The Breedlove name is mostly known for distinctive guitars, but at one time, they also produced impressive USA-made mandolins. Nowadays, reasonably-priced USA mandolins are hard to find—it seems like anything under $2,000 is made in China—so early-2000s Breedlove mandolins are a great buy.
This 2005 Cascade mandolin features Breedlove's unique almost F-style body design, constructed of a carved Sitka Spruce top and gorgeous Flame Maple back and sides. It is a well-voiced mandolin with natural response. It can handle some bluegrass chop, but it's got a sweet voice for gentle strumming as well. Its bright tone allows leads and intricate picking to ring out with clarity and cut through the mix.
As you'd expect from a proper US-made mandolin, the Cascade has a radius fingerboard, Schaller tuners, a solid Ebony bridge, and a high-quality tailpiece. No need to upgrade anything to get the setup dialed—it's all exactly where you want it. Its slightly wider nut width—1-3/16"—spaces out the fingerboard nicely. If you sometimes feel cramped on a small mandolin fingerboard, that extra 1/16" goes a long way. Plus, the taper creates more space for your picking hand, so intricate cross picking patterns and tremolo are more fluid.
This 2005 Breedlove Cascade is in excellent condition for its age. It shows some superficial playwear, and the finish is a little worn on the top (see photos). But it is free of any severe scuffs, bumps, or bruises, and it has had no repairs or issues over the years. The frets show minor wear, but they have plenty of life left. There is also some fret sprout through the finish on the edges of the fingerboard, but the back of the neck is pristine and free of aggressive playwear. It includes its original hardshell case, which is stickered but protects the mandolin as it should.
There was a time when quality mandolins like this were readily available, but now reasonably-priced USA mandolins are few and far between. If you need a professional-level instrument but can't afford the $5k price tag, this Breedlove will more than suffice. It's a well-made instrument with all the right details.