Buyers' guide: 5 cajons to get your groove on to

What you need to know before you buy

If you believe that these unique instruments are a passing fad, think again. They've been in existence for ages and can sound sublime whether you decide to replace the sound of a full drum kit for unplugged situations or use them in more traditional Afro-Cuban or Flamenco settings.

When miked up properly from the rear of the cajon near the sound-hole, and even with a second mic close to the tapa (or sound board), you can achieve incredible results through a decent PA system. Meinl now even produces models with built-in transducers so you can just plug in and play without having to place any mics at all – very minimalist!

"Look for a model that's sturdy, able to take your weight easily and doesn't slip around as you play"

Sturdy, no slip

There are a great many sizes available and a huge variety of different woods are used in their construction, but you should be looking for a model that's sturdy, able to take your weight easily and doesn't slip around as you play.

Try to find one that has an easily adjustable and quiet snare mechanism for a variety of sound possibilities. Here's our top five picks to get you started…

5. Meinl Bass Pedal Cajon
£269

StarsMeinl bass pedal cajon

This is the 'big boy' on the block and certainly the loudest. Its revolutionary foot-operated control mechanism allows you to turn the 'snares' on or off whilst still playing with both hands!

4. Tycoon TK-224
£99

StarsTycoon tk-224

Feature-packed with wicked sounds and superb value at under £100, the exotic looking Tycoon cajon has an attractive wood-grain effect tapa. Two internal jingle bell clusters combine with four guitar-string 'snares' to add a subtle clatter.

3. Sonor Standard
£95

StarsSonor standard

Punchy, snappy and affordable, this reasonably-priced birchwood body and birch tapa cajon has vertical bamboo strips as a snare mechanism – instead of wires or strings - which produces a classy and innovative drier sound.

Next page: Kotz Gajate Professional Model String Cajon and our top pick

2. Kotz Gajate Professional Model String Cajon
£228

StarsKotz gajate

Hand crafted by Michael Kotzenin collaboration with studio legend Richie 'Gajate' Garcia, this is a robust and well thought-out model. The Gajate features a rear sound-hole, unique externally mounted slap pads and Kotz 'sunique' tone wedge' profile. You can tighten this model's centre 'snare' independently of its outer 'snares' for a broader response.

1. Cajon De Gregorio Zambo
£235

StarsCajon de gregorio zambo

Impressive Italian craftsmanship combining an awesome set of natural sounding tones with an easy-to-adjust nylon guitar string 'snare' mechanism, which contacts the front playing surface to produce a subtle snap to the strokes (or can be turned off altogether). Unamplified it might not be the loudest of the bunch, but through a decent PA system it sounds truly beautiful.

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