I may be VERY naive here, but here goes...
I just finished a printing session contacting some 5x7 portraits using Azo and Amidol. The portraits were originally developed in Xtol and are pretty thin by both contact printing and Azo standards. I found that they all printed perfectly on grade 3 with little or no water bath.
So here's the thing. I always hear that the goal is to produce a negative that prints well at normal contrast on VC paper or grade 2 on graded paper. Does it have to be that way? What do I lose if a negative's "normal" paper is of a higher contrast grade? Mid tones? Overall tonality and smoothness? The prints I made tonight look pretty smoothly toned, and they have MUCH more tonal range than when I enlarged them previously.
Thanks for whatever insight you can offer.