You may be asking yourself — “what is a cajon?”. A cajon, sometimes known as a ‘drum box’, is a rather unassuming, primitive-looking, percussive instrument played using your hands.
While these six-sided boxes can be dated as far back as the 16th century, they have gained newfound popularity as of late. Cajons while traditionally used in the musical stylings of the Afro-Peruvian and Flamenco genres the cajons have found their way into contemporary music as well.
One of the most popular applications of a cajon is as an accompaniment to an acoustic guitar or piano for a performance in a more intimate setting. Maybe you are one of those people who has considered using a cajon for just such an occasion?
Top 3 - Cajons (Drum Boxes)
Well, if you have been curious about using a cajon for yourself we’re going to take a look at six different cajons for powerful acoustic performance. There may be one in this list that is right for you. Let's find out.
Best Cajons for the Money - My Top Picks
Table of Contents
- Best Cajons for the Money - My Top Picks
- What’s the Best Cajon for Worship?
- What’s the Most Comfortable Cajon to Sit On?
- Which Cajon is My Personal Favorite?
- What Are the Best Cajon Brands?
- What Cajon Should a Drummer Get?
1. Meinl Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon
If you’re familiar with cajons you’ll notice something a little different about this cajon from Meinl. This model of cajon has a very large forward-facing sound port placed appropriately on the bottom.
I liked these forward-facing ports as I felt they allow players to have a better sense of what exactly they are playing. The forward-facing chambers amplify the Cajon's natural sound very well and they allow for easy micing up for bigger rooms. Not having to awkwardly turn around to adjust a mic is a real win here.
As the name suggests this cajon possesses a superb bassy tonal quality. The forward-facing low oriented port allows the bass tone to travel so it can be amply heard. There is something of an 808 quality to the Jumbo Bass Subwoofer cajon. There is just enough bass tone with a quick enough decay.
Meinl has also equipped this cajon with dual fixed snare wires that sharply contrast against the super low bass tones. Playing the top of the cajon face gives a warm knocking sound with a light snare tremble. Further down the face will provide players with a bassy tone with a mild snare tone underneath.
At times it did sound like there were a little too many bass tones coming through but, again, it is a cajon that is specifically made for low-end sound.
The gnarled seated area has great grip. If you like to play your cajon flat on the ground or with a slight tilt you’ll have no problem keeping your seat steady.
Meinl has created a beautiful-looking cajon with this model that feels solid and plays well. I’d suggest prospective purchasers keep in mind that this is a very bass-oriented cajon. It may not fit everyone's needs. Definitely try before you buy if you can.
2. Schlagwerk X-One Series Cajon
Cajon players looking for something with a more traditional tone, you may want to look at the X-One Series from Schlagwerk.
The X-One Series Cajon is made from 8-ply birch. The qualities of birch wood provide the X-One with a distinctive bright-energetic tone. A tone that, to my ear, would blend in nicely with the quick rhythmic stylings of the Latin music genre.
The X-One’s response to input, whether on the edges or face, is sharp and poignant. I found it to be very easy to just jump right in and start playing.
You needn’t hit too hard around the edges to activate the snare wires. Schlagwerk has done an excellent job here emulating an actual snare drum.
You can get a full-bodied dry satisfying pop as you would want from a marching band-style snare. It’s really quite fun to play some of those classic rudiments but on a different kind of drum than a kit player would be used to.
Smacking the center of the X-One’s face will yield a satisfying enough bass tone. It’s a tight, dry, and punchy tonal quality with very rapid decay. Players looking for a cajon with more sustain and a more booming bass tone may be somewhat disappointed by this model.
The seating area is smooth so there isn’t much grip. You should be fine when sitting directly on top of it but, if you prefer to rock back and play just be aware of that surface,
You can make slight adjustments to the cajon via the screws in its face plate. However, the bottom of the cajon is glued and does not seem to be able to be removed without compromising the face plate's structural integrity.
The X-One is a cajon that may leave some wanting more but it's a good option overall.
3. Pearl Primero Cajon
Pearl's Primero line comes in a few different designs, some of which are actually a bit humorous. Our Pearl Primero Cajon came with the Music Town USA snare face plate. A design that's a little busy for my taste but, it wouldn’t keep me from potentially giving this cajon a try.
The other three sides of the box are designed to look like an old crate. If you know about the history of cajons you’d understand the design choice is an aesthetic homage or callback to the origins of the cajon.
I thought this was a great touch. Especially with the dark lacquer finish that makes this instrument look like a higher-end piece of furniture that could blend into your living room.
Pearl did a great job of developing a beautiful contrast between the bass and snare tones of this cajon.
The bass tone is low, very low, with a satisfying warm slappy tone. I’d compare the bass tone to a 20” kick drum with a loosened batter head being used with a heavier beater.
