In this article: We unbox and review Focal's PS 165 FXE 6 1/2″ Component speaker set and walk through all of their key features that make them a premium, high performance speaker.
Focal is a French manufacturer that's been producing high quality, high performance automotive audio products for decades now. In my opinion, they're among the top three brands in the industry in terms of performance and quality. They're also probably top three in price too.
The PS 165 FXEs are part of Focal's Performance Expert Series Flax Evo lineup. They're a 6.5″ component speaker set so they come complete with a driver, tweeters and crossovers. At the time of this review, this particular set of speakers is been rated among our best 6 1/2″ component car speakers but historically, Focal has almost always had a place on almost all of our best speakers lists from year to year.
We purchased a few pairs of this for installation in a 2021 Ford F150 and before we installed them, I pulled them out and took some pictures to show you what they're all about and why they're one of our top preferred speakers for a high performance install. And also why they go for around $700/pair! Hopefully after this review, you'll have a good understanding of why these speakers are great and whether or not they're a good choice for your own install.
Unbox & First Impressions
First things first! Right out of the gate, as you open up this set of components you can get a sense of their quality. From the outer packaging, placement of the components inside, material that they used to protect the speakers during shipping, etc. It doesn't feel like you're opening up an entry level speaker that is tucked away behind and held together with cardboard.
What's in the Box
There's nothing really missing that I would note when it comes to the components in the box. It has all of the things you need including hardware and speaker grilles. When you pull out the various components in the PS 165 FXE's box, you'll find:
- Two PS 165 FXE 6.5″ drivers
- Two TWFA1018 inverted dome tweeters with 21″ of speaker wire attached
- 2 Crossover networks
- 2 Woofer grilles
- 2 Woofer grille mounting rings
- 2 Tweeter grilles (installed)
- 2 Tweeter trim rings (installed)
- 2 OEM tweeter mounting rings
- 2 Tweeter angle mount cups
- 2 Woofer mounting gaskets
- 8 Speed clips
- Four 3/4″ Screws
- Eight 1″ Screws
Sound & Performance Features
Let's start to dig into the individual components of this speaker set and get into detail about the key innovative features that Focal uses to make these a high performance set. If you're unfamiliar with speaker components or how they work together to make sound, check out our article about how a speaker works.
Woofer Cone & Surround Material
Starting with the speakers, the most prominent and identifiable part of the 165 FXE is the Flax cone material. Flax is a pretty unique material in the audio world. You don't really see it used on other speakers outside of Focal. You may have heard of flaxseed or linseed, but Flax is actually a plant. It's a relatively common crop in France, so naturally it's a great fit for a French manufacturer right?
The reality though is, as unique as it might sound to use Flax for a cone material it's actually an ancient material that's been used for things like textiles, parchment and a variety of other users for thousands of years. It has some great properties that align very well with core requirements that all speaker manufacturers are striving to achieve in a speaker cone:
- Mass/Weight: It's lightweight to allow the cone to move efficiently up and down with as little power as possible. This helps with precision and responsiveness.
- Strength/Rigidity: As the cone moves up and down, it acts more like a piston and doesn't warp. This prevents distortion and inaccurate sound.
- Dampening: It provides some dampening to ensure that there's no unexpected frequencies or sound as the cone is moving.
- Durability: It's an incredibly durable material that'll outlast many other high performing materials.
I think Flax has proven to nail all of these aspects very well. Every manufacturer has some sort of proprietary blend of material that makes up the cones on their high performance speakers. Focal nailed it with their Flax cones here, and it's one of the core technology that sets their speakers apart from the competition and makes them a high performing product.
On the outer edges of the flax cone, you have the surround material. This is another proprietary blend of material that Focal created, called TMD or ‘tuned mass damper'. This material really helps to stabilize the cone while limiting any additional friction or load on the speaker. To me, since just by looking at the surround you really can't tell much. The most important thing here is that Focal has put the R&D into manufacturing a material that's tuned to the performance of a speaker like this. They have an entire article dedicated to the comparative performance of this material against others and can prove that it's a superior material.
Next up, let me pull out the tweeters and give you a look.
TAM Tweeter Design
The PS 165 FXE tweeter is what's called a TAM tweeter. If you look closely, it's actually an inverted dome tweeter made from an aluminum and magnesium alloy. It's shaped a bit like an M and is is really designed for in-car use where you have limited points of installation for directional speakers.
Typically, your front tweeters are mounted in the A pillar of your car. In this position it doesn't exactly face the listeners very well. In many custom installations, you'll see installers building custom A pillar trim pieces that will mount these tweeters in a much more directional position to the listeners to recognize a lot of the benefits of a directionally placed speaker.
The TAM tweeter design with its M inverted dome is meant to widen the diffusion angle so that it doesn't have to be so directionally installed to gain some of the benefits of a directionally placed speaker.
When you pick these speakers up for the first time, you'll get a sense of their mass. The flax cone material is obviously lightweight but the structure of the speaker is really stout. They're made from cast aluminum so they're all one piece.
This speaks to the quality that Focal is trying to bring to you with their products. There's few cast aluminum framed speakers out there, and having a frame that can unquestionably handle the torque of the motor and cone while it's under load is essential for precision. You can also see the flat-spade terminals that are integrated and securely mounted into the cast aluminum frame which is nice to see.
The crossovers that are included in this component set are a little on the larger side for me. Nonetheless, there's a few specific things to call out about them that differentiate these crossovers from lesser quality ones.
The most important aspect of a crossover is the quality of components and materials. Focal uses high-grade components like air-core inductors (instead of iron core), and other high end materials to eliminate as much interference as possible.
These crossovers allow you to bi-amp your system if you want to, and if you take a closer look at the crossover without the cover on it, you'll find two adjustment switches. In most cases, you'll only see a tweeter adjustment but on these Focal's crossovers you can adjust both the tweeter and the mid driver by 3dB with the flick of a switch. I use this feature in almost every install I do to optimize the output depending on where I'm mounting the tweeters and woofers.
Now that I've walked through some of the core features of the PS 165 FXE, here's a quick overview of the PS 165 FXE's performance specifications.
- Size/Type: 6.5″ Component Speaker
- Impedance: 4-ohm
- Power Handling: 80 watts RMS (160 watts peak)
- Frequency response: 55-28,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 90.5 dB at 2.83 volts
- Top-mount depth: 3-1/16″
The PS 165 FXEs are undoubtedly an expensive speaker with their price tag in the mid $600s. And when I first heard Flax as their cone material I wasn’t really sure what it was to be honest or why they chose it. But after learning a little more about the history of Flax and its properties, along with hearing these speakers in person, I could tell it’s a fantastic material and suits the use case incredibly well. Make sure you amplify these speakers with one of our best car amplifier choices though to really get the most out of them. I wouldn't recommend these as factory replacements without amplification.
The Performance Expert series speakers from Focal have been apart of our best rated 6 1/2 component speakers list for some time now. The FXEs being the most recent addition to our list. I love these speakers personally, these are going to be going in my 2021 F150 shortly. For the enthusiasts such as myself, they’re well worth the price tag.