My comparison of Tonicas and Dominants
After half an hour's comparison, I found the following.
Are my findings unique or usual? Or could the two instruments be having as much affect as the strings?
The Dominants have superior G and D strings, but the Dominant A string makes a harsher sound than the Tonica.
Both E strings are solid steel and sound fine when bowed. The Tonica vibrates more when plucked and is comfortable to play and is thinner. The Dominant sounds dead when plucked, is thicker, and cuts into my little finger like cheesewire. Being thicker than the Tonica, it may have more tension.
I think you would have better luck with your testing if you treated the E-string as a constant rather than a variable. What I mean is, there's not really any such thing as a "Tonica E." It's either the "Silvery E" common to many Pirastro string sets, with the silk changed match the rest of the set, or the Aluminum wound steel E. Similarly, there are a variety of Dominant Es, the most basic one being pretty lackluster. Since your E-string choice (and especially its tension) makes a big difference to how your violin responds, you would get pretty wide results if you just left Dominants on there and tried all 3 - 5 or whatever Tonica / Dominant E string options.
I've ordered a wound Dominant E string, but I've just been paying the bare steel one for a hour, and my fingers are used to it now.
My continuing experience over the past 50 years of trying different strings on different violins is that it is the violin itself that determines which strings are best.
I would find it difficult to evaluate string qualities after one hour. Maybe, 3 days at the earliest, Dominants between 2 and 3 weeks, depending on how much you play.
I agree with Jeff. The difference between newly tensionned strings and the same after they settle can be rather significant.
I find that that is only true if you don't follow
Jeff and Roger are correct: you cannot draw any meaningful comparison with new strings. Dominants always sound harsh at first, probably for several days.
I've had that problem with Dominant As. In fact, the relatively short lifespan of Dominant A strings is what first prompted me to experiment with Russian style steel As.
I find that brand-new Thomastik strings have a certain metallic harshness that persists for a few days after they are pitch-stable. For me they are typically pitch-stable after two days, but the timbre takes 4-10 days to settle. This is true across all the Thomastik brands I've tried (Dominant, Vision, Vision Solo).
I had at least 3-4 times problem with windings in the lowest position of a Tonica A, a gap just out of the package. Impossibile to play a B or C.