Best Cajon Drums – Buying Guide and Reviews

Your band’s been asked to play an acoustic gig, or a small, intimate show on a tiny stage but you’re the drummer. What do you do?

Well, one of your most exciting options could be to use a cajon drum. This is an all-in-one box which doubles up as a seat and creates the basic sounds of a drum kit, without the need to set up a bulky piece of equipment.

cajon portable drums

Cajon drums are experiencing a surge of interest lately, and the range of cajon drums you can get is quite large. In this article, we’re going to look at the different types of cajons and how they suit different players’ styles and needs.

AT A GLANCE: OUR CHOICE OF THE BEST CAJON DRUMS ON THE MARKET

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

Meinl Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon with Internal Snares-NOT Made in China-Walnut Playing Surface, 2-Year Warranty, (SUBCAJ5WN)

Meini Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon
  • Forward-facing sound ports
  • Internal fixed snares
  • Walnut front plate
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Schlagwerk CP432 2-In-1 Deluxe Cajon - Makassar

Schlagwerk CP432 2-in-1 Deluxe Cajon
  • Removable snare
  • Sonic Projection Lignum body
  • Macassar veneer surface
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LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon LP1427

LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon
  • Birch
  • Fixed snare
  • Adjustable front plate
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Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Metal Strings for Adjustable Snare Effect-NOT Made in China-Hardwood Full Size, 2-Year Warranty, (HCAJ1NT)

Meinl Cajon Box Drum
  • Baltic birch body
  • Adjustable strings
  • Comfortable seat
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Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon Stringed Percussion Box (PCJD18)

Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon Stringed Percussion Box
  • Budget-friendly
  • Internal strings
  • Lightweight
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A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic Cajon

A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic Cajon
  • Peruvian
  • Deep, bassy tone
  • Simple
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Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon -Vintage Light, Hand Crafted, Siam Oak Body, Maple Front Adjustable Snare

Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon
  • Oak and ebony
  • Adjustable snare wires
  • Comfortable seat
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What Is a Cajon?

A cajon is a seat-sized box that usually, although not always, has strings or snares inside. These boxes are amplified via sound holes, like the ones you find on an acoustic guitar, and the kind of sound they make can change depending on where you hit them.

Cajon drums can at the very least offer bass and snare drum sounds, and at their best, they can enable creative, dynamically varied percussion parts as you use your hands, fingers or brushes to control the tone and volume of the instrument.

Most cajon players choose to use their hands, and sit on top of the instrument as they play.

Benefits of Cajons

There are several benefits to using a cajon on stage.

Portability

The main benefit of using a cajon as opposed to a full drum kit is its portability.

These boxes are usually lightweight, small and easy to carry, partly because of the big hole in the middle of them.

The fact that you play them with your hands also reduces the need to carry a variety of sticks with you, and the way a cajon is a one-item-instrument really stands out when you’re used to lugging several shells and cymbals around. You don’t even need a stool with a cajon: it doubles up as one.

Price

As well as being a lot more convenient than drum kits, cajons are also considerably cheaper.

Cajons can vary in price from <100 to >300, but they’re always a lot less expensive than drum kits of comparable quality.

If you’re on a budget and need percussion adding to one of your songs or performances, this is an investment that won’t hurt too much.

Sound

The sounds cajons make are comparable to the sounds we’re familiar with on rock drum kits. Their built-in snares emulate the sound of a drum kit’s snare drum, and when the cajon is hit more centrally, it can sound like a bass drum.

This easy, instant access to familiar sounds can work as a quick fix for livening up a song or performance. It’s less obvious than resorting to bongos or tambourines, and more tonally versatile.

Types of Cajon

Cajon’s do come in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Peruvian Cajon

Peruvian cajons are boxes without strings or snares inside. These are the most basic kind of cajons and were the first to exist.

Despite being very primitive in their early days, Peruvian cajons continue to be developed and they are still amongst the most used cajons today.

These cajons are typically made of hardwood with a sound hole at the back and a front made of laminate wood. They tend to produce deeper sounds when hit towards the middle, and they give out sharper, shorter sounds when struck near the edge.

Peruvian cajons would be the obvious choice for a percussionist playing Peruvian folk music.

Flamenco Cajon

Flamenco cajons use guitar strings or drum snares to create sounds which are similar to the bass and snare drums on a full drum kit.

