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Soundwrx Review: FXpansion Maul

FXpansion: Maul – Distortion and Toneshaper

Rising from the furnace of FXpansion’s DCAM technologies comes the eternal and unquenchable – MAUL – a multiband distortion/overdrive effect that uses the powerful Transmod system to create a multitude of creative modulation possibilities.

As a multi-band distortion plug-in, Maul is very different and more beastly than the majority of plug-ins of its type. Together with its Transmod modulation system Maul is comfortable working in extremes. It is capable of igniting total mayhem across many sound sources by incinerating their harmonics into a sonic fireball or equally, it can deliver softly driven tube saturation on a group bus as a subtle multi-band mix saturator. Maul is a very versatile tool, and opens the door to all kinds of tone sculpting.

Drive Stages:

There are 3 Drive Stages split into: Low, Mid and High frequency bands which can be configured to process a signal: in parallel (Multi mode), in series (Serial mode), across the whole frequency range or as a Single distortion stage. When in Multi (parallel) mode, each drive stage can act on a filtered portion of the input signal. The frequency bands of each drive stage can overlap. The Low drive stage is isolated with a lowpass filter, the Mid drive stage with a bandpass filter and the High drive stage with a highpass filter.

Filter Controls:

Each of the 3 Drive Stages in Maul provides an identical set of advanced Filter controls which include: Cut Off rotaries set at 12dB per Octave slope by default with a 24dB roll off switch available, Q to adjust the amount of emphasis around the centre frequency and a post-distortion Tone rotary which is a switchable Lowpass/Bandpass/Highpass filter with a cut-off frequency adjustable between 20Hz and 20kHz. The Mid Drive Stage as a bandpass filter when in Multi-mode, provides an additional width rotary to narrow or broaden its frequency range.

Drive & Saturation:

Maul features a dedicated Drive Selector for each of its Drive Stages which provides the luxury of 32 high quality modeled distortion types and an excellent Ring Modulator with which to forge a sound. The Drive Controls adjust the amount of distortion applied to each stage and the level of intensity can be stoked up using the Input Gain rotaries level which can be adjusted between -inf dB and +18dB. There are Output Gains available for all Drive Stages in Maul and a switchable saturation circuit that is also driven by the Input Gain. The saturation circuit also applies to the Master Output. However, care must be taken with gain levels because there is no Peak Limiter and levels could easily exceed OdB.


Another cool feature in Maul is the Dynamics function found in each of the 3 Drive Stages. The Dynamics control offers a simple but powerful transient-shaping control which is applied before the distortion circuit. There are 2 settings at opposite sides of the Dynamics rotary: The ‘Bite’ setting, which emphasises the attack of the transient while reducing the sustain and the ‘Body’ setting which reduces the attack while the sustain portion of a transient is emphasised. With the Dynamics rotary set at the centre (50%) there is no direct adjustment of incoming transients. However, transients can still be affected by the drive and saturation algorithms.


FXpansion’s Transmod system is an excellent resource for sound sculpting as it creates limitless animations and musical gesture within a phrase. Maul’s TransMod modulation system allows you to independently modulate all of the key parameters within each of the plug-in’s Drive Stages by assigning: LFOs, an Envelope Follower, Sample & Hold as well as incoming MIDI note Pitch/Velocity, Noise and a Random generator to them. Both the LFOs and the Sample & Hold are synchronized to the host tempo by default. Clicking the Sync buttons in the Modulation view/window will enable or disable the host tempo sync function for each module. Further, each modulation source can function in either uni-polar, or, bi-polar mode by right clicking the selectors and choosing from the options available there.

MIDI control:

Across all FXpansion VST products there is a lot of MIDI control. When controlling Maul via MIDI it is possible to adjust: Maul’s parameters’ initial values, parameter modulation depths for individual parameters and TransMod modulation sources. In addition to MIDI control, it is possible to automate Maul’s parameters with your host’s built-in automation features.


Maul provides 3 different monitoring views which graphically represent the internal processing in real-time; these include: Modulation, providing visual access to the Transmod modulators; Filters, reflecting the movement and width of the frequency bands; and Spectrum for gauging the total frequency range of the signal at the Master Output stage.


Through Maul, FXpansion have created a multi dimensional plug-in which conveys clarity, dimension, and warmth through its highly impressive sonic 3D. It is excellent for adding that extra punch to kick drums and snares in a mix. It can be used as an exciter to add sizzle or as a ‘Glue’ type plug-in on a master bus. Through the power of Maul’s high quality distortion algorithms, loudness and variations of tone can easily be achieved by enhancing, thickening, and embellishing the signal.

The depth and range of FXpansion’s Maul as a multi-band distortion and tone shaper plug-in is ‘other-worldly’ similar to one imbued with the the power of pyrokinesis. In essence, it’s a fire-starter!



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