Is there anything better than live recordings?

Other than attending the concerts themselves?

I say NO.




Depends on the quality of the recording.  I'd rather listen to a great studio recording than a poor live recording.  

Disagree 100%. A lot of great music is created and built in the studio, and was never intended to be performed live but rather heard on recordings. 

Disagree 100%? That's a lot.

Always very happy to find a live recording where the dynamics is kept.

Drives me nuts when certain artists have all lousy recording quality on even studio recordings.

With the recording quality being equal a live recording is usually more enjoyable. Live recordings let the musicians shine with technical skills not always on a studio recording. 

  I personally think that most live recordings are sub par. However occasionally I find a good one, and I very much enjoy them. I went through a phase back when Blu-ray first came out and had a large concert collection. I had a surround system   ( 5.2 ) that was comprised of retro 2 channel gear. Concerts like Queen, Allison Krause, ELO, Roxy Music,  ect we’re very enjoyable. But the ratio of poor to good  was about 5:1.  Happy Listening, Mike B. 

One of the most enjoyable parts of exploring new music is finding well done live recordings of familiar albums or songs. As some mentioned, the recording quality tends to be much more varied with live performances.


But the well recorded ones are very enjoyable, and in some cases, more so than the studio/album itself in my opinion. There are even live recordings that are better produced than the original album itself I've come across.

There still is a lot of art in mixing down recordings. Even studio recordings have a lot of live sound to mix down. Without a doubt there are some very good live recordings. Better than a live show? Two different animals. 

All told, I enjoy the studio-made recordings in my collection more than the live ones. Even when they were meticulously assembled, a lot of the studio-produced LPs in my collection emotionally and viscerally  punch through. I just love my old Doors LPs. I just love my Byrds LPs, whatever era they might from be in terms of who was in the band or what genre they were pursuing. No shortage of emotional electricity in the Ramones' obviously studio-produced Road to Ruin.

Jeff Beck live recordings. Even though the engineers compressed these, the performances are amazing.

A live recording in a controlled environment such as a recording studio without any shenanigans is the ideal option.

One of the best (if not the best) live records was “lLive at the Filmore” by the Allman Brothers.  Another favorite of mine is “Waiting for Columbus” by Little Feat, 

To me music makes more sense if it has a setting, and for that reason, I have a strong bias toward live recordings. I will even tolerate a lower quality of sound of the music as a trade-off for having it presented in a venue.

Some musicians are just more entertaining live than they are in the studio. For example, Sarah Bareilles's studio work strikes me as ho-hum, but I enjoy her live performances.

On the other hand, sometimes the studio cut is better. For example, Dark Side of the Moon is iconic as a studio album. Live, it's not a single work; it's a collection of songs.

Susan Tedeschi's performance of Angel From Montgomery on the studio album Just Won't Burn is knock-it-out-of-the-park excellent.  Probably the best performance of that song ever recorded. Certainly the best I have heard. She has also recorded it live a couple of times. She just doesn't do as good of a job in the live cuts.

So like so many things in audio, it depends, even though I am sympathetic to the OP's point.

Yeah, it depends. There is sometimes an energy between the band and the audience that just doesn't exist in the studio. But as others have noted not all recordings are created equal.

For me, many of the classic rock bands made better studio albums than their live performances--Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Derek and the Dominos, Frank Zappa. This is particularly true with those artists who really used the studio as an instrument, employing panning, flanging, etc. On the other hand, the Allman Brothers Fillmore recordings creamed their studio albums both in performance and, arguably, sound quality. The Grateful Dead also stretched out in their best live performances, captured on their live albums.

@woofhaven1992  I happen to like Pink Floyd’s live performances of DSOTM and some of their other classics. David Gilmour could approach a song differently in live performance--e.g., his bluesy Strat playing on the 1974 live version of "Breathe" nicely replacing his lap steel part on the studio album. And with their quadrophonic sound system they could recreate or surpass their studio effects in live performance.

From my experience it’s rare that rock groups could put out a live performance that matched the quality of their studio efforts, even if just considering the musical, rather than audio, qualities. For one thing, many classic rock musicians were, shall we say, in a less-focused state of consciousness when they played live. Like Pink Floyd, the Who was a group that could do a great live performance that was quite different from the equivalent studio versions. I enjoy a live Who performance (from the 1969-1971 period) more than any other live performance, even if the audio has its problems like Live at Leeds. The Deluxe Edition of that album, with the full live Tommy recording, is probably the greatest live rock recording, for my tastes, but this is based on the performance, not the audio quality. The Isle of Wight performance--basically the same setlist--is wonderful to watch and hear on DVD, with its better sound quality.

IMHO, the emotion and spontaneity projected from a great live album is unachievable in a studio album. Studio albums can project perfection of the performance and virtuosity. There are so many great live recordings that have been covered earlier, there are many more beyond rock in jazz and blues as well.

