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Drums

Best Box Cajon

Cajóns are all over the retail percussion market these days. It's to the point where competition is apparently so fierce, top manufacturers are cranking out excellent low priced models. All the finalists on this list are remarkably well balanced and diverse in sound projection and tone quality. They'll all make a great workhorse for pros or solid practice tool for beginners. The basic principle behind ranking was how close each one compares to pricier cajóns by the same leading companies. Meinl's Headliner series is clearly the best value – none come close to that kind of quality for a hundred bucks.

Meinl Headliner Cajon, Rubber Wood Front

A hundred bucks and that's that. This is all a traditional player who doesn't need or want a lot of frills could ever hope for. A low priced, durable cajón that has excellent playing response and a no-nonsense traditional design. It may not be fancy, but the Headliner Cajón is definitely fully adjustable and amazingly on par with more expensive models. Case in point LP's #3 angled deal. The sound quality is a dead heat, so that interesting angle didn't outweigh the extra $75. The rubber wood on this pick edged the ash wood front of of the #3 because of its brighter, warmer tone.

Meinl Headliner Cajon

All that was said about numero uno goes for this sister Headliner. Nothing fancy, just basic excellence that most players will easily feel comfortable taking a seat on with this great traditional design. The ash wood favors the bass, so those who favor the low tones should check this out. It's likely this one will win out over the rubber wood version for the slight but noticeable bass boost. Pop or rock percussionists searching for that staple piece for acoustic gigs should by all means check this box drum out. It delivers Meinl quality and tonal class for such a great low price.

Latin Percussion Angled Surface Cajon

Latin Percussion Angled Surface Cajon

This Latin Percussion piece is really one of the finest cajóns around. Not just the way it sounds, but the pleasant surprise is it's under $200. Quiet, nobody tell LP, they may have let one slip under the radar for cheap. The obvious eye-catcher is the angle, which makes this the most ergonomic cajón to date. Pros who play a lot of lengthy performances should look into this one. The wider bottom also allows for a fuller bass tone, which nicely complements the full, as opposed to annoyingly piercing, snare sound.

Latin Percussion Aspire Cajon

Usually LP Aspires are hit and miss. This cajón, however, is far from abysmal. In fact, it's downright excellent for such a low price. LP has a tendency to surprise with the quality of lower priced gear, and the Aspire cajón is a great example. Tones are bright and full, not all that far off from some of the most expensive tone boxes out there. The Aspire cajón is perfect for recreational players, ambitious novices and instructors.

Schalloch Cajon

Schalloch appears to be an offshoot of Meinl. This cajón is super-solid, a beast of burden that working percussionists will adore. It's cheap, you won't mind beating it up – and boy can it take it. This is a great choice for all levels of players. The design is comfortable and basic, nothing fancy. So those who don't like a lot of elaborate (and expensive) frills, this impressively constructed and bold-sounding cajón will work out very well.

Fat Congas String Cajon

Fat Congas is an outstanding cajón maker. This is especially evident on the Best Cuban Cajón list, but here Fat Congas wins out for the tonal beauty of the String Cajón. That great tone is thanks to everything that goes into this champion box drum. The larger companies make some good instruments, no doubt, which says a lot about this cajón's superiority. It has the clearest, most moving tone of any box drum on this list one side favors the snare, the other booms massive bass. It's not cheap, but definitely well worth it. Fat Congas' two-sided action as opposed to everybody else's single playing surface basically makes this like buying two cajóns in one.

Meinl Pickup Cajon, American White Ash Front

This is quite a feat. Meinl Pickup Cajóns have an internal pickup microphone and preamp system. The apparatus is surprisingly light, and the sound it projects is spot-on true to the instrument. This is a godsend of convenience for live situations. Beyond the innovative electronics, the white ash playing surface and rubber wood body combine for a terrifically balanced sound. It's a great combination of warmth and full volume projection when played 'au naturel' with the mic turned off.

Meinl Bass Pedal Cajon

Meinl continues to amaze with these cutting edge designs. This company mass produces cajóns like no one ever has before. This is a stand-out model among Meinl's numerous box cajóns, the widest selection in the industry. The company describes it like this: "A pedal attached to the cajón adjusts the amount of pressure used to press the snare wires against the front plate, and can even be turned off completely." The player can change the snares while playing. This is also a bit bigger than Meinl's standard size, giving it more volume and bass.

Tycoon Percussion 29 Series Acrylic Cajon

Like a typhoon, Tycoon Percussion makes landfall with the only cajón not made entirely out of wood. There's a natural burl playing surface on the front, but the body is an ultra-sheen acrylic. This is definitely eye-catching for its unconventionality. And the tone is bound to grab some ears and souls in kind. This box has some serious boom, no question about it. Instruments like this are proof that Tycoon is making waves as a serious contender in the commercial percussion arena.

Pearl Elite Box Cajon

Pearl Elite Box Cajon

Pearl delivers some serious old school soul with this excellent cajón. The Elite series has another hit with this one. The bone-dry, no-nonsense tone comes from a very traditional design going back to old Peru or flamenco's home in Spain. The oak and plywood that form this great cajón give the sound fullness and excellent resonance. The very modern internal snare system is a nice touch, combining the new with the old. It's extremely adjustable, which allows for a wide gamut of sound customization.

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