The Best Cajon Drum of 2018: The Definitve Guide | Reviews

Posted in Cajons | Last Updated on September 11, 2018

cajon drum with 2 speakers to its each side

If you are interested in a this type of instruments then you have probably figured out that there are a lot of options to choose from. In searching of the best cajon drum you will find that just about every major drum manufacture have a least one type of it available for purchase. In this guide I will talk about the instrument in general, the different models and brands.

The cajon drum is a very popular drum on the market today. It is portable, affordable, and its fun to play. You can use it in a wide range of musical settings. If you've ever wanted to buy a one but don't know how to purchase your first one, this buying guide along with our product reviews are going to help you for sure.

In a hurry?

Best on a Budget  >> Pyle (PCJD18)
Best Under $100  >> Meinl (BC1NTWR)
Best Under $200  >> Meinl Jumbo Bass Walnut Subwoofer
Overall Best          >> A Tempo Percussion - El Artesano
Best Electric          >> ELCajon Electronic (EC-10)
The New Kid on The Block >> Echoslap Vintage Crate

Cajon means box in Spanish. The main reason why this instrument is so popular is that it's easier to play when compared with other drums. You don't need a whole lot of technique to play it so it's more accessible for beginners to start drumming. If you can do simple drumming on your steering wheel, or your desk, you're set to play the cajon.

Quick Overview

The main surface that you strike on the cajon is what we refer to as the tapa. This is a thin piece of wood that helps the drum resonate. Different words are used to make the tapa but plywood is often used because it adds strength as well as durability. When you strike this tapa in different areas, it produces the three main tones of the drum which are slap, base, or touch. When you strike further down on this to happen you get a bass sound. If you strike hard near the top edge, you get the slap sound and when you give the drum a light touch you get ghost notes. You will get better at producing sounds on you cajon as you practice. Most people will be able to play grooves and make music with this instrument in far less time than it takes to learn how to play a full drum kit.

Types

There are many different versions of this drum which are outlined below:

  • Peruvian-Style - This is the traditional type of this drum. It has six sides and the player will sit on this drum. There is a hole in the rear of the drum to project the sound.
  • Flamenco - This type features guitar strings, wires, rattles, bells, and other features which are strong against the tapa
  • Modern - The modern style of this drum which is used in popular music may have snare drum wires inside the drum. Strings and wires have a crisper and a tighter sound and the snare wires can admit more rattle. the modern models are often louder than other cajon drums so they can work better in settings where there is no amplification.

New players to the cajon are recommended to start playing a model which features strings or snares. This is because of this drum can function like a quieter version of a regular drum set.

Wires

Many models let you adjust the pressure of the wires that go against the tapa so you can fully adjust the sound. This is easily done it with an Allen wrench as their adjustment screws at the bottom of the drum. When you loosen the wires, you get more sustain and when you increase the pressure, the cajon can have more of a snare drum sound to it. If you loosen the settings too much you may get some rattle in the base so you have to find a balance in the sound of your cajon. Many of these features will come with a higher price but they are recommended because you will have more versatility in your drum.

What To Looked For - Features that Make a Great Cajon

Before you buy the best cajon drum for your needs, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind and a few features that you should know about. Here is what you need to know about.

Myth: The Drum is Simple so They All Sound the Same

Some people believe that since his drum is a lot simpler than other drums, they all basically sound the same. This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like any other instrument, cajon drums can all sound vastly different from each other. The drums can have different dimensions and features. The sound hole position can be different, there are various thicknesses of materials used, how the drum is put together, and other factors all influence how it sounds. If your tale ten drums of the same make and model, they will all sound different.

These drums are simple instruments when compared to other instruments, but they all have different sounds depending upon the drum you’re using. You will need to listen to various cajon drums before you make a buying decision. It's a good idea to find someone that understands these drums before you make a purchase so you're getting the best drum for your needs.

What Makes a Great Cajon Drum?

To get a good drum you want to have an excellent separation between the bass tones and the high tones. If there's a snare present with the drum, then it should enhance the separation and the sound. You will probably have a personal preference when you buy your drum as some like a subtler tone while others enjoy a solid bass response with their drum. The type of sound that you are going to get depend on what you need as there are various features you can get to enhance the sound of your drum.

You should only buy a drum that meets your individual specifications and not what someone else tells you to buy because you want a drum that it's going to be right for you. Try different sizes to find one that works for you. You don't necessarily have to buy a drum in the standard size and shape. Listen to the sound of the various models and then decide on the right one for you.

