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#1
(This post was last modified: 04-28-2016, 01:41 AM by NeoXerxes.)
*LONG POST WARNING*

As some of you know, for some time my favorite boar brush has been the Antica Barbieria Colla (ABC) boar, which (unfortunately for my pocketbook) happens to be one of the priciest boar brushes on the market. When I purchased this brush, this displaced almost every other boar brush I’ve used. It is comfortable to hold, has a properly long loft (yet not long enough to be unwieldy), and is stuffed with top quality boar hair.

Like many folks who were looking at this brush, I spent a lot of time and energy doing research before making the purchase. Some on the forums were comparing the ABC brush to Zenith and Omega brushes. Having tried an Omega, I dismissed that option out of hand as being very unlikely. To me it was obvious from photos that the ABC brush is much higher quality than a comparable Omega. But when someone posted a picture of a Zenith, it gave me pause – they look very, VERY similar. I decided to go for the ABC brush anyway since I was in the process of purchasing the ABC soap.

My questions remained unanswered. Is the ABC boar comparable to the Zenith boar? They certainly look alike in the pictures, but are they alike up close? Unfortunately, not many folks in the shaving community have tried both the Zenith and the ABC boar, and as far as I know, no one has yet done a comparison between the two brushes. This post endeavors to remedy that deficiency.

Michael (jankdc) of The Gentle Shave - one of our members here at DFS - saw the recent discussion comparing the two brands and was curious enough to reach out to me, knowing that I own and love the ABC boar brush. He requested via private message that I review a Zenith and offer my honest thoughts on how it compares to the ABC boar. In order to facilitate the comparison review, he provided me with a Zenith boar brush (see the disclosure at the end of this post).

I should begin with a few words on the review process. I am quite familiar with the ABC boar but decided to use it exclusively while awaiting the Zenith’s arrival. When the Zenith arrived, I put it through my usual boar break in routine, soaking it overnight in water. From that next morning on, I spent a few weeks with the Zenith, using it exclusively in my daily shaving routine.

Specifications:

The ABC boar (single model) costs approximately $75 (including shipping to the US from Italy) on the official ABC website (http://www.anticabarbieriacollashop.com/...urale.html). The precise loft length and knot size are not listed. NOTE: The knot size of the ABC seems almost imperceptively larger than the Zenith.

The Zenith boar (model “B1”) costs $28 (including shipping within the US from Ohio) on jankdc’s eBay web store (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Zenith-Pro-Alumi...2184230831). The loft is set at 64 mm and the effective loft is 58-61mm due to the glue bump. NOTE: This brush is a couple of millimeters longer than the ABC boar, but not enough to make a significant difference. Michael tells me that another model, the “B2”, has a slightly shorter loft that would probably be identical to the loft of the ABC. The B2 was out of stock so we decided to do the comparison with the B1.

[Image: fZ9j4Vl.jpg]
From left to right: Zenith B9 (since the brush was not comparable in loft, this brush was sent back and not reviewed), Zenith B1 before the review, unused backup Antica Barbieria Colla brush.

There are a few visual differences. As you will see in the attached photos (though it is more clear in real life), the Zenith is much more finely and carefully polished. Perhaps this is attributable to the ABC aesthetic of being an “antique” barbershop, but the average user might wonder why the Zenith handle seems to have received more attention in the manufacturing process. The design aesthetic is slightly different: if one looks very carefully at the portion of the brush above the grip indent and below the hair ring, it is easy to notice that the Zenith has more of a flat plane while the ABC is slightly concave. Additionally, the logo for the Zenith is printed on the side of the brush – I imagine this would wear down over time – while the ABC brush is labeled with a water resistant sticker on the bottom of the handle.

In terms of hair quality, the reader will observe that the ABC boar has a slightly whiter grade of hair. From what I can tell after weeks of use, this difference is entirely cosmetic. Both brushes feel identical in feel, softness when wet, exfoliating properties, and so forth. Like the ABC boar, the tips of the hairs on the Zenith began splitting in large numbers after the first use – while I expect it to improve steadily over time, I don’t expect the break in period to be anywhere near as long as with an Omega or Semogue. For me this is a mark of a great boar brush since the split hairs will improve lathering efficiency and face feel.

I don’t have a scale for precise measurements, but both brushes feel equivalent in weight. Overall design, style, and hand feel are nearly identical.

Performance:

Here is where it gets tough for me. Long story short, after a few weeks spent using the brushes, I failed to identify any differences in performance whatsoever. To me the ABC and the Zenith perform identically in every respect. For those that haven’t tried a brush in this style before, it might be worth offering a brief description.

Both the ABC and the Zenith brushes are longer lofted Italian barbershop-style brushes. The lofts aren’t as long as some that are available (Zenith offers an even longer lofted brush, the B9), however they will still provide a difference experience than most brushes that are offered by (for instance) Semogue. For those that enjoy barbershop brushes, this style of boar brush is truly enjoyable to use.

Because of the long loft and split boar hairs on the tips, the brushes load effortlessly from even the hardest soaps. On that note, I prefer using brushes of this style with hard or soft soaps, as lighter creams have the tendency to get lost among the hairs. My favorite soaps to use with these brushes are Italian soaps like Antica Barbieria Colla and Czech & Speake, and on the artisan side, Barrister_N_Mann and Mystic Water.

[Image: F7rkFCO.jpg]
Zenith B1, Fine Lather Bowl, Mystic Water Poggio di Pini.

