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We have already talked about the background of this brand, as well as the design features of the components and the control display interface common to all, in the review of the flagship components – the P5 preamplifier and M8 monoblocks . Therefore, we will not repeat ourselves and here we will immediately look at the line of the revived Michi from another flank – from the budget.
The most accessible component in it is X3. It is a complete integrated amplifier with the functions of a highly advanced audiophile DAC. By the way, the converting part is not cut at all in relation to the more expensive and powerful X5 – the converter board, assembled on all the same AK4490 chips and supplemented with an MQA converter, here also allows connecting up to eight sources (including PCs via USB and smartphones via Bluetooth aptX / AAC).
In fact, it’s strong enough – for 4-ohm acoustics the amplifier is capable of delivering up to 350 watts, and for 8-ohm speakers about 200, which is enough for the overwhelming number of floor-standing speakers.
The analog section is docked to a minimum. There are not four RCA input stereo pairs, but three (but there is still the possibility of balancing the signal using XLR cables). There is a built-in phono stage, but it has lost the switch to work with MC-heads. The headphone output is in place.
Even if we compare the X3 with the top-end preliminary P5 (by the way, they are the same in size – the cases are partially unified and made on a single chassis), the scale of losses is small: we are denied digital outputs, the second pair of balanced inputs (and, of course, balanced outputs to terminals, which are not available in X5), as well as in the Line Out outputs. However, we get both an adjustable Pre Out RCA and a rare addition to it – a pair of monophonic sub outputs that can be used for advanced triphonic or active bass speakers.
From what has been said it is easy to conclude that the main cost reduction in X3 was achieved due to the power supply and the “powerful” itself. Let’s see how serious it is.
Instead of two separate toroidal transformers, as in the X5 (assembled and shielded according to the proprietary “Rotel” method), there is one, but much larger. However, a couple of auxiliary trances that serve the digital section and the microprocessor control system are also present here. As you can see, separate power supply is provided, but without “double mono”.
The terminal section, operating in class AB and providing the same dumping factor (350), is about half weaker relative to the X5, but in fact, it’s strong enough – for 4-ohm acoustics, the “three” is capable of delivering up to 350 watts, and for 8 ohms about 200, which is enough for the vast majority of floorstanding speakers and for any monitors with reduced sensitivity.
The converter board, assembled on all the same AK4490 chips and supplemented with an MQA converter, also allows connecting up to eight sources here.
In X3, the capacitor buffer looks noticeably more modest (by the way, electrolytes differ not only in nominal value, but also in series). But if we take into account what was described in the paragraph above, then everything is logical – the proper supply in this amplifier is provided not so much by the buffer as by the main transformer. And this approach has some advantages. Of course, “dual mono” contributes to better channel separation, but for energy reasons it is still more useful to have one common transformer “with a margin” than a separate pair with much more modest peak output currents each. And the capacity of the capacitor buffer is not indisputable. When fast capacitors of relatively small capacity are used, not so much storing energy as feeding sharp short pulses, then they can be likened to a rigid direct drive.
And you know, the difference in the energy concept of the amplifiers is felt even when listening from the headphone output, when you compare the X5 and X3 from the same source. The senior amplifier sounds smooth and lively with the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7b test neutrals, while the X3 delivers the same thing with an even cleaner and sharper study of dynamic contrasts. His drums are more realistic in attack and better filled in after-sounds. In general, the sound is so well detailed that you don’t have to think about purchasing a separate “in-ear” amplifier. At the same time, I will note the reduced noise level at equal volume settings, which means that you can use headphones with a higher sensitivity with the X3.
This amplifier is refined even in the bass band – where expensive reference amplifiers often like to show character.
An immediate rapport was established between the Bowers & Wilkins 702 Signature floor standing amplifier and the amplifier. The sound turned out to be transparent, comfortable and easy to perceive – a minimum of intrusiveness, a complete absence of any internal tension or excessive imposingness. The stage is infallible in scale: everything is assembled, everything is in its place, everything is “in the body”. The low-frequency and vocal bases are not poorly drawn. The picture of high harmonics is clear and understandable. The HFs themselves are sterile-cool, but these shades can be easily corrected by cable selection. The main thing is that Michi X3 doesn’t have any irreparable coloring. This amplifier is refined even in the bass band – where expensive reference amplifiers often like to show character.
But I was more intrigued not so much by the X3’s ability to stand as if “out of process”, as by its technical “grip”, reminiscent of the best traditions of the old school Rotel. It felt, for example, that the 702 Signature was too simple a load for him. Therefore, the idea arose to drive the device with the same acoustics to which the X5 was tested – with the Dynaudio Contour 30i (let me remind you that this pair is almost twice as expensive).
The less powerful coped with this task in its own way. It was unable to provide the same almost physical tactility in the reproduction of musical instruments with a powerful low base or with a dense midbass “binding”, but it materialized the atmosphere better and more accurately showed the sources in the middle and high frequency spectrum. Any voices (and not only high voices), violins, flutes, brass, all strings, all sonorous in the X3 presentation sounded at least more informative, and the guitar and synthetic effects turned out to be a little more groovy and rich, but not squealing. And it didn’t look like brightening tonal balance or loosening control at the bottom. It was the semantic emphasis that shifted to a higher area.
Any voices, violins, flutes, brass, all strings, all sonorous in the X3 presentation sounded at least more informative, and the guitar and synthetic effects turned out to be a little more groovy and rich.
The rest of the device is similar to its older relatives. Like the flagship pre-P5, it sounds great via USB (with this switch on, I didn’t have any comments about the amplifier at all) and via the Bluetooth aptX module. It is picky about all sources connected by analogue – it shows the difference in class between them, as well as between connecting cables, immediately. I do not exclude that in some setups the X3 will have to tinker a little more than with other amplifiers, but with the selection of suitable sources and wires, it is this model that will bring others closer to the sound that will suit even the most demanding audiophile. In general, this is more of an “Expert’s Choice” than a “Good Buy”, although the price of the amplifier suggests otherwise.