They typically offer a crisp, lively sound which complements funk, pop, jazz and pop music, amongst other contemporary genres. And flamenco, of course.

A flamenco cajon is an obvious choice for the modern musician.

Snare Cajon

Snare cajons work in a similar way to snare drums, and often even allow you to switch the snare on and off like you would with a snare drum.

These will be well suited to drummers who already enjoy experimenting with snare on and snare off sounds, and they’re really an advanced version of flamenco cajons in that they offer a crisp, modern sound.

Cuban Cajon

Cuban cajons have their sound holes at the base of the instrument, which is open, and unlike other cajons, they’re played between your legs.

Cuban cajons are used primarily in Afro-Cuban music, and are available in a variety of sizes to offer different tones.

All Cuban cajons offer a wide range of tones, as they deliver high, crisp notes when played near the edges and deep, bassy notes when hit towards the centre.

Wood Types

Cajons can be made from a variety of different woods. Amongst the most commonly used are beech, birch, mahogany, ebony, maple and oak, all of which offer slightly different tones.

Beech

Beech is a heavy wood, that offers a full-bodied percussive tone.

It is durable and offers a rich resonance, and it’s also one of the more budget-friendly materials used to make cajons.

Beech is likely to be used to build the bulk of a cajon.

Birch

Birch offers a warm tone that projects well.

It tends to bring out the higher notes, and, like beech, it’s a budget-friendly option. It’s likely to be used to build the bulk of a cajon, not just the face.

Mahogany

Mahogany is renowned for its richness of sound, its warmth and its longevity.

It’s not cheap, but it’s a popular choice for the face of a cajon, whilst the bulk of the body will commonly be made from something else.

Ebony

Ebony is similar to mahogany, but heavier and less expensive.

It’s likely to be used for the face of a cajon, due to the warm tone it offers and it’s a solid choice for the player who likes the tone of mahogany but perhaps wants something that weighs a little more.

Maple

Maple is another premium wood, often used for the faces on higher end cajons.

It produces bright, clear and crisp sounds which replicate high quality snare drums and it’s lightweight and easy on the eye.

Maple is probably the most popular choice for cajon faces.

Oak

Oak is another strong wood, which is commonly used for the body of cajons.

It tends to be quite budget-friendly, and has a resonant bass response as well as being capable of delivering tight, warm snare tones.

Where Can You Hear a Cajon being Played?

Cajons have been used since the late 16th Century in Peruvian music, but more recently, they’re popping up all over the place in modern flamenco, Cuban and even pop performances.

You can hear some awesome cajon playing in this acoustic version of ‘Counting Stars’:

Buying Guide – Key Considerations When Buying a Cajon

Which Type will Best Suit Your Style?

Are you playing folk, flamenco, rock music or Afro-Cuban music? If you’re not sure, a Flamenco or Snare cajon will offer you a lot of versatility. You can spot these kind of cajons due to their internal strings or snares, and box-like shape.

If you’re certain that you want to play traditional folk, a Peruvian cajon is going to give you that authenticity. You can ensure that that’s what you’re getting by checking for an absence of snares. If you’re playing Afro-Cuban music, a Cuban cajon will be the obvious choice and can easily be separated from other cajons due to its different shape and the way the sound hole is at the bottom.

How Light Does it Need to Be?

The weight of cajons can vary significantly.

If you’re looking for something that you can carry on public transport, or on foot from venue to venue, it will be worth looking for something small and light. Birch, maple and mahogany are amongst the lighter woods.

If you’re a heavier player, it’s also worth considering whether the cajon is strong and sturdy enough to cater for that. Oak, Ebony and Beech are heavy and strong woods.

What’s Your Budget?

These instruments also have an enormous range in terms of cost.

Due to their popularity, snare and Flamenco cajons tend to be on the lower end of the scale, although of course you can get higher end models of those.

Although more basic, Peruvian cajons are often more expensive than Flamenco cajons, and Cuban cajons usually lean towards higher prices.

Product Round-up & Mini Reviews

Meini Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon

Meinl Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon with Internal Snares-NOT Made in China-Walnut Playing Surface, 2-Year Warranty, (SUBCAJ5WN)

The Meini Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon is a large, heavy snare cajon.