Manufacturers

While there are some excellent ones, the manufacturer that you choose really isn't as important as the sound of your drum. You may think you're getting a great drum based on the brand name of the manufacturer, but this might not be the case. You want to purchase a box that sounds right to you and not one based on the name of the manufacturer. Far too often we purchase musical instruments based upon a brand name and not on how the instrument sounds. Even well-known manufacturers can make poor quality instruments.

Some lesser-known manufacturers make great sounding cajon drums and they may be preferable to some of the model’s offered by the larger manufacturers. You must remember that larger manufacturers are using producing instruments for profit while the smaller ones make higher quality products to get recognition of the marked and make a name for themselves while sacrificing profits by offering products on lower price.

Construction Considerations

The way the drum is constructed should also be important to you. The best drums will use marine ply as this is durable and strong. Someone that uses an eco-friendly wood like pine might be helping the environment, but this sort of cajon lacks in sound. you should buy a model that is made of high-quality materials. You might save some money by buying one that uses a poor quality wood, but this is going to lack in the sound that you want.

The thickness of the material is usually up to your personal choice. A thinner material that is used for the body offers more resonance and it produces a great sound. The thicker materials give less resonance when they are played at a normal volume. A good starting point 122mm marine ply.  Some manufacturers may use different ply and the thickness can be different so you really need to see if it sounds right to your ears.

The Hole

The back of the box is usually thinner and there's a hole cut here to allow the bass tones in the air to escape. The whole size will vary and often the location of it will vary some may have the whole towards the top while others have it near the bottom. You will have to listen closely to determine which one has the best sound location.

The Front

The front or tapa of the drum will be variable in its color, design, thickness, and the material used. This front influences the sound more than some people realize. The tapa produces a wide range of sounds depending upon how you strike it.

Joints

You want to ensure that the cajon has a proper connecting joint for the various wood pieces. These joints ensure that the quality of the sound is great in that the drum has durability. Some manufacturers will use a simple lap joint which isn't the best option. Models that are handmade will usually use a dovetail joint. If the joints are reinforced, then the life of the drum is going to be longer and it's going to be more stable.

Feet

Most of these drums will have pins or feet. These help keep the drum stable so it doesn't slide while it's being played. These feet are usually made out of plastic, rubber, felt, and similar materials. Make sure that the feet are solid.

Summary

Before you buy your drum ensure that it's well-constructed. By the drum based upon the sound and how well it is made it's not on the manufacturer name. You'll find some great drums made by lesser-known manufacturers so always use your ear before you buy your cajon drum.

TOP Brands

Most significant brands have many cajons to fulfill almost any specialty. A few, for example, Gon Bops, Meinl, and A Tempo, import beautiful trimmed Peruvian cajons into the U.S. Different organizations, for example, LP, Tycoon, and Pearl, import a dominant part of their drums from Asia, where they can create past current customs.

In any case, take a look at a couple of my most loved boutique brands, including De Gregorio and La Rosa, both from Spain; Schlagwerk from Germany; and some exceptional American drum creators that incorporate Swan, Sol, Kotz, Kopf, and the admired Fat Congas mark, which we hear is making a rebound. These are only a couple, for there are likely other producers in your own patio who have their own particular variety of this hugely mainstream drum.


Reviews of the Top 9 Picks in the Search for the Best Cajon Drum!

Base on the criteria we speak about in our “Buying guide” we’ve picked 9 models in 6 different categories. Maybe you are struggling to find a drum box for a beginner, or you are just looking for an extra piece to add to your big percussion set, we got you covered.

Budget Choice:
Pyle (PCJD18)

If your budget is a bit tight, and you want to have a music box that really shows off despite it. This is the best option for which you can aim.

This drum box has a traditional design at a perfect price tag, but the price is not your only benefit.

Despite being an economic model, the Pyle String Cajon is made with 4 guitar strings attached to two sections inside. This guarantees that the sound generated by the percussion has an extension due to the vibration of the string, as happens with the professional flamenco Cajon.

Unlike other models in this price range, this percussion box offers an excellent guarantee of reimbursement against satisfaction with 1-year of duration. Yes, that is the confidence that sellers and manufacturers have in this model.

The PCJD18 is manufactured entirely by hand, on an almost artisanal level, and it’s made of birch wood, so the sound will not be attenuated by the thickness and softness of the material as it still offers a good support, unlike the economic models in softer MDF, that allows you to sit on it without any fear of damaging it.