My two favorite live albums are The Name of this Band is Talking heads (1982) and Bob Marley and the Wailers, Live at the Roxy (2003). Both, with no or little compression and energy through the roof. They are played very loud (90+ db at your listening position - haha).

Maybe we should compile a list of our top 5 favorite albums?

Two completely different experiences, no live album has anywhere near the sound quality of a properly recorded album. No album is anything like a live performance. Go to a movie and then go to the same performance as a play, chalk and cheese.

I've mixed hundreds of live shows and recorder many. Just ran the mix to a recorder and forgot about it. Many wound up on live albums so go figure. And they sounded damn good. 

As others have said above.


There are many many factors that determine which recordings are best.

Not least personal taste.

Silly question.

I haven't heard any good recordings made by dead people:))

On a more serious note - what constitutes a "live" recording?.  Many classical and jazz recordings made in studios are "live" in the sense that they are played in real time albeit in the absence of an audience - though, admittedly, there may multiple takes and some post production editing. That said, lots of "live" recordings are edited too.

As for rock and pop recordings, most are recorded using a feed from the mixing desk, so they are not what the audience heard via the stage / PA, with perhaps an element of feed from the PA / hall mixed in for atmosphere.

Some mighty fine "Live Recordings" from outside the studio...........

Allman Brothers - Fillmore East

Little Feat - Waiting for Columbus

Grateful Dead - Europe 72

Santana - Lotus

Right Band, Right Time, Right Venue, Right Mix = Pleasing Listening Experience  :-)

Studio all the way. Better control over quality of the recording.  Live has too much crowd noise etc. 

 the quality of the recording is important , but dsd 256 sounds also awsome.

I agree with how you posed your question. However, most live recordings are not as good as studio IMO, there are exceptions though. I have few live recordings and I’ll just leave it at that. The best I’ve heard as an example of studio “live” are DSD recordings. They can be impressive.

@drmuso if I gave the impression that I did not enjoy Pink Floyd live, that was poor writing on my part. I agree with everything you said.

I think you also made the point I was trying to make about DSOTM studio cut better than I did: they used the studio as an instrument. 

Live is the real thing, warts and all. I remember sitting in the balcony at Heinz hall in Pittsburgh and the acoustics were so bad I told my wife I'd rather be home listening to my stereo. First floor row H that's different. But I find the sound of a live symphony is more diffused with less pinpoint imaging than you can get with a recording sometimes, but that's less "real" in one sense.

"Is there ANYTHING better than live recordings"

That's a pretty open-ended question.  I'm hoping to pole vault on my 90th birthday.  That would be pretty hard to beat.

Related to the music, IMHO it depends on how important your engagement is with the performers vs the music itself as a "stand-a-lone" entity.  If you welcome a high degree of emotional interaction with the musicians (personality, intimacy, energy, great hair) your enjoyment may be enhanced by those factors.  It you tend to prioritze getting the music "right" then a meticulous rendering of the the performance may tip the scales in your favor.  That being said, if you combine those 2 factors, you may forgive a less than stellar performance/recording if the heart of the performers shines through.  So, doing the math, a performance/recording of a "4" combined with a stage presence of "9" may tip the scales in the favor of that recording vs a solid "8" studio recording.  A "10" plus "10" live performance would take extraterrestrial interfernce to produce a superior studio recording.

When a visual is introduced, the whole process gets more complicated.  A "3" performance + a "9" energy/presence + a "9.5" visual can produce a performance that can result in the most fun you can legally have at home.


Well, I don't know about all live recordings, but the back-to-back guitar solos on the Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East in Stormy Monday are as good as any guitar solos get, and they were spontaneous.


I have to question anyone who thinks a live concert trumps a studio recording with regards to audio quality. It makes me think they haven't seen as many disappointing/meh live shows as a reference or are very selective about who they see in concert & want to listen to in a live recording. But I wouldn't go so far as to say live recordings trump studio recordings.

Ever listened to a Deadhead's bootleg cassette recording of a particular show? Terrible in every way. But that's my opinion. 

Most of my complaints about some live recordings tend to be poor quality micing for the vocals (they tend to go in and out as the artist moves on stage) and unequal mixing. Now there are some bands that record directly from the live mix and those can be fantastic as it's as much about the energy of the live show and variations to how the band plays certain songs. I've heard some great recordings in the last few decades but those tend to be video concert recordings.  

Conversely, Zepplin's concert film 'The Song Remains the Same' is great at capturing the live show and makes it, to my ears, a better experience.

For example, the live version of Wilco's 'California Stars' I heard in concert far surpassed the Mermaid Ave Lp version but that was because they stretched that into an epic encore version for a packed house in a historic theatre.

