Rob, You may be seeing stuff from the wrong machines. I have B&W silver prints on my studio walls next to digital prints from my Epson 3880. The 3880 prints are every bit as good as the silver prints, possibly even better. Of course, it could be that I wasn't that great a printer in the silver days, but I hate to think so. I don't have much color from olden days so I can't compare color, but I can tell you that the color in the color prints from my Epson is excellent. Actually, as I'm sure you know, the ability to control color in digital is way, way ahead of what it was in film, unless you're shooting in a studio where you can match the color temperature of the lights exactly to the film. But, of course, even with digital you have to go to the trouble of controlling it.
Frankly, I think a lot of what you're seeing in digital B&W is a failure of people brought up in the digital age to understand the zone system and the necessity of getting those mid-tones right.