  • Excellent price value ratio
  • Good materials and good finishing
  • 1-year guarantee against return if you are not satisfied with the instrument
  • It offers a good string system that gives a harmonic sense to the percussion

  • It is still an economic option, it is better to contribute a little more to the budget and obtain a higher caliber instrument
  • The birch wood is a material somewhat sensitive to shock, could suffer during shipping.

In the end, the Pyle PCJD18 is an excellent option for tight budgets, especially if you are a beginner and would like to keep the drum box for a while without replacement. Although throwing a few dollars more to the campfire could improve the quality of your purchase without a doubt.


Best Under $100:
Meinl (BC1NTWR)

If you are willing to throw an additional 15 or 20 dollars, these two options will surely be a good move on your part.

Made entirely of Baltic birch wood, this Meinl model is equipped with internal fixed wires, in a dark brown presentation on the front face that gives an elegant and special touch to the design.

This model offers you the possibility to generate sounds and special effects without having to exert much effort thanks to its excellent snare system. It allows you to cut percussion cycles with strong, firm and deep blows that generate an incredible bass sound, ideal for musical styles of changing rhythms like hip-hop or the Caribbean sets.

As for its materials, this model is made of Russian birch of excellent quality and has a 2-year warranty against manufacturing defects. This material is common in the manufacture of percussion instruments, especially at the symphonic level thanks to the softness to the touch, the excellent kinetic perception that it has and the warmth of its sound output.

To close the deal, Meinl sends you this model with a thick nylon bag designed to protect exactly this cajon drum and make it easier to carry around.

Regarding its usability, it has a very useful snare system, comparable with some models of higher budgets, it has a sound port on the back of the drum that allows air to escape, facilitates the placement of microphones for amplification, and offers a sound performance that is mainly profound and cutting edge.

  • It has a good material for its price range
  • Excellent warranty by the brand
  • Includes a case to carry it easily
  • The air outlet on the back facilitates cutting the sound and offers a good location to place the microphone strategically
  • It makes it easy to generate good sound effects without requiring too much practice or skill.

  • The sound style is limited to some styles that do not require faster rhythms
  • Its sound power is quite strong without a microphone; we do not recommend it for practicing in closed spaces or limited spaces

This Meinl BC1NTWR is, in general, an excellent option within its price range, however, it limits its use to stronger music styles and with more changing rhythms, besides limiting its usability to wide spaces where it does not overshadow the rest of the band or your own percussion set.

In other words, it is an excellent option for your gigs and if you like playing percussion in open spaces, but to practice at home, it might not be the option # 1.


Meinl Hardwood (HCAJ1NT)

Following this price range, Meinl has another offer that could interest you. This model has larger dimensions, is a full-size model, and offers a more standard sound performance, ideal if you are entering the world of percussion and you don’t have a defined style yet.

Compared to the previous model, this one has a harder and more resistant material, plus adjustable corners and a Snare system that allows a greater variety of sounds between bass and treble.

As it is a cajon drum designed to ease practices, counting with two levels on the main surface that delimit the bass tones of the bass in the center of the instrument from the treble on the edges.

Thus, the material allows you to create easily defined sounds, enjoying a good response for quick hits, sustained rhythms, and finger roll.

Snare system is adjustable, through a key that is in the lower part of the box, this allows you to define the depth and duration of the additional harmony that the strings provide before a touch.

And additionally, like the previous model, this one has a 2-year warranty.

  • Excellent quality and material within the price range
  • It offers varied shades that are easy to play
  • It has a system of adjustable strings and corners

  • It is heavier than other models
  • Its sound does not excel in open spaces without a microphone
  • You should check the parts of the adjustable corners before each gig, these can get loose with the vibrations

This is overall a better piece than Meinl BC1NTWR, but on the downside, you are giving away the free bag and probably will be wasting time when checking and adjusting the corner’s pins every time you play.

Maybe you just have a good bucket, maybe you are already a percussionist in a band and want to try some hard-done extra pieces in your set to power up some progressive extra professional sound. We can’t tell, but here are three Cajon Drums that, under this budget may rock your world.


Best under $200:
Meinl Jumbo Bass Walnut Subwoofer (SUBCAJ5WN)

Maybe this would be obvious after reading model’s name, but it has a subwoofer integrated into it. So, yes, this oversized drum box includes a subwoofer rear to allow the soundscape down its structure offering you a deep, smooth and strong sound output.

About its design, this model is a big guy in every aspect, it goes over the 19” tall, leaving behind the full sized 18” cajon, and the subwoofer offers a huge sound increase effect making it as powerful as a kick drum.

