I have the same results as you, regarding the filters or contrast needed to print pyro negs, I have found a whole grade increase starting point. Yes, maybe a bit of a test.( funny though, when I told Sandy King this , he did not seem to see the same thing, but he is using Pyrocat and has not done as much silver printing as compared to carbon printing}
I would be interested in asking Steve Sherman this question.

Here is a silly observation that I have regarding unstained pyro negatives.

If you look at Richard Avedon's studio portraits of lets say the Duke and Dutches of Windsor or Marylin Monroe you will see lots of uneven backgrounds for one, but also the grain is very defined, I have always thought that his film for this time period was developed in Pyro and unstained- most likely triX.

Super sharp, but extreme edge sharpness on these portraits on grey background.
I am not talking about In the American West or his work on white backgrounds.

Not sure if anyone else ever noticed this and I wonder how he made the negs.

Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
Visual evaluation of negatives (silver density vs combined silver-stain density) is one thing, printing contrast (in particular, local highlight contrast) is another.

When visually evaluating a normal pyro negative it will look thinner and lower in contrast than we might be used to seeing with a non-stained negative, because we're looking at silver density and not including the stain density in the visual assessment. Stain is proportional to the amount of silver halide reduced, meaning in highlight areas a fair amount of density when printing is coming from the stain. So what I'm saying is that if you look at the negative, the highlight areas might look comparitively thin (ie overall contrast looks low) while in printing the combined optical/spectral density of the silver and stain might be normal. So all we're talking about here is the fact with a pyro negative the density is a combination of silver and stain.

The issue of printing contrast, what filters to use is less straight forward and really just takes experimentation. The reason is that filters increase or decrease contrast by the same amount everywhere, while stain works proportionately. That's why many people say pyro negatives are easier to print when there is delicate highlight detail to render. Vs printing a non-stained negative, the stain reduces local contrast (ie compresses tonality) increasingly as density increases, so the stain acts like a built in variable compensating contrast reduction filter. It's like having a yellow-type filter that acts more on areas of higher density than in thin shadow areas.

The situation is further complicated by the type of paper. Typically pyro negatives will print with higher contrast on graded paper than VC paper since VC papers have a broader spectral sensitivity.

Wait a minute... is this a test? You've got way more experience that I do! I'm suspicious.