It’s big, can produce booming sounds, you can actually sit on it while playing, and it literally translates to a case, crate or coffin, although I’m not entirely sure you’d want to bang on the last one!
Of Peruvian and African significance, the Cajon is an extremely popular percussion instrument that is used both traditionally, to accompany Peruvian dances and rituals, and in pop-culture to add unique sounds to mostly unplugged performances for popular musicians.
It’s even been used in commercial song production to take the place of a full drum-set!
A few years ago, the drummer of my local band brought one to band practice, he said it was ideal to play for our “unplugged” sessions (whenever I say “unplugged” I always think of Nirvana’s MTV session, great performance btw).
Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised with what our drummer was able to achieve on such a simple instrument, it sounded amazing!
Fast forward to today as the rise in popularity of the Cajon continues, the various different options available has blown through the roof.
So I thought I’d (with a bit of help from my drummer friend) write about the best Cajon drums on the market today, a buying guide of how to choose from the 10 best, and any FAQ’s you may have!
10 Best Cajon Drums in 2020
It can be super easy to get overwhelmed with all the options out there, but this list will help you to narrow them down!
Oh, and a heads up! There may be some products which I recommend for which I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. All recommendations are genuine and/or verified by myself!
Quick Look At My Top 10 Picks
Meinl Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon
Roland EC-10 ELCajon Electronic Layered Cajon
Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares
Pyle String Cajon with Internal Guitar Strings
Meinl Pickup Slaptop Cajon Box Drum
Schlagwerk 2inOne Cajon
Sawtooth Harmony Series Hand Stained Cajon
Eastrock Travel Cajon Drum Box
LP Aspire Accents Wire Cajon
LP Matador Whiskey Barrel Cajon
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Cajon Drums in 2020
- 1. Meinl Jumbo Bass SubWoofer Cajon – Best overall
- 2. Roland EC-10 ELCajon Electronic Layered Cajon – Best Electric Cajon
- 3. Meinl Cajon box drum With Internal Snares – Best Cajon For Beginners
- 4. Pyle String Cajon With Internal Guitar Strings – Best Budget Cajon
- 5. Meinl Pickup Slaptop Cajon Box Drum – Best For Upright Playing
- 6. Schlagwerk 2inOne Cajon – Best Cajon Under $200
- 7. Sawtooth Harmony Series Hand Stained Compact Cajon – Best Portable Cajon
- 8. Eastrock Travel Cajon Drum Box – Best Travel Cajon
- 9. LP Aspire Accents Wire Cajon
- 10. LP Matador Whiskey Barrel Cajon
- How do I Choose a Cajon?
- The Best Cajon – Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts on The Cajon
- Cajon History – A Brief Introduction
It’s no surprise that I start the list with a drum box from the best Cajon brand, Meinl.
The German company has been producing a wide range of percussion instruments since the early 1950s!
Perfect for acoustic jam sessions and set at a very reasonable price, the Meinl Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon delivers crisp tones backed by snares and a booming bass sound that will easily keep the rhythm for your jam group.
Rubber feet keep it in place while you play, and its heavier build and larger dimensions will support whoever wishes to bear the hands that play it.
Meinl’s “biggest and bassiest” Cajon, this model is truly all about the bass (sorry I had to). This is the ultimate powerhouse behind those unplugged sessions, creating a low-end deep bass that you can actually feel.
For a drum box, there’s quite some engineering behind this beauty of an instrument. Inside, it features a bass reflex system that directs the sound waves and air through the various channels, allowing sound frequencies to develop inside, and produce that beautiful low-end tone.
Finally, it’s walnut construction creates even levels of highs, mids, and lows that project with a warm and deep sound. With the added jingle from the snares, this truly is the best Cajon drum box overall.
Pros: Sublime acoustic sound, strong bass, beautiful design, and finish.
Cons: Larger than most Cajons (13.5 x 13.75 x 19.75 inches).
This unique Cajon, as if the instrument itself couldn’t get any more interesting, combines both the traditional acoustic sound that is so well-known with modern technology and electronic features.
