The Best Cajon

Schlagwerk CP404-BLK Black Edition Cajon

Our Top Pick for 2016: Schlagwerk CP404-BLK Black Edition Cajon
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $199.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Drumming is the oldest musical activity in the world, and the global passion for playing it hasn’t dwindled in the slightest. The simple box drum that we call a cajon is believed to have originated in 16th century Peru, where old packing crates were used as improvised stand-ins for traditional African percussion instruments. Cajon drums were also made from drawers and household items in Cuba to be played alongside Latino music. The basic design of the cajon today is practically identical to its appearance when it was first invented, but the variety in cajon drum snare styles and the genres that they’re played alongside has increased substantially. Whether you’re just a casual player or looking to become the next Mario Cortes, the following cajon drums have been rated as some of the best choices for their construction and tonal quality.

Table of contents

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Strong Low End Punch
Beachwood Front Plate
Durable Hardwood
Internal Reflex Channel
Constructed Of 8 Ply’s Of Birch
Loud Bass Tones
Internal Fixed Snares
40 Snares
Sharp, High Slaps
Walnut Frontplate
Snares Can Be Removed In One Quick Movement
Adjustable Snare Wires
Ultra-sensitive To Soft Finger Rolls
Uncompromising In Terms Of Sound And Workmanship
Individually Hand Made

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Schlagwerk CP404-BLK Black Edition Cajon

Schlagwerk CP404-BLK Black Edition Cajon Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $199.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Schlagwerk CP404 Black Edition Cajon is built with a beachwood front plate and eight birch wood plies. Schlagwerk bills the construction method used to create the Black Edition cajon as its “2inOne” technique. The 2inOne technique is used to create a cajon that has 40 snares.

Each of the snares inside of the cajon press against the playing surface at a certain angle. The angles at which that the snares press against the playing surface have been specially designed for the cajon’s unique sound. The 2inOne construction not only affects the number of snares inside of the cajon, but also their removability as well. For the user’s convenience, each of the cajon’s snares can be quickly removed in a single movement, making the maintenance of the instrument relatively hassle-free.

The cajon is designed with a hole in the cabinet that the owner can use for internal micing. The hole, about 4 inches in diameter, is large enough for owners to completely reach their hand inside. In addition to allowing the user to manually adjust the snare, the hole also gives the instrument a deep and bassy tone.

One owner reported that they liked to set a microphone just a few inches away from the hole, pointed directly at it, to boost the volume and acoustics. Some owners report that the when played on the back, it has a sound that can be compared to a conga with a high pitch.

Customers are particularly impressed at the intricacy of the German craftsmanship. The attention to detail greatly surpasses that of cheaper brands. The bass of the cajon resonates very deeply, and owners report that it lacks the “dryer” sound commonly heard with Schlagwerks on the costlier side.

Owners who have had the Black Edition for a number of months or years have claimed that the quality of the sound, if the instrument is properly cared for, actually improves with time. One owner reported that before getting the Black Edition, they were searching for a cajon to play with their son. The owner was mostly dissatisfied with the initial cajons that they tried out, but after they found the Black Edition, they were very impressed with how the tight sound’s bass notes weren’t overpowered by the snares.

Another owner testified that they enjoyed the presence of a subtle bell inside of the snare, as well as the ease of toggling the snare on and off to achieve a sounds that can be compared to that of a traditional Cuban Conga.

As far as the genre versatility goes, some owners have reported that they found the sound of the cajons to be particularly well-suited for rock and pop tracks. One owner, who had never played a cajon before the Black Edition but still had a musically-experienced ear, was impressed with the clarity and power in its voice. The owner claimed that the quality of the drums was high enough that it could easily take on the role of an entire drum kit in during acoustic jam sessions.

Aside from the highly-praised quality of the cajon’s sound, there are users who suggest taking some precautions to ensure the instrument’s longevity. It would be wise to invest in a carrying case that can be used to prevent causing too much damage to the cajon when transporting it from place to place.

There are some owners who suggest that the cajon sounds best when played in a corner. Because the snares are very thick, they won’t produce as high of an auditory “crack” as cajons that have smaller and thinner snares.

The worksmanship of the cajon makes it a very diverse instrument that’s well-suited for being played in many different musical group configurations, though customers should be advised that the removable snares are not adjustable. In order to ensure that the full richness of the bass is brought out of the cajon, users should take care to refrain from dampening the head.

