The 10 Best Cajons

Updated September 13, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Cajons
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 36 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. These box-shaped percussion instruments originated in Peru and are played by slapping the front or rear faces with the hands, fingers, or sometimes using brushes, mallets, or sticks. Cajons are easy for beginners to play and produce a variety of rich sounds to complement a wide array of musical styles. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best cajon on Amazon.

10. Sawtooth ST-CJ120B

The Sawtooth ST-CJ120B is meant for the traveling musician. It offers a padded seat, rubber feet, and a carrying case that slings conveniently over your back. Both the front plate and the internal snare wire system are adjustable to create customized sounds.
  • great bargain for beginners
  • easy to transport
  • sound quality isn't great
Brand Sawtooth
Model ST-CJ120B
Weight 13.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. World Stage WS461001

The World Stage WS461001 has a natural basswood finish that some musicians may prefer over fancier models. Its internal snares are adjustable so you can find your perfect sound, and its ported back allows the instrument to breath and deepens the resonance of the bass.
  • non-slip seating area
  • front feet can be adjusted
  • feels poorly made
Brand World Stage
Model WS461001
Weight 10.9 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN

The Meinl Percussion TOPCAJ2WN may look unusual, but this adds to its flexibility when it comes to creating unique sounds. The slap top is meant for upright playing and it features forward facing sound ports that really project the sound a far distance.
  • available in burl and walnut wood
  • responds nicely to finger rolls
  • short 4-inch snare wires
Brand Meinl Percussion
Weight 10.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Toca TCAJ-BW

The Toca TCAJ-BW is designed with comfort in mind and it is ideal for the busker or street performer. A padded seat at the top makes it suitable for long sessions, and its large shape gives it a very deep bass that fills indoor and outdoor areas.
  • adjustable front plate
  • design isn't very attractive
  • seems a touch overpriced
Brand Toca
Weight 17.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Meinl Percussion CAJ3MB-M

The Meinl Percussion CAJ3MB-M features an internal string system that delivers the crisp, sizzle sound associated with Flamenco music. While a professional model, this drum has the beginner in mind with its easy and versatile playability.
  • allows for fine tuning
  • rear sound port for mic placement
  • backed by a two-year warranty
Brand Meinl Percussion
Model CAJ3MB-M
Weight 12.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Gon Bops Alex Acuna Special Edition

If you are just as concerned with how it looks as how it sounds, then you'll appreciate the Gon Bops Alex Acuna Special Edition. It has an attractive patterned exterior that is made from Peruvian hardwoods and sonic characteristics that allow for clean bass sounds.
  • hard wearing lacquer finish
  • strings only run in the corners
  • snare can be hard to find
Brand Gon Bops
Weight 17.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. A Tempo Percussion Dos Voces

The A Tempo Percussion Dos Voces is named so because it has two playing surfaces; one of for traditional Peruvian sounds and the other with snare wires for flamenco sounds. It has a lovingly crafted dovetailed mohena body which looks stunning.
  • protective rubber feet
  • can create two distinct highs
  • includes a gig bag
Brand Sol Percussion
Model CJ-DOSV-00
Weight 6.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Schlagwerk CP4007

The Schlagwerk CP4007 comes in a variety of decorative front plates from beechwood to burl veneer. Constructed of 7 ply alder wood, this drum is very durable and emits resonating bass and strong mid-range tones, plus the sound can be adjusted by using the tuning screws.
  • easy playability
  • versatile playing style
  • great for acoustic jams
Brand Schlagwerk
Model CP4007
Weight 11.6 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Latin Percussion LP1428NY

The Latin Percussion LP1428NY easily commands attention with its sleek black matte finish. It has fixed wires to offer a reliable sound time and time again, with a good balance of bass and sharp snare sounds, allowing you to play any type of music.
  • tight and quick response
  • can be easily transported
  • room filling sound
Brand Latin Percussion
Model LP1428NY
Weight 12.1 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Sol Percussion El Artesano

The Sol Percussion El Artesano is designed to bridge the differences between flamenco and traditional cajon sounds. It produces a warm, rich sound with deep resonating bass and it looks just as beautiful as it sounds with the its five wood blend construction.
  • handcrafted in peru
  • long lasting satin finish
  • creates a wide variety of tones
Brand Sol Percussion
Weight 15.5 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Cajons

The Cajon appears to be a descendant of a variety of boxlike musical instruments that were found in West and Central regions of Africa. Historically, the cajon has been most widely used in Afro-Peruvian music, though it has made its way into a variety of modern music genres and can currently be found in musical performances throughout the Americas, Spain, and the Philippines.