The snare tone on the Primero is bright and woody sounding. There is no real tuning needed to get an excellent snare sound from the Primero. It sounds very much like a small wooden shell snare.
The Pearl Primero line would make an excellent choice for anyone looking into cajons. Its expressive tonal quality in combination with its delightful aesthetic is sure to make it stand out in a musical context when you want it to. It’s also subtle enough to store out in plain sight without being an eyesore.
4. Roland ELCajon EC-10 Electronic Layered Cajon
It was honestly a surprise to see that Roland had made an electronic cajon. The Roland ELCajon EC-10 is a dual trigger-endowed hybrid cajon.
This cajon can provide its user with up to 30 different sounds per trigger.
The EC-10 can conveniently run on battery power for 12 hours using 6 AA batteries. Or you can simply plug it into a power source for all-day play.
This cajon has all the ports you’d need to plug it in and record if that's what you desire.
The seating area on top has another set of easily accessible controls. You can dial in the sensitivity of the trigger, vibration intensity, added sound effects, and whatnot.
On paper, this combination of electronic and acoustic elements for a cajon sounds interesting. However, I found myself simply asking, “why?”.
There is nothing special about the trigger sound effects in this cajon. They sound dated and really weak. Like you’re playing some cheap toy instrument from a pharmacy toy section. Why wouldn’t someone just use a drum pad instead of the EC-10?
To be fair, I could see the application for this type of cajon in a worship setting. A cajon can be a difficult thing to mix properly for a larger room. Having the ability to plug in directly could make the life of someone who frequently plays these events very easy.
You can turn off one trigger while keeping another on. So you could mix the natural snare sound of the cajon with a triggered bass drum kick sound.
The cajon's natural tone is just ok. I think the addition of all the electronics has sacrificed the cajon's natural tonal qualities.
Rolands' ingenuity is bound to raise some eyebrows with this cajon but, it might be the answer to someone's prayers.
5. Gon Bops AACJSE Alex Acuna Special Edition Cajon
This cajon was made to the specifications set forth by Peruvian percussion legend, Alex Acuna. This cajon is the real deal. It’s made by hand in Peru from Peruvian Mohena Hardwood.
When I saw the name attached to this cajon I knew there was a good chance this would be an absolute gem.
Before you even play this cajon you have to take a moment to appreciate the beautiful pattern that adorns its top, right, and left surfaces. The sequential use of dark and light-colored woods shaped into a large diamond pattern really makes this cajon look like not just an instrument but an art piece as well.
Playing the cajon will instantly make you instantly smile. It just feels and sounds superb!
The snare tones are actually provided by guitar strings that are set diagonally within the cajon. This setup provides players with a beefier and louder snare tone that sounds so wonderfully authentic.
The bass tones are uninterrupted by the guitar strings acting as snare wires. There is a very distinct tight poppy bass tone when you slap the middle of the face plate without a buzzing overtone.
This particular cajon is rather pricey. I’d advise moving it with care and always keeping it in a gig bag when you aren’t playing.
Gon Bops AACJSE model might be a little too traditional sounding for more modern musical applications. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it can’t fit into a variety of musical styles. I’m simply suggesting that performers who use their cajon more as a replacement for their traditional drum kit may not find everything they’re looking for here.
6. Meinl Percussion JC50BR Compact Jam Cajon
If convenience, durability, and cost-effectiveness are at the top of your list when looking for a cajon, then take a look at the JC50BR Compact Jam Cajon from Meinl.
Meinl has provided a nice option here for folks who wish to travel with their cajon without it being inconvenient.
The Compact Jam Cajon is constructed from Brown Baltic Birch. The use of Birchwood seems to help this little cajon sound energetic and bright.
While the bass tone qualities of Compact Jam Cajon weren’t anything to write home about, the snare tone is actually impressive.
The snappy, responsive snare sound alone makes this little cajon a blast to sit on and play.
Because of its size, I can see this being a great tool for practice. Playing on something a little smaller requires more focus and in turn, could lead you to become a more accurate player.
If you’re a taller person, this cajon may not be a great choice. Sitting down too low for too long can really be uncomfortable.
Because of its smaller surface area on top, it does make it harder to play in a rocked back position as well. I’d recommend playing this flat so as to not accidentally slip off. I wish they added some sort of grip to the top of this to help keep players seated.
The Meinl JC50BR Compact Jam Cajon is a good quality, inexpensive choice that buyers can feel satisfied with owning. Understand that it does have its limits but it can still be a blast to play.
7. Latin Percussion LP1400NWP Inside Pedal Cajon
Solo guitarist, if adding a cajon to your kit is an idea you’ve been toying with this model from LP may be right for you. Or maybe you’re the percussionist in a duo or trio that really needs the use of both your hands. Then the LP1400NWP Inside Pedal Cajon may be the perfect addition to your musical arsenal.