All in all, the Black Edition cajon is very tight and responsive. The bass is largely considered to be very deep, though your perception of its sound will be largely based on your personal preference for just how deep the bass of a cajon should be. The sound is far from being on the high end, though other users report wishing that it could be just a little bit more on the low end. When considering the positive testimonies from users who prefer both a low-voiced and high-voiced cajon, the Black Edition squarely falls on the “mid-low” section of the spectrum.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Meinl Percussion SUBCAJ5WN Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon

Meinl Percussion SUBCAJ5WN Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon

View it on Amazon for $199.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Meinl Percussion Jumbo Bass Subwoofer Cajon is designed with a forward projecting sound port and internal snare wires. For more customizability, the cajon is made with adjustable top corners. The thick internal snare wires allow the cajon to produce a very deep level of bass.

The forward projecting sound port of the cajon is a notable departure from the typical cajon having a rear facing style or an internal reflex channel. The deep richness of the bass is directly based on the manufacturer’s choice to design the Jumbo Bass cajon differently than the traditional model.

The deep bass is optimized for both live performances and acoustic performances as well. The internal snare wires are fixed, and due to this, the cajon can produce a very crisp sound that cuts through the air and enhances the sound of slaps on the corners.

Players who have a tendency to hit the cajon hard will be the most satisfied with how the bass tones tend to swell when the instrument is hit with more vigor. Each of the soft notes has a slight “punch” behind it, and these slight punches remind many owners of the sound that they would typically expect from a kick drum.

If the owner desires, they can add additional snares to the inside of the drum. One user in particular suggests that people who want to add more snakes to their Jumbo Bass cajon should do so by adding the Meinl WSS1BK Wood Side Snare. The owner’s reasoning for suggesting the Wood Side Snare is due to its easy removability, which allows owners to Velcro it to the sides of the cajon without risking any damage to the instrument in the process.

Owners also have the choice of using a pedal with the Jumbo Bass cajon. One of the suggested pedals that are compatible with the cajon is the Meinl Percussion TMCP Pedal with a soft beater and adjustable spring tension, and another is the LP Cajon Cable Pedal. Pedals will generally be compatible with just about every kind of cajon save for the smallest models on the market.

One owner testified that the kick and snare from the Jumbo Bass cajon were the most satisfying-sounding that they’d ever heard from any cajon that they’d personally played. The owner was particularly impressed with how far the sound of the cajon projected, as well as the solid construction. While the cajon doesn’t have a hole in the back like some other brands, the owner was satisfied with the built-in recessed carrying handle in the same spot where the rear hole would normally be.

Prospective customers should be advised that the cajon does not have a jack on its rear that can be connected to an external amp, but at the same time, there are certain microphones that are made to attach to the back of cajons.

To make the cajon slightly more ergonomic, the playing surface was designed to have a non-slip texture. Some owners do report that the playing surface is still smooth enough to make their hands slip off slightly when the cajon is tilted back, so prospective owners should be prepared for a margin of error.

One owner reported that they found the standard Meinl carrying bag to be just a bit smaller than what they needed to carry the cajon around comfortably, and if you have the same concern, you might want to consider looking into Mein’s subwoofer bag instead.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Tycoon Supremo Series Cajon

Tycoon Supremo Series Cajon

View it on Amazon for $99.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Tycoon Supremo Series Cajon is specially made from hardwood to increase its resonance and durability. The hardwood construction is intended to amplify the deepness and volume of the bass, along with the sharpness of the high slaps.

The snares in the Supremo Series cajon are adjustable, offering just a bit more customizability to the instrument for those who like to micromanage their cajon’s voice. All the owner has to do to gain access to the snares is reach in through the hole in the back.

After reaching into the cajon through the rear whole, the snares can be released from the Velcro that keeps them bound to the instrument’s internal soundboard. The owner need only unwrap the Velcro carefully and then rewrap it, sans the snare, to begin whatever adjustments they feel need to be made. Every one of the snares has been carefully handmade and repeatedly tested so as to ensure the quality and reliability.

Because of the tunable snare wires and its relative affordability compared to the more advanced cajons of the market, the Tycoon Supremo cajon is popular for novices and hobbyists who are just looking to gain some initial experience in the art of cajon playing in general.

One customer testified that they found the Supremo Series to be one of the most fun and versatile cajons that they had played. They were particularly satisfied with how the cajon’s compactness made it easy to fit in their room without taking up too much valuable floor space.

Another owner testified that they found the Supremo Series cajon after doing an extensive search for cajons that wouldn’t cost them much more than a hundred dollars. After searching among many different contenders for their final decision, they settled on the Supremo Series due to the fact that the cajon shared the more expensive models’ sizes for a much more accessible price tag.

The customer was highly satisfied with the manner in which the bass of the cajon could be so significantly improved with just a few key adjustments, and they noted that the best performance could be achieved by keeping the back of the cajon about six inches off of nearby walls.

