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!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Liked this? Then try:
Buyers' guide: cowbells
The best drum gear of 2008
The 17 most outrageous drum kits on the internet
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter
The free MusicRadar newsletter serves up the week's biggest artist and product news stories alongside exclusive tuition and gear reviews. Sign up here!
Follow MusicRadar on Twitter
Get instant updates and bonus content plus chat with the team. Start here!