This takes the overall playing experience to new, different, and one of a kind heights.
Made of Sapele wood, giving it a bright look and feel, the Roland EC-10 supports a wide range of musical styles with both acoustic and electric sound options for a player to choose from.
Acoustically, it sounds and plays like a traditional Cajon drum. With a sound so good, you may not even want to experiment with the electric variations.
However think again, the electronics behind this thing are why it ranks so high on my list!
You can configure it to play different electronic sounds when playing different areas of it. For example, by hitting the edge of the drum you can trigger a tambourine sound or a deep bass sound by striking the head. The options are endless.
The built-in speaker system and integrated amp both sound great and still allow that go-anywhere feeling which is the underlying beauty of playing the drum box in the first place.
Pros: Both electronic and acoustic, layered electronic sounds, standard size, suitable for all experience levels, combines both traditional and modern features.
Cons: Needs batteries or power outlet for electric playing experience (It can run for 12 hours on 6 AA sized batteries or continuously with an included AC power cable).
This is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon and rightly so. It’s easily the best Cajon under $100 and for beginners.
The quality lies not only in the 100% Baltic Birchwood it’s constructed from in Europe, but in the punchy, sharp clean sounds and tones that it produces when struck.
Stainless steel snare wires create a very noticeable, extremely responsive sound quality. In fact, you’ll find it hard to believe that the sound it creates is not an actual snare drum!
It’s perfect for replicating the sounds and rhythms of a drum set in a more intimate setting.
Not only this, but it’s also more compact than the above two options, making it more portable and especially handy if you want to take it on your travels. 10.25 x 10.25 x 15.00 inches to be exact!
Hands down this is the best Cajon for beginners and those not looking to put a hole in their wallet!
Pros: Budget-friendly, compact, suitable for all players and ages.
Cons: Travel bag not included.
Another great option under the $100 mark, the Pyle String Cajon is handcrafted and a great addition for your Flamenco inspired acoustic jam sessions, or for any genre of music really.
It features an effective guitar string system inside that creates a sensational acoustical tone and rhythmic sound.
The strings are adjustable, allowing the sound to vary in both depth and tone. It also comes with a hex key for tuning, giving even greater control, which isn’t usually possible with the other snare strung boxes.
The rubber feet create a very stable foundation when playing and prevent any kind of vibration.
Overall the size, versatility, and birch wood construction make it a fantastic choice for any player not looking to break the bank.
Pros: Affordable, lightweight which makes it easily portable, adjustable guitar strings for varying sounds.
Cons: Lacks heavy deep bass.
If you have back problems, or would simply prefer the comfort of NOT having to sit on a wooden box, then this could be the best Cajon drum for you!
Although it goes against traditional design, it’s what makes this drum box such an eye-catching and comfortable option.
The slap-top design fits perfectly between the legs of the player, and the top portion goes over either side of the player’s legs.
This gives a wider surface area to strike when compared to other percussion boxes, instead of hitting the sides.
The Meinl Pickup Slaptop resembles more the Cajón de rumba of Cuba, where the player also strikes the top of the drum.
Piezoelectric pickups, that pick up the vibrations of the drum box, allow for individual control of both bass and snare tone with adjustable EQ knobs.
Additionally, a 1/4″ output jack permits plugging into an amp or a direct input unit, so you can easily record those tasty beats!
The forward-facing speakers allow for a clear projection of sound for the audience or other players.
All in all, if you’re looking for a compact size, comfortable design, and the ability to plug-in, this is a great instrument that will give you endless amounts of fun.
Oh and pro-tip from my drummer friend, plug this thing into some guitar FX pedals!!
Pros: Comfortable, adjustable tones, electronic capability.
Cons: Not traditional-sounding or looking.
When it comes to the best Cajon brands, Schlagwerk is up there with Meinl. In fact, it was Schlagwerk that introduced the idea of using snare wires to replicate the classic buzz sound.