These brushes will gently exfoliate the skin, but neither brush was scratchy or uncomfortable, especially when wet. Like all brushes, one must soak these for a few minutes prior to use in order to prevent breakages of the hair and to ensure a proper lather. And in terms of the quality side of performance, neither shed even a single hair (though a couple of shorter hair breakages are possible when one is first breaking them in).

Overall Impressions:

Many of you know that I’m about as uncompromising as it gets when it comes to price and performance. If a soap/cream is more expensive and performs even marginally better than a less expensive product, I almost always will purchase the more expensive product.

[Image: 3hpCt4r.jpg]
From left to right: Zenith B1 (post-review), Antica Barbieria Colla (my well-used brush).

Unfortunately for me (since I invested in an ABC long before I tried the Zenith), this is an instance where performance and price do not correlate. It is not that the ABC is a bad brush, however it is virtually identical in almost every respect to the Zenith, especially in performance and actual use. In terms of the overall value proposition, the ABC loses out fairly significantly.

To recap, the only differences worth mentioning are that the ABC has slightly whiter hair and the Zenith has a slightly nicer and more polished handle. Normally I don’t like recommending specific products in a general fashion, but given the similarities in performance and the difference in price (~$28 for the Zenith vs. $75 for the ABC), I’d recommend that most people go for the Zenith unless one is a particular fan of the ABC brand or if one has a strong aesthetic preference for slightly whiter hairs.

So, in the end, after weeks of testing, which do I prefer? I honestly don’t have an answer to that. To me the brushes are functionally and aesthetically identical. I can see how someone might have a slight preference based on the differences that I articulated earlier, but generally, these brushes are comparable in every respect. I suppose I’d pick the ABC brush simply because I like the ABC brand. But is the ABC sticker on the bottom really worth the nearly $50 premium? Almost certainly not. Knowing what I know now, if I were shopping for one of these brushes today, I’d pick the Zenith without hesitation.

As always, thanks for reading gents! If you have any questions about my experience with the brushes, feel free to ask below or send me a PM.

Disclosure: This is not a paid review – I do not do paid reviews. The brush was provided courtesy of Michael (jankdc). When receiving an item to review or compare (whether brush, soap, or book), my review conditions are always as follows: first, that I will offer my honest opinion regardless of what I think of the brush and irrespective of the fact that the review item was provided; second, that I will disclose publicly that I received the review item for free with the understanding that I would write up my thoughts, positive or negative. Naturally, Michael agreed to these conditions without hesitation.

Null, explodyii, hrfdez and 14 others like this post
#2
Great thoughts. I'm breaking in two Zeniths right now to compare with Omega and Semogue. Out of the box, the quality is superior to either brand, we'll see how the face feel is after the break-in!

wyze0ne, NeoXerxes, clint64 and 1 others like this post
#3
(04-28-2016, 01:20 AM)explodyii Wrote: Great thoughts. I'm breaking in two Zeniths right now to compare with Omega and Semogue. Out of the box, the quality is superior to either brand, we'll see how the face feel is after the break-in!

Thanks much Smile. Do share your impressions when you have done further testing! In my experience the Zenith and ABC break in (and split) MUCH faster than the other brands you mention. I have no idea why that is, but it's quite noticeable. Perhaps they use the same type of hair?

clint64 and jankdc like this post
#4

Member
Detroit
I can vouch for the quality of Zenith boar brushes. I have the B8 (28×61) and I enjoy it very much. Like you said, it required very little break in if any at all, no funk whatsoever and is a lather monster. I actually won mine in a contest but would not hesitate to buy another one should the need or desire for another boar brush arise. I would recommend one to anybody. FWIW, all I have to compare it to is a cheap little Omega, but I would venture to say it would stand up favorably against any boar brush out there.

NeoXerxes, jankdc and Mickey Oberman like this post
- Jeff
#5
(04-28-2016, 03:27 AM)wyze0ne Wrote: I can vouch for the quality of Zenith boar brushes. I have the B8 (28×61) and I enjoy it very much. Like you said, it required very little break in if any at all, no funk whatsoever and is a lather monster. I actually won mine in a contest but would not hesitate to buy another one should the need or desire for another boar brush arise. I would recommend one to anybody. FWIW, all I have to compare it to is a cheap little Omega, but I would venture to say it would stand up favorably against any boar brush out there.

The lack of a lengthy break in period was the most surprising part of using the ABC/Zenith. I've always known boars to take forever to break in and for the hairs to split, but these brushes broke in quite quickly.

Thanks for your impressions!

wyze0ne, clint64, jankdc and 1 others like this post
#6

Member
Detroit
You're welcome!

NeoXerxes likes this post
- Jeff
#7
Damn it. I just bought a dfs le brush... And a Paladin or three recently...


.... My bride will kill me.... But does she have to know? Secrets are thr cornerstone of a strong relationships right?

kwsher, NeoXerxes and clint64 like this post
-Spencer
#8

Member
Atlanta, GA
Great review.  I purchased and used a B2 last year.  I really enjoyed the brush but passed it along to a newbie as a brush to start his wet shaving journey.  Your review has me considering getting a replacement.

NeoXerxes, kwsher and ANG69 like this post
Clint
#9
Lol Smile. It's a great brush. I enjoy this style more than other boar brushes I have tried, and the hair type seems to be better quality. Either one will do nicely, but performance is essentially equivalent and the Zenith is much cheaper.

GloryUprising, the trick is to buy your shaving products alongside a Sephora gift card for her :p.
#10
Thanks for taking the time to review, I enjoyed reading it. The Zenith Boar brushes are wonderful. I have both the 26 & 28 mm versions in the Aluminum handles. The bristle quality is excellent imo especially that its a barber brush as well.

NeoXerxes likes this post
-Balj


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