Best Cajon Drum: An In-Depth Buyers Guide

Best Cajons

You’ve probably seen more and more people playing the cajon in recent years and now you’re searching for the best cajon drum out there.

In reality, it’s not too difficult to find one that works reasonably.

But:

If you think you want to be a bit more serious about it, you’ll probably want to do some digging around to find one that stands out from the pack.

It’s for that reason that we’re going to do a little of that digging for you and give you a few tips, tricks, and some suggestions for the best cajon drums.

Funny story: I met a professional drummer once who kept calling his cajon a drum box. While he wasn’t wrong, I found it funny a successful musician didn’t know what a cajon is!

Before we get stuck into the cajon buying guide, here’s a comparison table for those of you who are stretched for time:

Best Cajons Compared

Model
Meinl American Cajon
Roland EC-10 EL
Schlagwerk CP404-BLK
Meinl Percussion BC1NTWR
Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN
Wood
MDF / Ash Frontplate
Not stated
Beech
Birch
Walnut
Image
Stained American White Ash Headliner Series Cajons Meinl
Roland EC-10 ELCajon Electronic Layered Cajon
Schlagwerk Cajon, Black, Large (CP404BLK)
Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares and FREE Bag - MADE IN EUROPE - Baltic Birch Wood Full Size, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (BC1NTWR)
Meinl Slaptop Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares and Forward Projecting Sound Ports - NOT MADE IN CHINA - Walnut Playing Surface, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (TOPCAJ2WN)
Latest price
$119.99
$397.99
$199.99
$99.99
$139.99
Rating
Model
Meinl American Cajon
Wood
MDF / Ash Frontplate
Image
Stained American White Ash Headliner Series Cajons Meinl
Latest price
$119.99
Rating
Model
Roland EC-10 EL
Wood
Not stated
Image
Roland EC-10 ELCajon Electronic Layered Cajon
Latest price
$397.99
Rating
Model
Schlagwerk CP404-BLK
Wood
Beech
Image
Schlagwerk Cajon, Black, Large (CP404BLK)
Latest price
$199.99
Rating
Model
Meinl Percussion BC1NTWR
Wood
Birch
Image
Meinl Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares and FREE Bag - MADE IN EUROPE - Baltic Birch Wood Full Size, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (BC1NTWR)
Latest price
$99.99
Rating
Model
Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN
Wood
Walnut
Image
Meinl Slaptop Cajon Box Drum with Internal Snares and Forward Projecting Sound Ports - NOT MADE IN CHINA - Walnut Playing Surface, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (TOPCAJ2WN)
Latest price
$139.99
Rating

Click here to jump straight to our top 5 recommendations of Cajons to buy!

Or check out what to look for below:

What makes a cajon?

For the uninitiated thinking, “Wait, what is a cajon?”… the cajon is a drum box that you sit on.

That’s about as basic as it gets! But you’re here looking for more…

Let’s start with the different types of cajon drums.

The 4 types of Cajon

best cajon drum

1. Peruvian Cajon

The Peruvian cajon (likely the first ever) had humble beginnings from shipping crates that were used as instruments.

These were adapted by slave musicians around the mid 17th century.

As the first concept of a cajon the Peruvian version was fairly barebones, and didn’t include a snare sound.

On top of this, it required advanced techniques to get the best sounds out of the cajon.

2. Flamenco Cajon

Next up it’s the Flamenco cajon. Probably the genre of music that’s most associate with the cajon.

When Paco De Lucia returned to Spain following a trip to Peru, he brought with him a traditional cajon.

To enhance the sound and add more musicality, guitar strings were added to the backside of the playing surface to provide the typical flamenco cajon sound.

This new style of cajon spread throughout the musical world and is now commonplace in Latin American music (as well as Flamenco!)

3. Snare Cajon

The snare cajon is what you’ll see in most music shops today.

It’s meant to mimic the backbeat of a kick and snare so it can be used in more popular genres of music.

It goes one step further than than the flamenco cajon, replacing the guitar strings with actual snare wires.

Many also now include throw-offs to turn the snare on/off as well as kick ports to deepen the kick sound.

4. Cuban Cajon

The Cuban Cajon is a five sided cajon that is placed between the players legs and played on the top much like a conga drum.

It has an open sound and there are no snares. The Cuban cajon is typically used in Afro-Cuban music.

There are many more types of cajon being developed today and we will add them to the post as they become popular.

