The Best Cajon in 2019, 2020 and Beyond
There are over 350 cajon builders on the planet, most have several models. Yet when you look over many cajon reviews you'll see the same manufacturers (and their subsidiaries), over and over. Where are all the others? Well... lets just say that complete objectivity might be compromised and that one should consider the possibility that some of these 'unsponsored reviews' might better be classified as 'advertising'. Plus, until some millionaire cajon enthusiast starts a "Museum of the Cajon" and accumulates examples from all 350 plus manufactures in one place, it seems quite difficult and expensive to objectively evaluate them all. Even with qualifiers added, such as 'the best cajon for your money' it's a confounding task. I'm not going to tell you which cajon to buy, I'm going to suggest how you approach finding the best cajon for you in your area.
While I was in the Philippines I purchased a beautiful, solid wood locally made cajon for about $50 USD. Hands-down it was the best cajon for my money in the Philippines. There are over 20 cajon builders in Brazil and their models are designed to suit Brazilian players and music. Many cajons made in Japan are works of art reflecting the careful attention to detail that Japanese woodworkers are known for and that their countrymen respect and cherish. In the USA big name bands out of LA, Chicago, and New York often have cajons from local cajon makers who are highly respected by area musicians. The point is, there are great cajons made all over the world and often the local builder provides an economic option that is more 'in tune' with local needs and wants. In many, many countries the best cajon for your money could be a locally produced instrument that you won't find mentioned in any Internet cajon review.
Let's be clear that I'm not commenting on the quality of the cajons that show up in most reviews, some of them are actually great cajons. What I am saying is: there are other options, great options, explore them as part of your decision process. Did you know there are over 50 cajon makers in the USA? Yet if you search for 'cajon' on the big online retailers, none of them show up. Yet many of them are stunning, great instruments. Buying a locally made cajon is good for your muse, good for the planet and good for your local economy.
How do you find the best cajon for you?
1. Start with the country lists in www.CajonsMadeIn.com. Find your country and look at each manufacturer. Look at their website, social media pages and videos. Message or call the manufacturers who look good to you. Tell them about the kinds of music you play, your height and weight and sitting style. Direct contact with cajon builders should make your search process interesting, informative and fun. Contact with cajon builders is also a great way to connect with the local music community. Using this method your search may end quickly.
2. Talk to local cajon players, find out what they recommend. Not all players have the same level of experience so you'll need to consider that. Working regional musicians, even if they don't play cajon, may know the local 'go-to' cajon makers by reputation.
4. Check out cajons in your local music stores and local buy-sell websites. Many websites and big-chain stores are dominated by a few imported brands but some of them are actually great instruments and they may catch your fancy. Some specialty music stores carry awesome high-end cajons and occasionally, awesome locally made cajons.
5. Beware when reading or asking questions about 'the best cajon' in on-line forums, reviews, social media and video comment areas. While astroturfing, grandstanding, and stealth promotion may seem unlikely cajon marketing strategies I sometimes see posts that make me think twice.
6. Check out some of the other 'best cajon reviews' and 'how to choose the best cajon' websites. Some are full of good information about cajons in general and do a good job of discussing qualities to look for and pitfalls to avoid. Just remember that their sampling and recommendations may be heavily skewed to a very few globally available brands. Look carefully at the methods used by sites that claim to have reviewed hundreds or even thousands of cajons. If the deck is stacked, the analysis will not be objective.
7. Put it all together. I have friends who make decisions based on spreadsheets with pro's and con's. Myself I'm more of a gestalt kind of guy, but I like to know what's out there before I make a critical decision based on... color, or some ridiculously effective marketing advert. Regardless of your decision process, I hope you get a great cajon, the best cajon for you, and I hope you play it often and with a big smile.