Blogging on Audio
- Written by Roger Kanno Roger Kanno
- Parent Category: BloggingOnAudio BloggingOnAudio
- Created: 19 April 2021 19 April 2021
Rotel's Michi X5: Unpacking a Big, Beautiful Integrated Amplifier-DAC
Usually I look forward to receiving a new audio component, unboxing it, and then admiring it in all its audiophile glory as I contemplate how best to integrate it into my system. However, with the Rotel Michi X5 integrated amplifier-DAC ($6999 USD) that I recently received for review, I was dreading this, as it’s a beast of an amp weighing a back-breaking 96.56 pounds. After picking up the X5 at local dealer Ayreborn Audio/Video, where the Canadian distributor, Kevro International, had shipped it, I drove home and struggled to get the large flight case out of my car’s hatch. I’ve wrangled amps this heavy before, such as the Musical Fidelity M8xi and SensaSound TPO-7300, but they arrived at my doorstep, which made things much easier.
When I opened the flight case, I found the X5 wrapped in a velvet bag and safely secured to help it survive any reasonable amount of jostling during shipping. Looking at the premium packaging, I couldn’t help thinking how satisfied I’d be with this effort had I purchased one for myself.
Upon removing the velvet bag, I was struck by the high quality and luxuriousness of the metal casework. The unit has a rock-solid feel and a nice touch in how the case wraps around the external fins, leaving each side open at the top and bottom. This provides a very smooth and elegant appearance and makes it much easier to handle this extremely heavy amp. There are no rows of sharp fins protruding from the sides just waiting to scrape the hell out of your forearms every time you try to move it. The pictures don’t do it justice, but the matte black finish is of a very high quality, and it contrasts nicely with the shiny black front panel. The X5 looks great. Judging by its appearance and build quality, all of the effort in getting it home and out of the case was worth it.
The display is large and informative and can show a stereo VU meter or frequency spectrum analyzer. Otherwise, you can set it to display source and output information, including the volume level in very large numbers as well as the input name, data format, sample rate, and bit rate. I must admit that it was pretty cool seeing the meters dancing around—even if they were digital meters—or seeing the alpha-numeric display indicating an especially high bit-rate and high sampling-frequency signal.
On either side of the display are two large control knobs to select the input on the left and adjust the volume on the right. They both have an appropriately heavy but smooth feel, and they provide excellent tactile feedback with a positive and reassuring but subtle click as they cycle through inputs and adjust the volume levels.
You can also control the X5 with the provided remote, which is a triumph of simplicity and elegance. First off, it looks great with its slim proportions and matte black finish to match the amp’s aesthetic. There are a few contrasting shiny black buttons, along with three matte-finished buttons. Using the menu system is very intuitive. It requires only the Setup button and the up, down, and enter buttons to cycle through the menus. Useful functions include naming inputs, setting fixed input levels, and disabling unused inputs so you don’t have to scroll through them when selecting sources.
The volume buttons, which are below the others, are vertically aligned and have a matte finish instead of smooth and shiny. Not only that, but the volume-down button is slightly recessed while the volume-up button is raised, and the button for muting is flush with the surface of the remote. The main power button is also recessed, but it’s smooth and concave and placed at the top of the remote, so you’re unlikely to press it mistakenly. The up and down navigation buttons span the full width of the remote, and the enter button is between them, but it’s round and raised, so you can control most of the functions without having to look. These are small things, but they show the great attention to detail that went into the design of this product.
This attention to detail carries over to the X5’s back panel, which is neatly laid out with a wide array of connectivity options and high-quality connectors. Of special note are the heavy-duty, rhodium-plated speaker binding posts, which you can easily tighten by hand. They have that solid feel, instilling confidence in the product. In addition to its massive weight, the gorgeous cast casework adds sturdiness, making it feel as though it’s made of one solid piece of metal with no flex or give to any of the surfaces.
In addition to the incredible build quality and attention to detail in its design, the Michi X5 is claimed to output 350Wpc into 8 ohms or 600Wpc into 4 ohms, and it has a 32-bit/384kHz AKM DAC supporting MQA and DSD, as well as a switchable MM/MC phono input. You’ll have to wait for my review on SoundStage! Hi-Fi to read about how well the X5 performs when bringing together all these excellent design features. What I can say is that, as I sit here casually listening to some vinyl with the Pro-Ject X1 table with Pick it S2 cartridge, I’m having a ton of fun with the Michi.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!
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