Woods used for making Cajons

All cajons are constructed from hardwood or plywood. The type of wood used will usually reflect what it sounds like.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 4 hardwoods commonly used for Cajons:

  • Beech: High density hardwood, good all-round choice with good lows, mids & highs.
  • Birch: Very similar to Beech with slightly reduced mids and boosted highs – it’s a great choice for a well rounded cajon although usually more expensive.
  • Mahogany: Known for it’s deep low-ends, this will provide a lot of boomy bass with a muted high range.
  • Oak: Renowned for volume, this is your choice if you’re going to be incorporating cajons into live rock/pop gigs.

A cajon can also be made from lots of other types of woods or a fusion of the ones I just mentioned, so any research done in terms of sounds will be time well spent.

Just like standard drums, manufacturers of these drums will vary in quality, whether it’s joints, reinforcement, aesthetics – the whole shabang.

What’s more is that a cajon should be played with a cushion, since most players spend a good amount of time sitting on it.

Buying a cajon: what should you look for?

While this may not be a complete list for the super experienced, I think it’s more than a suitable enough starting point.

Of all things, the make, quality and purpose are at the forefront when it comes to choosing a cajon.

Make

Let’s face it; most people are going to choose the name brands for cajons.

There isn’t; anything inherently wrong with this, but that’s not the end-all here. Remember one thing:

Cajons are all handmade.

That means that they’re going to all sound a little different from model to model.

Here are three of the best selling cajons, renowned for quality, consistency and sound!

Quality

Cajons are handmade and quality is very important

Quality still does mean everything, just not always from a brand standpoint.

Joints and an overall thicker box will amount to a richer sound.

Build quality should be consistently sought after and may actually be the most difficult part in finding a cajon.

Specific purpose

While many may look the same, cajons aren’t all created equally. The purpose of your cajon should be heavily considered.

For example, Cuban-style cajons can be more like bongo and/or conga drums while other cajons can produce vastly different tones.

Some cajons may even have snares that buzz and some might have others that are snappier.

It’s true that none of these are bad, but you may want your particular cajon to sound a certain way.

With that out of the way, here are some of our picks for the best cajon drums available.

So, what’s the Best Cajon? 5 options for everyone

1. Meinl American Cajon - Black/White Ash
  • Create drum set grooves with bass and snare notes using your hands — the wood playing surface has...
  • Perfect for live acoustic music — the Meinl Headliner String cajon is made for settings like...
  • Adjustable steel cajon strings for snare effect — spanning against the inside of the playing...
  • American white ash/MDF, full size — the American white ash playing surface along with sturdy MDF...
  • Rear port for enhanced tone and microphone placement — a sound port is cut into the back of the...

Meinl is considered a top company for cajons. They do good things not just for the industry, but also for the budget. This particular cajon has an adjustable sizzle effect, adjustable top corners, and it only weighs 5kg.

Best features:

  • Frontplate: Mahogany, Resonating body: Rubber Wood
  • Features Adjustable top corners
  • Adjustable sizzle effect
  • Anti-slip sitting surface
  • One of the best selling Meinl Cajons

What are other people saying?

I play in two settings where a cajon is already on stage and wanted to be able to practice the specific instrument without spending too much, so I went for this one. For the money, it’s great. Fit and finish are excellent.

DK Watkins(Verified Buyer)

2. Roland EC-10 Cajon
  • Unique hybrid instrument combining an authentic acoustic Cajon with Roland’s electronic percussion...
  • Standard Cajon size (50 x 30 x 30 cm), with quality playing surface made of sapele wood
  • Runs on AC power (cable included) or up to 12 hours of continuous playing time with six AA-size...
  • 30 built-in electronic kits for layering with acoustic Cajon sounds
  • Each kit includes two independent sounds that can be triggered from the head and edge of the playing...

Roland are usually known for their electronics and their EC-10 is a great mix of acoustic and electronics!

The killer feature of this cajon is that it has on-board amplification built-in making it great for gigging drummers that usually play cafe-style settings.

And if you do need something even louder, you can easily plug it into a PA system.

Best features:

  • Small and compact
  • Built-in amplification
  • Extra electronic and acoustic sounds to give your more options

What are other people saying?

Awesome cajon! Worked well on stage! If you buy one make sure you get yourself a keyboard amp for larger rooms! This way you can learn about the functionality of the instrument. Watch where you sit on the cajon because you can accidentally put it in mute mode with your thighs.