Made in Germany and with varying design, color, and size options, the Schlagwerk 2inOne Cajon is a perfect addition to your percussion collection or line-up.
The snare wire is removable, giving you the option to experiment with a more traditional sound and playing experience, but is just as easily put back on, perfect for bouncing between musical styles!
Essentially, you’re getting the option of two distinct Cajon sounds, modern and traditional, in one drum box!
Built with a Beachwood front plate and birch body, this is the best Cajon to buy if you’re looking to spend a bit more on a premium option with the added versatility of switching between sounds with ease.
Pros: 2-in-1 design (snares are removable), tight sound with bass notes that aren’t overshadowed by snares.
Cons: No cushioning pad to sit on.
Smaller than most other compact Cajons, measuring at 11.5″ x 11.5″ x 17.5,” the Sawtooth Harmony Series Compact Cajon still creates beautifully clear and bold low tones, and with an added punch.
The front plate is adjustable, allowing for alterations in sound when played on the outermost corners of the drum.
And 20 evenly spaced horizontal coiled snare wires create a steady snare response.
Each Sawtooth Cajon is hand stained, crafted, and come elegantly designed, making them truly unlike any other mini Cajon.
If you want a traditional-looking, portable Cajon, priced under $50, then this is the perfect option.
Pros: Affordable, elegant design, portable, handcrafted, great sound quality for the price and size.
Cons: Travel case not included.
Just when you thought the Cajon couldn’t become any more portable, think again.
This is the travel companion that will not only last a lifetime but is perfect for both accompanying practice sessions and individual rhythm practice without the traditional heavy bass sound of a normal-sized drum box.
Its extreme portability is what makes it so attractive, just think about the beautiful travel destinations you could take this drum to!
The small size makes it easy to carry in almost any backpack or carrying bag, but of course, it comes with an included travel bag.
Don’t let the small size lead you to believe the sound is just as small, for it creates impressive tones at a surprisingly loud volume.
It’s affordable, unique in size and design, perfect for both beginners and professionals alike, and makes a great travel companion.
Pros: Travel-friendly, loud and clear sounds, adjustable strings.
Cons: Deep bass sound not as present as when compared to a traditional Cajon.
Latin Percussion or LP is another long-standing brand of percussion instruments, with a focus on ethnic and Latin instruments.
With over half a century of experience, it’s safe to say you’re getting a high-quality instrument when you buy from LP.
The LP Aspire Accents Wire Cajon is one of their most popular drum boxes, although they do have quite a range!
It’s elegant, sleek, and features a modern design. However, despite its modern looks, the familiar rich sound it produces is nothing short of traditionally inspired.
The soundboard and body are made from birch and poplar woods, giving both a solid, deep sounding drum and a durable build that will last you many playing sessions.
It also comes with three sets of DW (Drum Workshop) snare wires, offering a wide dynamic range.
With four different color schemes and designs to choose from, a textured surface and rounded corners for a comfortable playing experience, it’s hard to go wrong with the LP Aspire, whichever one you choose.
Pros: Color and design variety, quality build, sharp and clean tones, reputable brand.
Cons: On the smaller side, some people may be put off by the color variations.
A unique shape, bold color, and different cultural adaptive construction is what defines this Tumba styled Cajon.
Despite its visual differences, you will get nothing but a solid sound, strong bass tone, and an overall fun playing experience from it.
Made to look as though built from an old whiskey barrel or Latin conga drum (Tumba), the rounded body and smaller top halves allow for a wider range of sound production when played.
Constructed from staved New Zealand pine, it produces crisp slap tones, snappy snare, increased resonance, and a deep bass tone create the perfect sonic range good for all jam sessions.
Please note, whiskey not included 😉
Pros: Versatile sonic range and overall high sound quality.
Cons: On the heavier side.
How do I Choose a Cajon?
Similar to other instruments, a cheaper price does not always mean that you’ll be subject to a lower quality sound or build, and visa versa. There’s many budget-friendly Cajon’s that sound great and also don’t break the bank!
