Quote Originally Posted by Ian Grant
Correct, no dispute there. But you were also comparing different manufacturers as well as you obviously had not used Forte papers before. I was merely pointing out that I found exactly similar experiences, using Forte's variable grade papers compared to Agfa papers.

Nope, I didn't mention any specific manufacturers at all in my post. I have used Forte as well as a number of other papers. I did not dispute your post.

You still seem to be missing Les McLean's point about developers and development / exposure being an extremely important factor.

Nope, not missing Les's point at all. The developers and development/exposure variable applies to all materials and is not involved in a direct comparison of variable contrast to graded materials.

Maybe it's a more European thing about image quality we exert a different type of control

I can't comment on that because I have no knowledge of how Europeans view things...but I find that photographic materials are consistantly and generally the same whether they are manufactured and used in Europe, United States, SE Asia, Mexico, or South America. For that reason the same direct comparison of graded to variable contrast materials would seemingly apply.
My original thesis was that it would take direct sensitometric evaluation of the differing paper types; that, from that analysis, the negative must be optimized to the proper correlation between negative and printing paper to arrive at a factual comparison. Anything less is purely and simply conjecture. I remain steadfast in that position.