Drums have forever posed a problem for stick holders in a band when it comes to unplugged performances. Unless you’re incredibly well-practiced in dynamic playing, you’re going to drown out everything with your thunderous booming.
And then what happens when your bandmates want to take their show to the streets for some busking or perhaps perform an acoustic set for a radio station? Lugging your kit to these locations isn’t really a viable option, but a Cajon drum is!
Portable, versatile, and a damn sight cheaper than a traditional acoustic drum set, the Cajon has been the answer to many problematic performance situations, and we’ve done the research and assembled the best of the best.
5 Best Cajon Drums - Reviews
That low-volume gig is approaching fast, so let’s not beat around the bush; let’s beat some drums!
OUR TOP PICK
Just because your bandmates are switching up to a more low-key acoustic sound, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the rich low-end pulse of your traditional drum set.
For lack of a better word, this Meinl creation is an absolute monster. Measuring 13.5” x 19.75” x 13.75”, it’s one of the largest on the market, and thanks to an internal bass reflex, it has a low-end punch that will take your breath away...literally.
But that’s not to say this isn’t a nuanced instrument. The MDF frame and walnut playing surface are incredibly sensitive to even the brush of a fingertip, allowing you to draw out the articulation of a full kit from a single box.
Furthermore, two sets of internal snares ensure you have that snappy, crisp, backbeat sound that cuts right through a full band mix - perfect!
- Internal Bass Reflex - Unbeatable bass frequencies.
- Dual Snares - Super crisp and responsive snare sound.
- Walnut Surface - Looks lovely, plays even better.
- Sensitivity - Very dynamic instrument.
- Price - You may have to smash your piggy bank, folks.
- Dimensions - It’s portable, but it’s BIG!
Using the musicians on the NYC Latin nightclub circuit as guinea pigs, Martin Cohen built LP (Latin Percussion) from the ground up based on authenticity and collaboration, and the Black Box is one of his most popular creations yet.
One of the first things we noticed is just how solid this thing is. Weighing in at 12lbs, it’s a scooch heavier than other Cajons with a similar footprint, but we think a little extra weight for a durable build is an awesome trade-off. This thing can take some abuse!
Moving on to the sound. We were wowed by the driving warmth of the timbre and the punch of the snare.
If you're a taller individual, it can be a little hard finding a comfortable sitting position, but if you can make it work, the full-bodied, almost vinyl-esque tones won’t disappoint.
Combine its soul-stirring tonal pallet with its full eco-design, and it’s small wonder why it took home DRUM! Magazine’s ‘Best Cajon’ award.
- Eco-Friendly - We love, love, love that it’s responsibly crafted.
- Tone - Such a warm sounding drum.
- Build Quality - It’s a solid instrument, folks.
- Weight - Harder to get from A to B than others.
- Playing Position - Can be uncomfortable for larger drummers.
Let’s get this out the way straight off the bat. This Roland masterpiece doesn’t come cheap, and here’s why.
It can be used as a traditional Cajon for some wholesome, earthy vibes, but it’s also loaded with thirty electronic Cajon drum kits, each with two sounds a piece. That’s sixty sounds on top of the natural spectrum of a Cajon.
Crafted from Sapele, an amazingly tough and completely sustainable West African tone wood, the EC 10 sounds fantastic, and it’s built to last.
A completely self-contained instrument, it runs for 12 hours straight on 6 AA batteries, and the integrated speaker takes care of running the acoustic drum, tambourine, shaker, electronic drum, and all the other digital samples.
We had a blast playing around with this Cajon and came to the conclusion that it’s the perfect tool for giving a low-key hip hop performance a special edge.
- Sapele - Strong and offers tight beats.
- 60 Samples - 30 Cajons in 1.
- Self-Contained - No separate purchases here, folks.
- First of its Kind - Innovative design.
- Price - Most expensive on the list.
If you’re looking for a quality grab-and-go instrument for things such as street parties, house parties, jamming at a friend’s house, coffee house gigs, or well...anything really, we highly recommend this Meinl drum.
Made from 100% Baltic birch, a favorite tone wood of acoustic drum manufacturers the world over, both the bass and snare sounds are breathtakingly resonant. In addition, the tones you can find between those polar sounds are varied and articulate.
Due to the dual internal wires, the snare sound in particular is a fantastic bit of ear candy, tastefully punching through to the sonic foreground.
Measuring 10 ¼” x 15” x 10 ¼”, it’s highly portable, designed specifically for being carried by hand to the jam.
While not too loud when compared to larger Cajons, the rear mic port allows you to amplify your signal when necessary, making it a shoo-in for larger live performances.
- Baltic Birch Construction - Solid and sounds amazing.
- Dual Snares - High fidelity snare sounds on the go.
- Dimensions - Very portable instrument.