Alex Kerson (Verified Buyer)

3. Schlagwerk CP404-BLK 2-in-one Cajon
  • Unique hybrid instrument combining an authentic acoustic Cajon with Roland’s electronic percussion...
  • Standard Cajon size (50 x 30 x 30 cm), with quality playing surface made of sapele wood
  • Runs on AC power (cable included) or up to 12 hours of continuous playing time with six AA-size...
  • 30 built-in electronic kits for layering with acoustic Cajon sounds
  • Each kit includes two independent sounds that can be triggered from the head and edge of the playing...

Schlagwerk have brought German engineering to the humble cajon.

The two-in-one aspect comes from the ability to remove the snare wires for a more traditional Peruvian sound.

This gives you the versatility to quickly change your sound mid-set without swapping the whole box!

Check out this great video review from Sweetwater:

Best features:

  • Made from Birch – so it’s a more high end cajon (Oak / Beechwood faces are available too!)
  • Removable snare wires that can be taken out in less than 10 seconds!
  • Great snap from the 40 snare wires in the box
  • Unique, vintage-look face plate – a change from the plain wood finishes.

What are other people saying?

I’m a guitarist and this is the first Cajon I’ve ever played or seen in person. That said, I’ve played for many years and do have a decent ear for tone. From the perspective of my rock/blues/pop-based sensibilities, this has a great sound. My kids have fun with it, and it does a surprisingly good job of taking on the role of a full drum kit during acoustic jams. I couldn’t be more happy with it.

George Baggott (Verified Buyer)

4. Meinl Percussion BC1NTWR Birch Wood Cajon
  • Perfect for acoustic shows and jam sessions — the birch cafe Cajon is the perfect grab-and-go...
  • Internal snares — dual sets of internal fixed snare wires are positioned against the inside of the...
  • Includes free Cajon bag — included free with this Cajon is a standard Cajon gig bag, which is made...
  • Made in Europe (wine red finish) — constructed with 100% Baltic birch wood, a wood type commonly...
  • Full size — measuring 12" wide x 17. 25" tall x 12" deep, anyone can sit down and play this...

This cajon is great for gigging drummers on a budget. At less than a $100 it gives you great sound at an even better price.

Made from an all birch construction, this cajon gives you the ability to tune the snare sound to adjust the ‘slap’ you get.

Sound engineers will love this cajon too. It also had a rear-port which is ideal for mic placement for live shows.

Best features:

  • Free Gig bag for easy transportation
  • Adjustable snare sound
  • Birch construction – great for acoustic rock and live shows
  • Two year warranty from Meinl

What are other people saying?

Oh boy -these seem to be the favorite, well these and the triangle, percussion instrument that my grandson picks out of his music box that I made for him. I tell him they sound like rain. VERY fun to make different noises with these. They are very well made and I wish I had purchased a set for each child at his pre school at the time. Did not know we could have so much fun with these egg shakers!

LMS (Verified Buyer)

5. Meinl Percussion Slap Top Travel Cajon
  • A compact drum set for any setting — support any style of music in a live or studio setting with...
  • Bass and snare — dual internal fixed snares (the same type found on snare drums) are positioned on...
  • Upright playing position — the unique T-shape design of the Meinl Turbo Slaptop Cajon allows...
  • Walnut surface with durable MDF body — the smooth walnut playing surface is thin enough to respond...
  • Forward facing sound ports — there are three forward-facing sound ports that project your rhythms...

This cajon is designed more for drummers used to playing on a table top.

With the slap-top cajon the playing surface is on the top and it has two sound ports facing forward, directly to the audience so this thing is LOUD!

It’s still fairly big and a bit of an awkward shape to transport so keep there is a trade off here.

The slap top cajon is meant to be used in between your legs while you’re sat down rather than sitting on top of it.

Check out the video below for a great example of how you can play it!

Best features:

  • Front-facing sound ports for a directed, loud sound
  • Walnut construction for a deep, bassy sound – perfect for latin sounds
  • Comes with Meinl’s 2 year warranty

What are other people saying?

An excellent drum for the price. Just about any issues I could possibly have with this drum are satisfactorily offset by the fact it’s priced around $100, which is an excellent price for a cajon.

David A Fretz (Verified Buyer)

There you have it, five great choices – what do you use? Tell me in the comments below!

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