Not a stupid question at all! Intonation refers to the pitch of a specific note (how in tune it is). This term is used often when you are playing a stringed instrument as your intonation can be “good” or “bad” depending on how you are doing putting your fingers in the right spots to find the right pitches.
Where you heard the term intonation concerns me. Intonation shouldn’t be a term used to describe instrument quality, as all instruments have the ability to have the same intonation. This basically just means the instrument starts off in the same pitch (in tune). Even the worst instrument can produce proper intonation, but the differences between stringed instruments should differ in other ways.
Here are a few qualities that should be describing an instrument (intonation is not one of them).
1. Sound projection – This refers to the instrument’s ability to produce a loud sound.
2. Depth/warmth – This is probably the most coveted quality of an instrument. A comparison would be how you would enjoy listening to the radio more when you hear the sound with a nice sounding bass in the music. A warm sounding violin is much more pleasant to listen to (and play).
3. Instrument cleanliness – This somewhat has to do with the player, but mostly how the instrument is setup. A good qualitiy violin will be easy to play, and thus have a great cleanliness of tone. A cheap violin will be hard to play, while a better quality violin will be easier to play.
Hope that helps! If you are interested in any instruments I have to offer, I run a website that includes all my recommendations. Superior Violins is our sister website and all the instruments we recommend have personally been approved by our small company. We are all players with a passion and love helping others–read about our Violin Tutor Pro team who all also work on Superior Violins.