It has a wide, deep body and two forward-facing sound ports which allow the bass notes to ring through and a makah burl front plate which offers a superior resonance.

This cajon has comfortable padding on top, making it easy to sit on for long periods of time, and its width means that it will be well suited to larger players.

The size of this cajon, combined with its sound port features means that it offers the ultimate in terms on bassy tones. It will be well suited to players who really want to make an impact and produce booming sounds.

The internal snares mean that it is also capable of snare-like sounds, so it’s perfect for those who wish to in some way emulate a rock kit. It’s not the cheapest cajon, but will suit the gigging musician who would like to make an investment.

It will be less suited to percussionists looking for a traditional, Peruvian sound, or to Afro-Cuban musicians.

PROS

  • Large, deep body and forward-facing sound ports allow bass notes to ring through.
  • Internal fixed snares enable a crisp snare drum sound.
  • Walnut front plate makes the cajon sensitive and gives you access to an excellent range of dynamics.

CONS

  • The large size makes it less portable than some other cajons.
  • It’s more expensive than a lot of cajons.

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Schlagwerk CP432 2-in-1 Deluxe Cajon

Schlagwerk CP432 2-In-1 Deluxe Cajon - Makassar

The Schlagwerk CP432 2-1 Deluxe Cajon is a high-quality instrument that works as a snare cajon as well as a Peruvian cajon. The internal snares are easily removable and the drum itself is made from sonic projections Lignum, which offers a rich resonance.

The Schlagwerk CP432 also has an ebony surface, giving it a strong bass sound and making it quite a heavy cajon, which will be well suited to those who want something sturdy and substantial.

The top of the cajon isn’t particularly comfortable to sit on – it’s just wood – but the edges are rounded, which both helps the smoothness of the sound and makes it visually pleasing.

The snare sounds are extremely rich, but this cajon doesn’t come cheap. It will suit professional drummers or recording artists who need a punchy, substantial snap in their beats.

The Schlagwerk CP432 will be less suited to percussionists who are looking to replicate a traditional Peruvian or Afro-Cuban sound.

PROS

  • Snare can be easily removed, giving you a multitude of sound options.
  • Sonic Projection Lignum body gives it a rich resonance.
  • Macassar veneer ebony surface gives it a strong bass sound.

CONS

  • Expensive.
  • The seat isn’t comfortable.

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LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon

LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon LP1427

The LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon is made from Baltic birch, which gives it a rich resonance and warm tone, that also brings out the higher notes.

This cajon has a crisp snare sound, and it’s filled with fixed snare wires that make it easy to consistently sound like a snare.

The front plate is adjustable, giving you additional control over your final tone and it has a subtle, stylish aesthetic.

The LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon is priced similarly to the Meini Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer. It’s lighter in weight, easier to handle and smaller than the Meini Percussion cajon, although it doesn’t offer that bassiness.

The LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon will suit those who want to use the cajon as a quick fix to a snare drum sound.

It will be less suited to those who wish to access a wide range of sounds, or bassier tones.

PROS

  • Constructed using high quality birch, which gives it a rich resonance.
  • Fixed snare wires give it a crisp sound.
  • Adjustable front plate allows you to fine-tune your tone.

CONS

  • Snare’s aren’t easily removable.
  • Seat is just wood, so isn’t as comfortable as some other cajons.

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Meinl Cajon Box Drum

Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Metal Strings for Adjustable Snare Effect-NOT Made in China-Hardwood Full Size, 2-Year Warranty, (HCAJ1NT)

The Meinl Cajon box drum is a comfortable flamenco cajon with a stylish, makah burl frontplate.

As well as looking good, the makah burl frontplate works well with the cajon’s Baltic birch body to give it a rich resonance.

The Meinl Cajon Box Drum has adjustable strings inside it which have a sensitive response and can achieve crisp snare drum sounds.

Although the strings are adjustable, they’re not easily removable, so you can’t emulate the on/off switch of a snare drum.

The Meinl Cajon Box Drum is a reasonably priced cajon, slightly less than the other ones on the list so far, and it’s lightweight and easy to use.

It will be well suited to beginner cajon players, particularly those who play flamenco thanks to its internal strings which are different to an internal snare.

It will be less suited to those who require bassy sounds.

PROS

  • Baltic birch body and makah burl frontplate offer a rich resonance.
  • Adjustable strings allow you to alter the crispness of the sound.
  • Comfortable seat makes playing for long periods more manageable.

