and as if filtered at the top (which, however, is normal for the Transparent / Dynaudio combination). However, the middle turned out to be so penetratingly soft and velvety, and all the power components in the bass were so embossed that the sound in the main band acquired, apart from detailed texture, a kind of “skeleton”. Sometimes it seemed that the system literally puts a tectonic effect on the bottom, and many will be delighted to hear such an interpretation. It is materiality that is primary here, and not a banal beat and bass “fat”. Such a presentation indicated that the M8s are capable of controlling acoustics no worse than any strong class D amplifiers. But Michi monoblocks, unlike impulses, preserved in the sound both live dynamics, and a play of colors, and purity, did not introduce the slightest transistor ( or some other) shades.

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I’ll put it this way: everything that Rotel components once bribed better at Michi has been amplified many times over. And for such a result, neither cool power cables for monoblocs, nor even a super source were needed. In the course of warming up, we generally turned on everything from spotify via Bluetooth and could not stop. Of course, you could hear that the compressed content (mp3, 320 kbps) was being played, but this did not disgust at all. The smartphone with aptX ensured the proper purity of the output and did not eat up important musical details, and the Michi tract handled the received content in the best possible way – it perfectly focused images, reliably showed the scale of the hall and, in addition, even cleared all timbre components from the digital and hardware “flavor”. There is an unwritten rule: a good musical setup doesn’t need purely audiophile quality recordings.

This is probably why switching to an adiophile program did not make a strong impression on me. The sound, as expected, turned out to be more informative, deep and intelligible, but did not become much more lively. The upper register with Danish acoustics and American cables was still “dark”, but the air and reverb nuances noticeably increased noticeably – especially when listening to Hi-Res and DSD files. However, for the Condence 30, I would recommend a brighter sounding amp, something from the Japanese range.

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The following example shows how true and clean the analog path of the P5 is: if the source (laptop) is connected via USB not directly to the front, but through the DAC of the Esoteric player, then from the very first sounds you will hear how much more advanced it is. Tracks that require delicate presentation in this configuration are reproduced even more refined, while the most dynamic fragments, on the contrary, are more contrasting and driving. By the way, this difference can be heard quite well on the telephone output. You may not need to use a separate amplifier for your audiophile headphones.

The main advantages of Michi monoblocks sound – integrity, structure and purity in the entire range – also manifested themselves with B&W acoustics. But the handwriting itself was already quite different. The bass got a noticeable acceleration, the beat turned out to be much more biting, and in the upper register, all the sonorous components appeared beautifully and in detail. However, the changes at the edges of the range were not as impressive as what happened to the middle, where both articulation and tonal intelligibility increased very noticeably. All vocal formants and emotional performance shades became audible. And the clarity of diction increased to such an extent that even the most unintelligible songs in a foreign language sounded like linguaphone courses.

Yes, I am deliberately exaggerating to explain the essence of the changes. In fact, this is the only clarity in the main lane that should be in a good system. It will never be perceived as unnecessary. And with it you will hear any music in a new way – even the one that was created and recorded in computer programs without the use of consoles and musical instruments at all. Well, the fact that Michi revealed such a valuable gift of genre tolerance just in tandem with the older B&W line does not surprise me at all. Partner companies have been moving towards this for a long time. And the combination with the “eight hundred and second” definitely worked out well.

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