Here, in the States, Globals are priced competitively with Shun Classic. I don't know about the UK. Since they're both Japanese knives, I'm surprised to hear they're overpriced compared to Shun.
Shun Classic, which presumably is the knife Apprentice uses, is a san mai
knife, which means it's made with a hard steel core with softer "metal" on the outside; the edge itself is on the core. Traditionally, this was done in sword construction because Japanese sword steel was so hard and brittle it needed to be protected -- and Japanese smiths found that this method was one way to transfer some of the properties of a softer metal like flexibility, ease of sharpening, etc., to the harder. However, Shun Classics use a core of VG-10 which is not only a very good (just short of great) knife steel, and doesn't need san mai
protection at all. Instead, it's a way of getting a suminigashi
("Damascus" look) to the knife. Although Shun USA claims the pattern is somehow "non-stick," it is not non-stick in a meaningful way. The pattern is merely cosmetic.
Globals are made from a proprietary steel called "Chromova 18." From a performance standpoint, it's similar to VG-10 in every way. Global hardens it to Rockwell Hardness 58, while Shun takes VG-10 t0 61, but the outer layers are much softer.
For what it's worth -- in a lesson that few self-styled "knife experts" ever seem to learn -- the Rockwell number is just not that informative. The four most important properties in knife steel, defined in "terms of art," are edge-taking, edge holding, toughness and strength. The level of strength is defined by the steel's ability to resist permanent deformation (not breakage). Rockwell Hardness is the measure of the steel's resistance to forming a permanent dimple from the measured pressure applied to a pointed, awl-like tool. (Apprentice didn't bring it up, I did because you so often see it played like a trump card.)
Returning to Globals, they take and hold an edge as well as Shun Classic, and have as good a balance of strength and toughness. Since they're so closely priced, the real comparison comes in terms of visual appeal, comfort and utility. Most contributors to this thread seem to agree that's a very individual thing. Me less so. Based on listening to a lot of people who have used Globals for a long time -- I've come to believe that Global chef knives cause hand discomfort if used as the primary knife for more than a few months. It's a shame, because everything else about them is very nice for the price. They're light, agile knives which take and hold a good edge which is easily maintained on a steel. It's not their fault if they're good looking.
Most people like the handle ergonomics of Shun Classic. Most people like the blade too -- if they're coming from European knives. Compared to typical Japanese (or French, for that matter) knives the Shun Classic chef knife's profile handles awkwardly because the point is so high above the mid-line.
Here's a Shun: Bed Bath & Beyond Product
Here's an excellent Japanese knife at a similar price point (but a MUCH better knife!): Korin - Fine Japanese Tableware and Chef Knives
Here's a classic French profile: Cooking Knife 8 in : Au Carbone - Vintage : K Sabatier products
Here's a Global: Bed Bath & Beyond Product
Look at the knives where the spine goes into the handle (or bolster) and try to determine the midpoint between the bottom of the knife at the heel, and the spine. Mentally draw a line parallel to the line of the spine where it starts out straight before it starts to slope and:
The French knife starts a very gradual drop towards the point about 60% of the way down the spine. The point is even with the mid-point of the heel, i.e., right on the mid-line.
Compared to the French, the Global and Masamoto delay the drop, so the tip looks more rounded -- but the tip is on the midline.
The Shun takes a very smooth drop, like the French, but takes it late like the other Japanese knives. This results in a high point, with a lot of radius underneath it. Shun's idea seems to have been that the extra radius would make the knife easier to two-hand rock-chop, the extended top line would make the knife a better slicer, and the point could take care of itself. Sadly, reality is the other way around. Two-hand rock-chopping is not effected because it's the off-hand rather than the radius of the knife controlling stability and range of motion; and tip work becomes deucedly awkward.
Another design issue with the Shun is, that as Japanese knives go, it's a "thick" knife. This isn't really an issue for most people, though. Unless you're making sashimi or classic cuts, or a knife-geek, it isn't an issue at all. FWIW, the Global is a thinner knife.