CONS

  • The wood on the frontplate gives it an aesthetic that might not suit everyone.
  • There’s no removable snare.

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Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon Stringed Percussion Box

Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon Stringed Percussion Box (PCJD18)

The Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon is the cheapest and smallest on the list, making it the most portable as well as the most budget-friendly.

It has internal strings which enable a crisp, snare-like sound, and it weights just 10.2lbs.

It’s unclear which woods this cajon is made from, which might raise some alarm bells with potential buyers, but the projection is pleasant and clear, not poor quality at all.

The Pyle Jam Stringed Percussion Box has rubber feet to ensure that there are no unnecessary vibrations, and a simplistic, modest and modern design.

It will be well suited to beginners, musicians on a budget or those who are just curious to try out a cajon.

It will be less suited to professional musicians.

PROS

  • Very small and budget-friendly.
  • Internal strings enable a crisp, snare-like sound.
  • Weighs just 10.2lbs.

CONS

  • It’s so small and light, it won’t be suited to larger players.
  • The unspecified wood lacks resonance and quality of tone compared to more expensive cajons.

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A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic Cajon

A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic Cajon

The A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic is the most traditional cajon here.

It has no snare, making it well suited to authentic Peruvian sounds and it’s made from Spanish cedar and Lupuna plywood, giving it a deep tone and promising longevity.

Despite its simplicity, this cajon isn’t cheap, costing more than the maority in this list. However, the quality can’t be argued with and the stylish, natural finish on the face as well as on the sides of the cajon are irresistible.

The A Tempo Percussion Peruvian cajon is perfect for those who are seeking to recreate the authentic sounds of traditional Peruvian folk music.

Due to its lack of strings or snare, it will be less suited to those playing punchy pop, flamenco or rock music.

PROS

  • Peruvian cajon enables traditional cajon sounds.
  • Spanish cedar and Lupuna plywood give it a deep tone and promise longevity.
  • The simplicity of this cajon makes it great for beginners.

CONS

  • There are no snares, so you might not achieve crisp sounds.
  • The seat isn’t comfortable.

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Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon

Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon -Vintage Light, Hand Crafted, Siam Oak Body, Maple Front Adjustable Snare

The Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon is full sized and designed with the larger player in mind.

It is made from oak and maple, making it strong as well as capable of a crisp attack, and despite its affordable price, it even comes with a carry-case.

The Echoslap Vintage has adjustable snare wires, so you can fine-tune your tone and it even comes with an included wrench.

This is a versatile cajon, which is capable of bassy, warm tones all the way to crisp, cutting snare sounds and it’s easy to play and convenient to transport.

It has a comfortable seat, and will suit the gigging musician who wishes to play on it throughout an entire gig.

This cajon will be less suited to those looking to recreate Peruvian music.

PROS

  • Made from oak and maple, giving it crisp attack.
  • Adjustable snare wires enable you to fine-tune your tone.
  • Comfortable seat makes playing for long periods easy to manage.

CONS

  • It’s quite bulky.
  • The snares aren’t easily removable.

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Summary

As you can see, which cajon you buy will largely depend on what kind of music you’re playing, your build and your budget.

If you are looking to recreate traditional Peruvian music, the obvious option is the A Tempo Percussion Peruvian Classic. It’s quite expensive, but authentic in its build and very stylish looking with its cedar and plywood.

Those hunting for something bass-heavy need look no further than the Meini Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon. It’s big, bulky, bassy and has the added bonus of striking snare sounds.

The Schlagwerk CP432 2-1 Deluxe Cajon, LP Americana Groove Wire Cajon and the Meinl Cajon box drum all offer excellent snare sounds. The Schlagwerk offers the most richness and versatility, whilst the LP Americana has exceptionally crisp qualities and the Meini Cahon uses strings to create a more flamenco sound.

If you’re looking for something strong and ‘man-sized’, the Echoslap Vintage Crate Cajon is a bulky piece of quality kit, that comes at a surprisingly low price.

The most budget-friendly one here is the Pyle Jam Wooden Cajon, which is also the smallest and most lightweight cajon here.

Whichever of these suits your needs the best, we hope that you have fun drumming without the burden of a multi-piece kit.

Keep on keeping the beat!

 

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