I recently bought a violin from a fiddler in VA. It is a Tommy Case (from KY) Guarneri pattern instrument. This is his instrument number 8 of 18. After a new set of strings and playing on it for a few weeks I noticed a couple of issues. The A-string is not resonant; the sound dies immediately after the bow stops. Likewise, this is the issue up the entire length of the string. E-string seems fine, and G & D have a big open sound unless Ab is played, then it is almost a wolf tone. Basically the first octave is fine, but losses any richness/ring after that. I've also noticed that open A against F/F# on E produces a growling sub-harmonic. Other intervals are fine.
My luthier recommended a new bridge and sound post. I worry that it is a tuning plate issue. I'd rather not spend the money on a new bridge and post if it is not going to fix the issue. My luthier can only guess at this point. The good news is that he does not spend other peoples money unless absolutely necessary.
Does anyone have any advice? It is not a super expensive instrument.
If you are unhappy with the sound I wonder why you bought this instrument. Maybe if you spend $200 for some tweaking with a new bridge and soundpost it will improve and if it does i woukd say that it is money well spent. I also think that maybe a few months of playing on it will make it come alive but there are many here who will disagree with me on this.
Unless the bridge is obviously wrong- too high, low, warped, etc., I would start with a sound post adjustment first. That's the cheapest solution, and often will fix a lot of problems. Then fiddle around with the strings. Then get into the bridge, tailpiece, and nut.
My luthier basically said that they are not good quality. I wasn't that surprised by this. The guy I bought this instrument and another, did not seem particularly knowledgeable about instruments.
"when I first bought/tried out this instrument, it had a wonderful tone, which is what I general look for."
First thing, check the ratio vibrating string length vs. afterlength, especially if there is "almost a wolf tone", and especially if the wolf dwells in a region you'd never expect one. You can do it on your own and it is free.
Before concluding to a plate/bass bar issue, proper instrument setup is a first essential step IMO. All that you are describing sounds to me like a setup issue, although I am no expert on the matter. However, if you are hesitant in spending what it takes for a good setup, certainly you won't be dishing out $1000+ on a $500 instrument to open it up and tune the plates. So what other options do you have? When you think about it, it's that or nothing really.
Without a good set-up, you can't judge the instrument. If he has only made 18 instruments, chances are his set-up is still lacking.
Economists call this the "sunk cost" dilemma....
Listen to Duane Lasley, a professional luthier.
I found a bit of history on the maker here: http://intranet.finance.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/CED3E266-D315-49EF-81AF-17F013AC85CD/0/FACNewsletter121114.pdf
Once I had a Zombi A String, adjusting the afterlength and putting a better tailpiece and tailgut resurrected it. Better than the soundpost solution, especially if you are happy with the other strings.