- Mic Port - Play loud and proud.
- Volume - Not as loud as larger drums.
The standout feature of the Pyle String Cajon, funnily enough, is the internal string system. Tweaking this set of strings with the included hex key, you can fine-tune the harmonic resonance of your beats, which we think is pretty dope.
Built like a tank, don’t worry if you’re a bigger or taller drummer, this Cajon will do fine as your new musical throne. The box is entirely handcrafted with a focus on creating a deep, resonant bass and a rimshot-style snare slap.
The Pyle String Cajon is ideal for any intermediate to pro-level players who plan on tackling an intensive bar gig schedule.
It’s lightweight, it can roll with the punches of life on the road, it’s versatile enough to support adventurous playlists, and it sounds awesome!
- Adjustable Snare - Fine tune your sound.
- Handcrafted - Solid as a rock and sounds amazing.
- Price - One of the best value for money Cajons out there.
- Playing Surface - It feels a little thin.
Cajon Considerations - A Buyer’s Guide
A new Cajon is an exciting prospect, but hold your fire, pard. Before you add one of these beauties to your cart and confirm your purchase, ponder these key points to make sure you’ve chosen the right one for you.
Some woods sound better than others, it’s just a fact. Sure, sound is subjective, but generally speaking, wood that offers a greater resonance and detracts as little from the source sound as possible, will sound much better and much louder.
This is one of the reasons acoustic instruments sound so different from one another.
Beach and Birchwood are particular favorites of drum manufacturers due to their expansive dynamic ranges, but you’re sure to come across a ton of different woods on your Cajon caper.
Before buying anything, we recommend you do a little research on the materials, so you can build up more of an idea of what it will sound like.
Being that you literally have to mount a Cajon to play it, it needs to be made to the highest standards. The last thing you want is to suddenly end up on your bum in a pile of kindling in the middle of a set.
To avoid this embarrassing yet hilarious predicament, whilst you’re checking up on the tonal qualities of the wood, see if you can find out how strong it is too. It’s also a good idea to read reviews online to see how a certain drum holds up over time.
When your Cajon arrives, we recommend inspecting the internal construction for defects in wood or craftsmanship. The outside is primed and preened to look great, but you’ll get the real story on the inside.
The tapa is the front playing surface of a Cajon. The best ones are built up with a number of thin plies, giving it a flexible and resonant character.
Be wary of Cajons that use fewer and thicker plies. They tend to exhibit poor separation between bass and treble notes.
To Snare or Not to Snare
Cajons can come with or without internal snare strings. Cajons without strings will still be able to produce the necessary crack required of a simple drum beat, it just won’t have the signature rasp of an actual snare drum.
If you do settle for a drum with an integrated snare, make sure there are ways to change the strings should they break.
Normally situated in the back, the sound hole of a Cajon is the exit space for the sound, and its position has a large impact on the nature of the sound. Centered sound holes are renowned for their punch and volume, whilst off-center sound holes tend to have more sustain.
The most important factor to consider in regard to sound hole placement is that it doesn’t get in the way of your playing posture.
While there aren’t many electric Cajons on the market, if you do want a more versatile instrument, they can be found, but beware; they tend to cost a pretty penny.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Cajon For Beginners?
If you’re a beginner, we recommend looking for a reasonably priced, well-reviewed Cajon. The more affordable Meinl Cajons are particular favorites of ours. Buy simple, so you can focus entirely on playing rather than maintenance.
Is the Cajon Hard to Play?
The Cajon is an incredibly intuitive instrument and is relatively easy to get the hang of, but it takes years to master.
How Do You Play the Cajon?
Stripping it down to the very basics, you sit on top, legs apart, and use both hands to strike the tapa in different places. Each zone of the tapa will produce a different sort of sound.
Will a Cajon Be Loud Enough to Aggravate My Neighbors?
While they are much quieter than acoustic drum sets, they still pack one heck of a punch, so yes; if you’re wailing on your Cajon relentlessly, you could well be dealing with some angry knocks on your door from your neighbor.
Can You Make a DIY Cajon?
If you know your way around a tool set, you can definitely have a go at making a Cajon. It might not sound as good as a professional-grade drum box, but it’ll be way cheaper, and it’ll be fun to make too.
Who Invented the Cajon Drum
Not permitted to play drums upon arriving in early 18th century South America, African slaves began using boxes and crates to keep the rhythms of their culture alive. This was the genesis of the modern Cajon, a Spanish word that literally translates as box, drawer, or crate.
That’s all from us, folks. Did any of these Cajons speak to you? We’re sure there’s something on our list for absolutely everyone.
Simply use our buyer’s guide to point you in the right direction, and remember, if you’re ever unsure about the quality of a Cajon, just close your eyes and follow your ears. The most important thing is that it sounds good to you.