Overall, customers testify that the cajon’s quality and affordability justify its popularity. The Supremo Series is an entry-level cajon through and through. Users who are looking for the most sophisticated cajon on the market will likely be searching for more than what the Supremo Series has to offer, but for those who just want a cajon that delivers the bare essentials and does a great job of it in the process, they’ll be far more than satisfied.

The cajon comes fully-assembled upon arrival to the customer. If the owner desires to adjust the snares, but doesn’t have a wealth of experience in doing so, the cajon comes with an instructional manual and a complimentary Allen wrench that can be used to make the task much more approachable for beginners.

Customers who purchase the Supremo Series cajon will also have the option of including a carrying bag with their order for added convenience and instrument safety. To increase the protectiveness of the cajon even further beyond the redwood construction, the cajon has been designed with rubber feet.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Meinl Percussion JC50LBNT Birch Wood Compact Jam Cajon

Meinl Percussion JC50LBNT Birch Wood Compact Jam Cajon

View it on Amazon for $79.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Meinl Jam Cajon is made with a compact design that makes it easy to pick and transport around without hassle. Owners who belong to mobile singer/songwriter circles and need to be on the go on a frequent basis will be highly satisfied with how easily the cajon can be moved around for impromptu jam sessions.

The cajon is entirely made of birch wood, giving it a respectable amount of durability. The interior of the bitch wood frame has fixed internal snares. The makeup of the cajon and its snares allow the player to create sharply-cutting slaps and deep, bassy hits at the same time.

Owners have the freedom to adjust the top frontplate’s corners to their liking. To adjust the corners of the top frontplate, the owner need only take a screwdriver and use it adjust the distance between the frontplate and the main body that resonates with sound. Depending on just how much the owner adjusts the distance between the main body and frontplate, the instrument’s “slap” sound can vary in depth and volume.

To increase the overall longevity of the instrument, the cajon is designed with four rubber feet that keep it stable while it’s being played at all times. While the instrument remains stable, it’s capable of resonating to its fullest potential.

While the small size of the cajon makes it easy to pick up and move without much effort, owners who are on the taller side might want to be advised that it can be slightly more challenging to acclimate to than a large cajon.

Owners testify that the cajon is particularly well-suited for playing at small-scale, intimate gatherings like garages or backyard jam sessions. Many customers note that the cajon is often even smaller than they expect when they receive it, but upon actually playing the instrument, many of them report that the sound is much more powerful than they anticipate.

For its quality, durability, and highly packable size, the general reception to the Jam cajon has been unanimously positive. As the power of the instrument belies its convenient size, it’s well-suited as a startup drum that beginners can use to build up their confidence for larger cajons on the market.


Pre-purchase considerations

Build Quality

The material makeup of the cajon is perhaps one of the most important factors in determining your choice. Choosing a cajon made of strong, lightweight wood will give you an instrument that is easy to carry and durable at the same time; on the other hand, a cajon with heavier wood might provide you with heavier bass.

Texture

Depending on the type of cajon that you buy, the texture may or may not be comfortable to play on for extended periods of time. Be sure to have a good grasp on the ideal playing surface texture of your chosen cajon for the best ergonomic fit.

Size

The size of the cajon that you decide on will directly contribute to its sound. Large cajons tend to be a bit more bassy and punchy compared to the smaller cajons, so depending on your personal playing style preference, you might want to keep this in mind.

Tone

While the cajon’s material and size will contribute to the sound significantly, the quality of its craftsmanship will have a strong influence on the overall tonal quality. The only way to get an accurate idea of a cajon’s tonal quality is to hear it for yourself, so it might be a good idea to search for videos of the cajon you’re interested in being played.

Genre versatility

Depending on the interaction between the snares and the cajon’s material, it may or may not be suited to your preferred genre Every cajon has a different range of the genres that it can be effectively played within, so make sure to check and see if there are testimonies from owners who happen to play the same types of music that you do.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

The simple appearance of a cajon belies all of the subtle effects that is construction has on creating its sound. Even if you have cajon playing talent to spare, all of the rhythm and coordination in the world will still rely on an appropriately built instrument to make that talent manifest at its fullest potential. The art of cajon playing demands that any serious player be very intimately familiar with how each instrumental factor influences the cajon’s voice, from the snares to the ergonomics. Be sure to spend as much time as you need researching how each cajon is made before committing to the purchase.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. History of the Cajon, TheCajonDrumShop.com, November 16, 2010
  2. What is a Cajon?, TheCajonDrumShop.com, October 14, 2010
  3. Mark Maxwell Music guest blogger, Three Little Known Facts About the Cajon Drum, Mark-Mawell.com, September 1, 2010
  4. Soft Schools contributors, History of Drums, SoftSchools.com, August 5, 2014
  5. X8 Drums contributors, Famous Cajon Players, X8Drums.com, October 29, 2014

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