One of the most important things you need to keep your eye on when looking for a good Cajon is its build, as in the wood used in its construction and the overall quality of craftsmanship. Beech, birch, and walnut are all excellent woods for their sound properties and durability.
Birch, for instance, a higher density wood, tends to produce a more broad dynamic range, with excellent high tones and deep bass tones.
It may sound obvious, but a general rule to keep in mind is that the harder or thicker the wood is that makes up the body of your drum box, the more durable it will be, and the longer it will last you.
Considering this, the Meinl Jumbo Bass Cajon is built of a sturdy MDF body and walnut playing surface. This makes it responsive to the softest of touches but also provides maximum projection and stunning tones. The build quality and sound of this powerhouse is why I’m giving it the title of the best Cajon overall, try it out for yourself!
Another key factor in your decision-making process is how portable would you like it to be. If you’re planning on taking this with you frequently, on the road, or to multiple jam sessions, then consider ease of transport.
To some extent, all of these drum boxes are fairly transportable, especially when compared to a traditional drum kit. However, if you are looking for a drum to take on your travels that fits in your backpack, the EastRock Travel Cajon Drum Box is perfect. It sounds great too!
After build quality and size, you then want to consider versatility (internal snares, electronic Cajon options, and overall sound performance).
Cajons with internal snares will serve the purpose of replicating the overall sound of a drum-set. Perfect for playing along with multiple instruments without being drowned out.
On the topic of being drowned out, you will want to decide if you want an electronic Cajon or not. If you plan to be playing with other acoustic and amplified instruments often, you may consider a drum box with an integrated amp and coaxial speaker, like the Roland EC-10 ELCajon Electronic Layered Cajon.
It will also save you the hassle of having to mic up your Cajon!
There are other benefits to an electric Cajon like the Roland EC-10, most notably the vast selection of acoustic and electronic percussion sounds you’ll be able to experiment with. From adding backbeats, layered tambourine or djembe, acoustic snare, and more, the potential is endless!
If you prefer a more traditional sounding and looking Cajon, a drum box that replicates the original models of the drum known to the early inhabitants of Africa and those who rooted Afro-Peruvian cultural practices deep into the country of Peru, then the Schlagwerk 2inOne is a sublime option.
Made of high-quality birch and Beachwood, this is a superb sounding drum. At that price point, it’s the best Cajon for the money!
Finally, there are excellent quality sounding and constructed drums at a more budget-friendly price. In fact, the Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares has done just that, and a #1 Best Seller on Amazon speaks volumes (no pun intended).
My only slight criticism is that it is compact, whereas the similarly priced Pyle String Cajon Wooden Percussion Box is full-sized.
Whatever your needs are, this list will hopefully help you to narrow down your options for choosing the best Cajon for you!
The Best Cajon – Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Cajon easy to learn?
The Cajon is a very achievable instrument to learn to play and possibly one of the easiest. Once you get an understanding of the basic snare and bass sounds, you will be able to focus on your rhythm and timing. Like a lot of percussion instruments, they have a low barrier to entry and are easier to pick up but to become a true master of the Cajon, it’s a similar timeframe to a hand drummer learning the congas.
What is inside a Cajon?
Put simply, the Cajon is a hollow box, so there is nothing inside. In order for the sound to escape though, there must be a soundhole. Of course, most models will have internal snare wires or strings.
How much does a Cajon cost?
The cost of a Cajon will depend on a few factors. Mainly, the materials it’s built with, it’s size, and key features like electronics and snare wires. But, an entry-level Cajon of good quality can be bought for as little as $50 to $100.
What are the best Cajon accessories?
One of my favorite accessories for the drum box is the Meinl Percussion Retractable Nylon Brushes. They offer so much versatility, as can be played like sticks or rods, and the sweeping tones and crisp slaps sound superb.
The Meinl Percussion Foot Tambourine is also fun to incorporate and great for acoustic sets. Another popular Cajon accessory is the drum pedal, however, I have no experience of using one and don’t want to give advice on something I know little about!
