The doubt disappeared after the first two or three songs. After that, it was a pure Tour de Force for Rotel’s stereo amplifier in the resurrected Michi series.
It happily sounds as good as the two 1.08 kW powerful mono stages in the same series, costs half and has enough power galore for most speakers I can think of.
The Rotel Míchi S5 is the stereo version of one Michi M8. There, the two channels are connected to one, and the S5 is simply the version where the two channels are connected to each other to stereo.
They are thus the same, except for the effect. The stereo version Michi S5 delivers 2 x 500 in 8 ohms in each channel, against the mono version’s 1080 w in 8 ohms. Inside you will find the same dual mono circuit configured stereo, with two balanced and two unbalanced inputs on the back.
Thus, there is nothing to indicate that the sound quality is different. Maybe unless one is going to operate some seriously heavy-duty speakers.
The Michi S5 has exactly the same chin drop factor as two monoblocks. The dynamic contrast is breathtaking, and I swear that even small speakers grow handsome facts with an S5 as the engine,
If you unscrew the hood-like top cover on an S5, you will find the same self-developed 2200 VA transformer, a full 188,000uF with capacitors, and at the end of all this, 32 output transistors.
The cabinet is the same as on the mono version M8, and weighs just under 60 kilos. There are no handles, potmeters, or buttons for anything other than choosing between the balanced and unbalanced inputs. A remote control is included to configure the display on the front. It can display the output power in both channels, either as a spectrum analysis of the power, or as a digital Vu-meter. The remote control must also be used if you want to dim or turn off the light in the display.
As with the M8, the remote control must also be used if you want to configure it for IP control over the network via ethernet.
Sublime sophistication and explosive dynamics
The stereo version in the Michi series is in the same price range as the Hegel H30 and McIntosh MC312, but with 500 w per channel, it is more powerful than both. There are not many 2 x 500 w amplifiers out there. So much power per channel is normally found only in monoblocks.
McIntosh MC462 is the closest we come, among amplifiers we have tested. With its 2 x 450 w, it is in the same class, but not in the same price range, since it is just over 30 percent more expensive.
And here we approach the heart of the matter. The Rotel Michi S5 does not cost a penny, exactly, but it is still a bargain. For where else do you get so much raw power surrounded by so many layers of finesse and musical magic?
The amplifier was mostly tested with the same speakers as the M8 monoblocks. Like the Electromotion ESL X, the hybrid electrostats from Martin Logan, but also the Audiovector SR3 Concrete RAW, which is a special version of Audiovector’s flagship in the SR3 series.
The experience of the S5 on different speakers was exactly the same as the experience of the two M8 blocks. You are presented with an unusually fine-meshed and refined soundscape, with an explosive dynamic that hurts physically.
It is not only the way instruments and vocals sound, but also how there is room for air around them in the soundscape, which is startlingly good.
Compared to the experience of a McIntosh amplifier, the sound is tighter and the bass a little better defined. The opening of the well-known Kari Bremnes The Power of the Moon, almost kicked my breath out, when the drums fired out into the test room. At the same time, the vocals sounded wonderfully silky soft, and the sounds from all the percussion in the soundtrack sounded extremely well focused.
The goosebumps popped when Sondre Bratland’s distinctive vocals echoed on Iver Kleive’s notes from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. If you are not touched by such a vivid rendition of music, you have a heart of stone. Exactly this soundtrack sounds great on other amplifiers and speakers as well, but the Rotel amplifier’s total control over the lowest octaves, and the enormous depth it creates in the soundscape, seems like a time machine for the mind.
No test without Keith Jarrett, this time Up For It, gives exactly the feeling you are looking for when putting on a well-produced jazz trio. The musicians get closer, forming a believable three-dimensional scene in the room. Where you can hear every little nuance in the bass playing, the small weightless tones from whispers on a cymbal, and the depth of sound in a concert piano.
Rotel’s new stereo amplifier in the Michi series is perhaps the best buy among stereo power amplifiers. There are others from McIntosh, Mark Levinson, Gryphon, Ayre, Audio Research, and more, who have other qualities that are easy to appreciate. But few if any combine as much raw power, with as much timbre and finesse as the Rotel Michi S5. That’s how you look forward to the sequel. A smaller power amplifier, an integrated amplifier, maybe a phono stage? It is allowed to hope.