The rise in popularity of the cajon most likely came about sometime in the 18th century as a result of African slavery in Peru. Two complementing theories can explain why they become such a cultural symbol at the time. The African slaves working in port cities had a large number of Spanish shipping crates at their disposal, which they could easily adapt into a box drum somewhat reminiscent of those found in their homeland. This was also a time when the Spanish colonies were placing bans on slave music. The slave masters worried that allowing slaves to listen to the songs of their homeland could fuel emotions towards a common cause or even result in open rebellion. The box-like nature of the cajon meant that it could be quickly and easily disguised as a stool when needed. The combination of Spanish suppression of slave music and African origins seem to have created the perfect atmosphere for the development of the cajon.

The cajon was also widely used in Cuba in the 1960s. Just a few years after Castro turned Cuba into a communist country in 1959, disenchanted and marginalized masses started to hold anti-communist rallies in the streets, complete with chanting, singing, and rhythmic drumming. Fearing the sound of beating drums would draw more people to the protests, and thereby more people to the cause potentially leading to open rebellion, Castro outlawed playing music in the street. To get around this, Cubans started to make drums out of fruit boxes and other crude materials that could be easily disguised as everyday items. When the police arrived to break up a rally, they would find well-behaved citizens sitting atop their boxes, looking for work or socializing.

Over time, the cajon has become a true musical instrument in its own right. In the mid to late 19th century, musicians started experimenting with different cajon designs. They bent the planks to alter the tone, added internal wires to give it a snare sound, and some have even incorporated tiny tambourine cymbals, adding new dimensions to the types of sounds cajons can produce.

How To Choose The Right Cajon

Choosing the right cajon is as personal as choosing a favorite pair of jeans; no two people will want the exact same thing. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate different cajons to see if they fit your needs. Always remember that price doesn't necessarily directly correlate with quality. This doesn't mean that you should go out and buy the cheapest model available, but realize that big name branding often adds to the price tag, without necessarily adding to the quality. Take a look at the materials used to construct the cajon. Models made from high density hardwoods will offer a better frequency range, being able to produce high-cracking notes, deep resonating bass, and punchier bass tones, as well.

Consider the type of music you plan on playing the most. Each type of cajon is best suited to certain tones, hence certain genres of music. If you play rock music the majority of the time, a cajon that features a snare system is a good choice. A snare system helps a cajon produce more rattle and buzz in the high notes. The downside to this is that it makes them sound a little less articulate when played fast. Flamenco and Latin cajons often have a guitar strings or wires running along the backside of the tapa. This helps them produce tighter and crisper sounds that are perfect for higher bongo- or conga-like tones. If you really want the traditional Afro-Peruvian sound, choose a model without wires, strings, or a snare system. These will be better at creating rich, resonating bass tones.

You should also look at the design of a cajon. The port placement will affect the volume and tone. Cajons with a port in the center will have the most volume, but the least tones. As the port moves closer to the bottom, the volume decreases but the tones increase. Size is another factor that affects tone and volume. The bigger the cajon, the deeper the bass it can produce and the louder it can get. Small cajons are less expensive, but are quieter and can't reach very deep bass notes.

Cajon Playing Tips For Beginners

Posture is extremely important when playing a cajon. Because of the way cajons are designed to be played while sitting on top of them, many people naturally want to hunch over them. Playing this way can quickly lead to back pain after practice sessions, resulting in a person deciding that a cajon is not the instrument for them. In actuality though, a cajon should be played with your back mostly straight, in a relaxed, but not hunched position. All of a cajon's tones can be achieved in the top eight inches of the tapa and sides, so there really is no reason to bend over far and try and hit lower areas. Not only will using the correct posture reduce the possibility of soreness or back pain, it will also improve your technique, agility, and speed.

Your first few practice sessions should be spent finding all of the tones of your cajon. Experiment by hitting the instrument in different spots and paying attention to the tone each area creates. You may be surprised to learn that a cajon is capable of considerably more tones than most people expect. Having knowledge of all the different tones that your instrument can produce gives you the ability to create a more varied sound to your music, thereby adding more complexity to your rhythms.

Using a metronome can greatly help to improve you timing, speed, and beat-keeping accuracy. It may seem mind-numbing at first, but having good timing and beat-keeping accuracy is vital to becoming a high-level percussionist.

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Last updated on September 13, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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