I think your friends were partly right. I think you'll find the switch to fiber based paper will be a positive one. I suggest using glossy, and experiment with some warm tone and then selenuim and sepia toning. There are lots of great papers besides Bergger but Bergger is definately one to try. I think once you work with fiber papers you will be hooked, even though they are slightly more work.( washing, mounting etc.)

As for the enlarger, I have both cold light head and a color head.I use both and they have different characteristics that have many people choosing sides about. Obviously you can make incredible prints with all kinds of enlargers. I have a Zone VI VC and a Beseler.

One thing not mentioned on the cold head is that you don't seem to have to deal with negative pop which because of the heat on the other types can make the neg "pop" itself out of focus. On the downside they are a little trickier to focus.

The other controversy you will find is timers. I use a Metrolux II timer which doesn't cound down seconds but counts lux units. It has a sensor in the light head that measures the light output and compensates for fluxuations caused by the bulb and also your electrical circuits. ( I have a heater and a vacuum easel that normally would dim the lights and cause fluxuations in the exposure).

Other people swear by other styles and methods of timing your exposures.

My advice -use what you have and can now afford and study other methods while you are learning. But do switch to fiber paper.

Just an opinion

Michael McBlane