Playing this cajon from LP felt more natural to me as I am primarily a drum kit player. Being able to utilize my foot and then each hand for different purposes was great. You could shake a tambourine in one hand, play the snares of the cajon with the other and work the pedal with your foot. An absolute win for players like me who may want to add some more versatility to their set.
An added bonus here is the pedal that operates the internal beater is a DW5000. A very good quality pedal with a legendary reputation.
One tricky thing about pedal setups that use this style of wire is that over time they tend to lose their responsiveness.
The bass tone is sufficiently audible and very warm in tone. The sustain is that perfect duration that would be right at home in a flamenco musical group or even some folk or country music.
This cajon setup from LP feels like a natural jump for kit players while also serving as an avenue for more dynamic play for frequent cajon users.
While there is going to be a bit more maintenance involved with a pedal-operated cajon it wouldn’t see it being a problem that would arise frequently.
What’s the Best Cajon for Worship?
Simply the answer in my opinion would be the Roland EC-10 and it's really for one reason. The Roland EC-10 hands down would be the easiest to hook, set up, and play in a larger room.
Cajons can be a little bit difficult to mic properly so having a direct input with the ability to customize or mix acoustic and electric sounds makes this an ideal choice.
What’s the Most Comfortable Cajon to Sit On?
The cajon I found easiest to sit on and keep my place with was the Meinl Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon.
The gnarled, dimply top adds some great grip to your seat. This bit of grip can be especially useful if you’re wearing dress pants or a finer fabric that tends to be a little slippery on wood surfaces.
The rounded edges atop the cajon also make it easy on your legs. A more squared-off edge on a cajon can lead to discomfort over time, especially when playing longer gigs.
Meinl did an excellent job with this particular detail.
Which Cajon is My Personal Favorite?
This is strictly my opinion here. I know I may get some disagreement from someone here. I’m not taking into consideration the cost just yet. I’m only considering the following aspects of playability, sound quality, and build quality.
I felt that the best cajon is the Gon Bops Alex Acuna Special Edition. To me, this sounded like the quintessential cajon. It is beautifully crafted, the sound quality alone sets itself apart, and the feel is absolutely incredible. If you play this cajon you can instantly tell that the love of the music was paramount in its creation.
That being said, I do feel the need to address one other cajon here as I feel it is a good choice for the money. That would be the Pearl Primero Cajon.
I really liked the dynamic sound quality of the Primero Cajon. The snare has an excellent crack that plays well against the deep bass tones. It also felt durable and I liked that it was easy to carry around even without a bag.
What Are the Best Cajon Brands?
Defining “best” is tough as it can mean many things. Are we talking about the brand that sells the most units? The brand that gets the most praise? The brand that costs the most money? Which is it?
In this case, I’m going to go off my own discretion while taking into consideration some market research.
LP makes the most played and most comprehensive assortment of hand-played instruments without question.
Whatever variation of color, sound, texture, or wood, you may be looking for chances that LP will have something that's right for you. LPs have one foot firmly planted in their traditional roots and the other foot resting on the ground of innovation.
A close second place would have to be Meinl.
While Meinl may not have the storied history of LP, they have come a long way in a short amount of time. Meinl cajons are well-made and generally affordable. Meinl's cajons come in a variety of styles that complement the wood from which the instrument is made.
Fans of a more minimalist style with subtle touches of flare might gravitate toward Meinl cajons.
What Cajon Should a Drummer Get?
Let’s say your band wants to try some acoustic or quieter shows. It’s often a struggle for a drummer to find his or her place in the mix of musical settings that don’t call for a full drum kit.
So, what do you do? You don’t want to be left out of the show and your kit can be too loud or clunky even if you’re playing with brushes or rods.
My first recommendation to you would be to look into getting the Latin Percussion LP1400NWP Inside Pedal Cajon.
This cajon should feel more natural to kit players as you will be using both your feet and your hands in different capacities.
You could use something like a foot tambourine on your slave foot to keep time just like you would on a hi-hat. Then tap the cajon with one hand for the snare sound while using a shaker in the opposite hand all while keeping the beat with the cajon foot pedal.
If you aren’t looking for something as complex as a foot pedal cajon, another possible great choice would be the Meinl Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon.
The Meinl Jumbo Bass Cajon’s forward-facing resonant chambers make it easy to hear. Most cajons have their port on the back which can lead to some sound issues.
The ports being at the front also allow for easy mixing if the venue calls for it. It’s also loud enough to be heard without having to slam and slap the face with great force.
An addition such as the LP inside Pedal Cajon or something like the Meinl Jumbo Bass Cajon will undoubtedly open up your musical repertoire while keeping you in the show and not on the sidelines.