Meinl fabricates this drum with hard MDF materials with a walnut faceplate in the front, which results in a great design, with great durability and a somehow low cost.

Now, when playing with this model you will find out that it counts with an internal bass reflect system; this, allows the sound to drive faster and generates a quick response output that overcomes deep bass percussions speed, giving you as well a nice variety of warm bass tones.

In addition, just as the other models, the Percussion Jumbo Bass Walnut Subwoofer has a nice snare system placed along the front plate inside the drum, allowing you to get more harmonic and cut tones in the upper corners.

  • Excellent sound output
  • Focused on bass tones
  • Great for real wide-spaced gigs
  • Excellent and resistant materials

  • Too loud for a home-alone set
  • Big and difficult to carry around
  • If you are not skilled enough to squeeze this guy’s potential, then is better to just get a cheaper model

Overall, this is a great model for almost any professional setting, it offers really good and variated tones, and a great warranty and its subwoofer system will just save you the use of any microphone unless you play in a stadium.

On the downside, it has a high price, MDF is hard, resistant and overall a standard material, but is not the best when it comes to trap and bounce the sound, and you won´t be taking this Cajon Drum on foot.


Schlagwerk CP404-BLK

Maybe your style is a little easier, or you're just used to gigs in open areas with less noise. In any case, this drum box can be an excellent option in the range of $ 200.

The Schlagwerk CP404-BLK is designed to work as a 2 in 1 and is manufactured with 8 layers of birch wood and a front sheet of Beachwood that ensure a warm and smooth sound.

For its part, the snare system of this model has 40 removable strings that make the CP404-BLK an excellent snare cajon while you can use it as a simple percussion.

This snare system increases the difficulty when playing the instrument, but in turn, significantly improves the quality of the sound it emits by hitting each specific part of it with quite special harmonic touches.

To sum up, this model has a modern design, urbaner, and will stand out as a unique instrument in your open gigs, in addition, its visual style does not sacrifice sound performance and you can purchase it in medium or large sizes based on your actual needs.

  • Urban design, novel and cool
  • Removable snare system for you to choose where and when to use it
  • Excellent materials and price ratio

  • Can be hard to play with the snare system
  • Lacks some depth in the bass tones

In general terms the CP404-BLK is quite good for musicians with some experience, on the other hand, its use is more limited in terms of the stage because it does not have the strength that other drawers do. However, this can be arranged with a good system of percussion microphones.


LP Aspire (LPA1332-DWS)

Latin Percussion offers a pretty cool model in terms of soft and high pitched percussion. This drum box is manufactured in birch and poplar has a traditional design that generates excellent resonance, has an average sound power and is excellent to start since it offers a great variety of tones in an excellent balance.

With respect to the game of high pitches, this model has 3 sets of snare wires, located near the edges inside the box that guarantee excellent performance while maintaining a low difficulty when placing the tones.

In addition, the upper part comes with a textured surface to generate more comfort and ergonomics when sitting on it and has a set of rubber feet that protect the box from holding the weight of the musician against the ground directly.

However, the bass tones are somewhat simple, and its sound output is not the most powerful in its range.

  • Excellent sharp tones
  • Snare system that does not hinder the use of the drum
  • Great and elegant design
  • Comfort to sit

  • It's more like a practice or unplugged drum
  • Serious tones lack strength compared to other options

Overall, the Aspire LPA1332-DWS is a good option if you are looking for something simple, to play with your friends or practice at home and you have the budget for it. It is also a good option as an additional piece in the arsenal, as it provides ergonomics when sitting and adds good percussion in high tones to your sound.


Overall Best:

A Tempo Percussion - El Artesano

Getting to the heavy part, now we are going to review the overall best cajon drum out there. A wonderfully crafted piece of art which the name sounds like it belongs to some mafia member. Sure, El Artesano is the overall best of our list for many things.

About its manufacture, this model is crafted directly in Peru by some of the most experienced and renowned percussion manufacturers of the cradle of the drum boxes, A Tempo Percussion, formerly known as Sol Percussion.

El Artesano perfectly balances the good part of a traditional Peruvian cajon, with the extra treble of the Flamenco cajon, offering you a nice warm bass output with some powerful cutting sound, as well as a great treble for your fast hits.

It counts with snare wires placed in the top corners of the box creating a break in the sound only when hitting in the upper area of the frontal face. And it owes its dry and warm sound to the several hardwood panels of high-quality woods from around the world that are attached with a dovetail to create its body, and then covered with a nice and natural-looking satin finish that seals the structure furthermore adding durability.

