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Could it be that what most riders feel simply isn't vertical but diagonal or even lateral compliance?
Most impacts are not straight vertical.
Standard carbon rims have enormous lateral stiffness compared to aluminum, which might be what riders experience as "harsh". Vertical stiffness of the entire wheel is pretty similar between carbon and aluminum outside of huge, rim shattering impacts.
Therefore the cool new thing about carbon rims seems to be to make them just soft enough that it doesn't negatively affect tracking too much but has enough diagonal give for a nicer ride.
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