I set up my makeshift home darkroom for the first time last night, and, so far, I'm bitterly disappointed. The enlarger is pretty lightweight and certainly lacking in other areas as well, so the problem could just be vibrations. It's a dreadful Omega B22. The lens is an EL Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 which I think I've had pleasing results from in the past on other enlargers.
However, looking through my grain focuser, I notice what I assume to be diffraction becoming obvious two stops down and becoming downright hideous stopped all the way down.
So, I try to print at f/2.8 or f/4, but I don't have any filters, so my exposure times are 2-5 seconds. Thus far, the pursuit is a grand waste of paper. Please advise. Should I put the enlarger in the recycle bin with the soda cans and cardboard boxes? Should I spend all the money I don't have on a better enlarger and a Rodenstock or Schneider lens?
As your original post states - soft prints, I would suggest the solution to your problem is the exposure and development of your negatives. Get that right and the rest is easy.