Conversely, I saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the same theatre and it was one of the worst soundboard-mixed shows and loudest concerts I've seen. The distortion and mix were way beyond BRMC's intentions to the point that it made for unpleasant listening. 

I've also found that the venue plays a big part in how good a live recording can be. The Merriweather Post Pavilion in MD is a terrible place to see a live show - regardless of where you sit, it's just bad. Best outdoor venue? Red Rocks Amphitheater hands down. Club shows? That's hit or miss and very dependent on the in-house set-up.

All that said, I enjoy certain live recordings by my favorite artists but I'm very selective about which ones for the all the reasons I listed above. I have found that I really enjoy watching concerts via youtube when it's a professional production. Because then I get great audio and the energy of the live show. Which is why I go to concerts in the first place. 


Friday Night in San Francisco is among the greatest live recordings ever, and in frequent rotation here. The SQ is excellent but the crowd interaction with 3 of the greatest guitarists on the planet make it even more impactful.

And closely behind is Saturday Night in SF on Impex records as I recall.

@drmuso Live at Leeds is an excellent sounding live recording, with great dynamics and can be played at very high levels.

Live at Hull may be preferred.

Thanks to others for some great tips.

@bipod72 - I don't think they were talking about bootleg recordings. There are hundreds of legitimate Grateful Dead live releases that are among the best sounding live recordings you'll hear. I have every one of the box sets. The Dead made sound quality a priority ever since the days when Owsley Stanley designed their sound systems. 

I think U2 is great example of a band that's better live than in the studio.

One of my fav bands for sure!


@larsman Oh I realize the OP wasn't talking about bootleg recordings BUT for a period of time in the 70s through the 80s there were vinyl bootleg pressings of live shows that, for all appearances, looked like legitimate label pressings. I had several that I acquired at record swap meets I used to go to with my dad in the 80s.  I do think live recordings can be very good and as I said, it's very dependent upon the band, their sound engineer, and the venue. But if someone makes the claim that live recordings are the comes with several qualifications. As we all know, even studio recordings can be crappy sometimes! 

@jjbeason14 The last time I saw U2 live was the Joshua Tree tour. After that, the venues were too big and getting great tickets became a struggle. One of my favorite live albums Under a Blood Red Sky. When they played at Red Rocks for the War tour I couldn't get my dad to take me to see them and he wouldn't let me go by myself at age 11. Instead he took me to go see Chuck Berry at the Rainbow music hall. 

@bipod72 - good points - back in the 70's, there were a few record shops that I would scour for the latest bootlegs from Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc etc. Some sounded decent, but most were pretty dreadful audience recordings.

@larsman What does and doesn't surprise me is that there's a market for rare bootlegs now from a collector's standpoint but certainly not from an audiophile standpoint. You're right that many/most were dreadful audience recordings. I recall reading about some guy in California in the 70s that would go to shows by Zep, Tull, etc, and roll up in a wheelchair with a tape recorder hidden underneath. He apparently made some good recordings and then gave bootleg copies out for free. 

This thread has provoked a wicked game of hide-and-seek with my now unreliable memory. I humbly ask to be excused if I repeat stuff I've already mentioned on this site.

As much as I love my Zeppelin albums, I enjoyed their live concert still more. The same goes for my encounter with Bob Marley and the Wailers, who I saw at the Roxy. I saw the Byrds several times, and to my ears they were never nearly as good live as they were in the studio. It was the exact opposite with Crosby Stills Nash & Young. The concert I saw with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Phil tramped all over the recordings I have that feature them. My experiences regarding Pink Floyd are 50-50. Likewise, both live and canned Chuck Berry was equally excellent.

I could go on. And on. And on.

Unplugged Nirvana, Eagles, Clapton, Zep’s BBC sessions, Zappa’ New York, Roxy, A night in SF, Jazz at Pawnshop, Live at Leeds, Deep Purple Made in Japan, Talking Heads The name of the band, Portishead Roseland NYC, Belafonte at CH, China Jean MJ, Kraftwerk Min Max, Tangerine Dream Ricochet and Encore, Laurie Anderson Home of the Brave, are some nice examples. Then you have the ballets, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet... opera, classical in general but these cannot be performed in a studio.

Generally a very few number compared to studio releases (contemporary).

Supertramp "Live in Paris" is bloody amazing. Great recording.

Peter Gabriel "Plays Live" is also amazing. Great recording again...

The live performances cited by @petg60 are of excellent SQ because they were recorded by SOTA mobile recording trucks or in-house control rooms. OTOH, a good soundboard recording would be supplemented with a submix of dedicated mics. All live classical and opera would be recorded the same way as all their recordings in an empty concert hall or soundstage.

I often saw the 60ft trailers recording sound outside Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, or the Academy of Music in Philly. That was when I was young, later in my career I was working in either the sound truck or companion video trailer.