The humble cajon has made a huge impact on the percussive scene over the last few years. Portable, versatile and downright funky, cajons have leapt to popularity for a variety of reasons.
Based in Seville, Duende started off initially supplying the Spanish market before moving into building cajons for a great many other brands. Now, with an international presence established, this family-run company is bringing innovation to the world of the cajon with new and interesting updates of traditional designs.
There are three varied cajons from Duende to look at. We'll start with the most affordable. Duende's Classic model is a semi-pro instrument and a fine 'mid-priced' cajon that's made entirely from okume wood. A 4mm tapa (frontplate) and externally adjustable internal V-shaped guitar string system are coupled with a stunning blue finish and purple logo that give the impression this is a much more costly model.
The Con Fusion model is an innovative twin-headed cajon that's again made from okume wood. That material is used for one tapa, with an outer layer of African zebrawood applied on top – very striking! On the reverse are V-shaped resonating strings that run vertically down the soundboard to an adjustable external Allen key screw underneath the cajon.
This zebrawood side has screws that enable you to experiment with loosening/tightening to change the feel and tone of the soundplate, while the opposite side is fixed and made from black Finnish birch. This side has an internal guitar-like tuning system with machine heads, and delivers a much more contemporary sound.
The soundhole is located on the side, which means that, if you're miked up, you'll have to reposition the mic when switching playing sides. However, this is a minor concern when you have two great sounding instruments in one!
Lastly we have the Latino model, which is a pro-quality instrument made entirely of birch. It has a three-string internal system with machine-heads, is the largest of the three in Duende's range and comes with its own padded carrying case.
The semi-pro Classic model has a rear sound hole and the strings provide a subtle snap to your strokes, without overwhelming the fundamental tone of the cajon. It puts us more in mind of a Cuban-style instrument, and if you're looking for 'boutique' looks and a quality sound, then look no further than the Classic.
The Con Fusion has two distinct sound choices: one side is more traditional Flamenco-sounding while the other is great for playing drum kit rhythms.
Finally, the Latino is considerably bassier, with strong mids, clear slaps and highly adjustable snare response.
Highly innovative designs with amazing attention to detail. New frontplate offers increased resonance and personality.
Nothing of note.
For a company that's only been around for five years, Duende offer great craftsmanship across their range - our favourite has to be the Con Fusion, which was a joy to play and gives you two instruments in one for a reasonable outlay.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.