Furthermore, while it's "Damascus" look exterior makes the Shun a very stylish knife, the wavy design scratches easily -- even cleaning with normal cleaning . Perhaps this is what Apprentice meant. In terms of the cosmetic this is actually pretty serious because the scratches can't be buffed out without buffing out the pattern -- and the pattern can't be brought back without a pretty complicated acid treatment which isn't DIY.
Where do Globals and Shun Classics fit in terms of other knives? Let's start with the idea that the levels of quality can be broken into three major groups, bottom, middle and top; and that each of those can be broken into a similar three subgroups: top of the middle, for instance. Also, some of the borders are blurry. Whether a knife is top of the middle or bottom of the top can be problematic.
Compared to their primary western competitors -- the top line "Germans" (a couple are actually Swiss or American) -- both the Globals and Shun Classics are competitive -- but not clearly better. Modern German steel, either X50CrMo or X45CrMoV is much better than the previous generation, and usually hardened to around HRc 55-57. Overall, they're not as good as the steels used in Globals or Shuns but the knives have an entirely different feel. If you prefer the "feel," handle, or blade profile of one particular type, there's not enough difference among any other brand to kibosh the choice.
Placing the Shun Classics and Globals among Japanese knives is weird. For one thing Global and Classic have much better market penetration in the west. So, compared to some of the more "exotic" labels, it's easier to try before you buy which is important to some people. But overall, Shun and Global are "top of the middle," and there are a number bottom of the top of the bottom choices at about the same price. For instance, Hiromoto G (I'm leaving the Hiromoto AS off the list because the core steel isn't stainless); Masamoto VG; MAC Professional; Hattori HD (beautiful Damascus pattern); Misono Moly; and Suisun Inox to name just a few. The top of the middle also includes a few bargain busters like MAC Superior and Kanetsugu M which give up some cosmetics but kick Global/Shun butt on performance.
(Not so tangentially -- a look at the list should give you the idea that the list of Japanese manufacturers making high quality western-style knives includes a lot more small and medium sized companies than the western world.)
Another manufacturer mentioned was Forschner. Their Fibrox/Rosewood lines (different handles, same knives) are very important in the entry-level pro market, as well as certain specific areas of food processing. They make another important line -- Victorinox Forged -- which is very different and a typical high-end German knife -- which also use X50CrMo (as do Wusthof). The following applies to Forschner Fibrox and Rosewood, but not to Victorinox Forged: The knives are stamped, rather than forged, and the handles are attached without a bolster -- which allow the knives to be sold at a very good price. First -- don't let "stamped" put you off. It used to be that "forged" meant "better," but that's no longer true and the Forschners are one of the reasons why. The catalog is HUGE -- they make a lot of shapes, and almost every one of them is an incredible performer at any price -- and a miracle for the price Forschner sells it. One of the few exceptions is their chef's knives. They "dull" quickly. Not "dull" so much in the sense that the steel wears down, but it rolls over easily. They can be brought back with frequent steeling, but also need frequent sharpening. Not a big deal with a knife that doesn't whack the board as much as a chef's -- but there you go. "Fibrox" is the line that gets the press; not that it isn't comfortable but IMO a Rosewood" is more so. I have a lot of experience with Forschner butchering (including fish) knives, and with their garde manger
knives, and highly recommend them. Their chef's knife is probably the best available for anything near the price. It's the first step into the bottom of the middle -- and way better than anything near the top of the bottom. But in my opinion it's well worthwhile to spend more and step up to a MAC Chef or Kanetsugu Pro M -- 4 times the knife for twice the money.
If you're looking for a knife and reading this stuff, it's important to apply a filter to positive reviews of a knife currently used by the poster. Not to discount it too much, but consider whether the endorsement is based on a wide survey, whether the new knife is a lot better than the old, or it's a knife the writer has "always" used and loves -- and weigh it accordingly.
I'm pretty comfortable with the reasons people give when they HATE something. (For instance Apprentice doesn't like Globals because he thinks they're for amateurs. He's got a point too. The little suckers used to be everywhere in pro kitchens but you don't see them much anymore.) OTOH, I always wonder how much a positive recommendation is based on a desire for validation. Of course, this includes my own. One reason among many I stay away from endorsing what's currently in my block unless it's obvious you're "the type."
Two more cents,