This model offers an overall standard sound which can be adapted to nearly any style. In addition, you will get a nice travel bag with its purchase to carry around.

  • Excellent overall sound output
  • Doesn´t sacrifice clear and dry sound in exchange for the treble as other models usually do
  • Has a nice and deep bass sound
  • Great and natural looking design
  • Viable for nearly any music style

  • It comes from Peru; the shipping makes the deal bigger than it should or takes forever to arrive.

This is all-around the best piece you can get on its price range. With flawless quality-value ratio, and the fact that it is great for any music style you choose, it’s safe to say that it will surely be a nice percussion piece for almost any setting. On the downside, coming from Peru is a long and expensive trip.


Best Electronic:

ELCajon Electronic (EC-10)

If a natural sound is not what you need right now, then El Artesano may not be the best idea. Instead, try an electronic Cajon. If your budget is up to it, this model will bring you up a mixture of the past and the present when it comes to percussion.

ElCajon is a drum of standard size that combines electronic percussion tech along with a nicely done wooden structure to be added to any percussion set.

This is achieved by adding 30 electronic sets in layers around the plate of the drum, allowing them to, when turned connected, overlap with the original percussion sound creating a unique output.

This model’s electronic par works out with 6 AA batteries or plugged to an AC cord, and offers a huge variety of sounds that can be adapted to literally every music style.

  • The universal versatility of sound
  • Great electronic sound output
  • Really easy to play once you get to it

  • Forget about the snare treble sounds
  • Not so warm and powerful bass tones

Overall, this is a nicely done piece of tech, worked out in standard woods and designed for plugged big band sets, its price is higher than a traditional drum’s, but it can literally get into any band with no trouble and you can control the sound output easily.


The New Kid on the Block:

Echoslap Vintage Crate

Up to this point, you have seen all that the market has proven good, but new instruments come up every day, and the next piece is not only newer but has more hip when it comes to design too.

This vintage styled crate is designed inspired in the first fruit crates that worked as Cajon Drums as the history tells.

This full-sized Cajon counts with a nice snare system of wires, that can be adjusted as desired to pitch a better tone according to your style as you change it. In addition, the corners are manageable as well, offering more control of the treble sounds that you get upon hit.

When it comes to bass sound, its Siam Oak Body grants a warm and powerful sound as you hit in the middle part of the crate.

The Echoslap Vintage Crate offers you a nice deal of sound while giving you some great American flag design, a free gig bag of great quality and a nice space for a microphone to be added if needed for greater gigs.

  • Amazing design
  • Great materials
  • Nice and versatile sound output

  • It’s a bit heavy for its size

This piece is an overall good item to add to your drum set, and might as well be the center of it. It counts with an innovative and appealing design and doesn’t leave the sound behind considering its price.


Other Brands and Craftsman

On the off chance that you need to see something extremely astonishing, look at the International Cajon Festival in Peru (Festival Internacional del Cajon Peruano) on YouTube, Facebook, and the web. Established in 2007 by Peruvian artist Rafael Santa Cruz, the international festival is a yearly occasion in Lima, Peru that praises the cajon with exhibitions, masterclasses, video screenings, and gatherings.

In 2013 they set a Guinness World Record with in excess of 3,600 individuals playing the cajon together in an impossible troupe included 1,000 detainees, many nearby novice and expert players, and other devotees from everywhere throughout the world. Coordinators assess that in excess of 40,000 players have gone to this celebration to date.

A couple of our most loved craftsmen right now are Heidi Joubert, Pedrito Martinez, Mario Cortes, and Mike Meadows. They're hard and fast there adjusting the old to the new and making the cajon a standout amongst the most obvious and applicable instruments on the scene. In some melodic settings, the cajon has possessed the capacity to supplant the drum set, and in the process it has made another type of drummer — one who keeps the depression while spicing it with surfaces that drummers already didn't have enough appendages to work.

The present cajon pioneers have educated our present mixed setups to where it's currently basic to see the cajon as a home base while adding to it a low kid howdy cap, shakers, package sticks, foot tambourines, finger shakers, plumes — and so on!

Final Words

We hope these reviews were helpful and that you found the drum that you are looking for, keep in mind that your decision should be based on your taste and of course your wallet. Whether you have a band or play music at small acoustical venues you are sure to find the best cajon that suits your needs. Well, after all, you need to feel it with your gut.