Final Thoughts on The Cajon
With modern developments, there really are a plethora of options to choose from, however, I hope I’ve narrowed your options for you and helped make your decision process easier!
The fundamental simplicity of the drum box is what makes it so appealing and fun to play. There are endless rhythmic developments and patterns you can learn, and the best part is, the size and ease of transport of the Cajon mean you really can take it anywhere!
Whether that be local worship sessions, jam sessions with your friends in the garden, or even faraway exotic travel destinations…
As always, if you have any further questions regarding how to choose a Cajon, feel free to get in touch in the comments below or send me an email.
Happy drumming! – Will
Interested in the history of a Cajon? I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole of research and found it so fascinating I decided to write a brief summary!
Cajon History – A Brief Introduction
When was the Cajon invented?
It is originally thought to have been played by enslaved African’s during rest periods or during their own traditional practices on tea plantations that populated Peru in the 18th century. Due to the limited access African slaves had to musical instruments, they made use of vacant crates and boxes that were used to store and transport the collected crops.
This wasn’t something foreign to their culture, though, as drums and percussion instruments of similar sound and build date far back into the rich history of African culture, being used for similar purposes as the Peruvian people did, traditionally.
The people of Peru took a liking to the Cajon, and soon it was threaded into their native traditions and would remain this way for years to come.
As time progressed, the Cajon remained a hidden jewel of Afro-Peruvian cultural practices, with sparse inclusion in other musical traditions and genres. At that point, there had been no worldwide recognition of the instrument.
It wasn’t until it reached the eyes of those who populated the western region of the world that it gained traction. The wide-spread use and liking did not take flight, that is, until the near end of the 1900s, but from this point forward, it soared.
The original build or construction of the Cajon contained five relatively thick, solid wooden sides and a thinner side for the sixth, which is the area where you strike.
Opposing the thin board was a large hole carved out of the larger wooden panel that made up the backside of the drum box. This is where the booming sound came from as the vibrations had a space to escape instead of being cut short by the confined space inside of the hollow box.
New developments took place as a number of varying cultures took hold of this unique crate drum and adopted it as a vital aspect of their traditional practices, countries ranging from Cuba to Ireland.
In Cuba, for example, they used the Cajon as more of a bongo while also using its traditional construction, fitting their individual needs as a culture with their own rich history.
Instead of having the larger side be where the player would strike, the smaller face of the rectangular prism was where the thinner side was placed, creating a higher-pitched, cutting sound when compared to the original booming, echoing sound. It was known as the Cajón de rumba.
Other models of a more conventional nature designed the bottom to be made with rubber strips, to hold it in place during on-stage performances. Screws were added to the top-most portion of the drum so a player could tune or adjust the general sound created through tightening and loosening of the screws.
Most Cajons today, or at least a great number of them, come equipped with wires or snares that lie behind the thin layer of wood for added tone and higher notes, also giving greater volume, similar to that of a snare drum’s construction.
This particular advancement dates to when African slaves would play tea crates that would eventually warp and crack with time, thus creating somewhat of a vibrating tone and longer voyage for the sound to travel.
The general size was never truly established, though it could be assumed that it remained smaller or medium-sized due to the tea plantation circumstances. This undefined size allowed for freedom in other cultures to do with this characteristic as they saw fit.
Those who took part in Cuban traditional practices used both small and larger variations of the drum, replicating that of a conversation between high and low notes sustained at different rhythms.
In regions that folk music was commonly played, Ireland for example, the size remained small to medium so as to accompany, but not totally drown out, the acoustics of other instruments often included in these musical creations.
Other additions have appeared as time has progressed, including the addition of bells and other percussion elements of this nature. This makes it no longer an instrument with only a single sound, but rather one that can replace an entire drum-set itself if necessary.
Its original versatility was obvious, but the modern advances in its technology have made it even more so. With such a rich history and playing ability, it’s hard not to resist the urge and get your hands or backside on one of these!