Which do you prefer and why: studio or live recordings?

I was just reading a review of Flaming Lips’ and Colorado Symphony’s collaboration on The Soft Bulletin over at audiophilereview.com. It got me thinking about the similarities and differences between live and studio recordings and what my preferences are between the two. In general, my preference is for the studio version of songs unless there is concert video to go with the live recording. I don’t think live recordings sound as good and in general I would rather hear the music than people screaming. This preference generally holds even in “ideal cases” - for lack of better term. For example, Steven Wilson in both his solo work and when he was leader of Porcupine Tree has established a track record of producing audiophile-grade recordings. His studio album work sounds phenomenal. One would think that would translate to his live recordings. And maybe his live records are technically good for what they are, it’s just that what they are isn’t as good, IMO. His “Home Invasion” concert recording does sound really good and engaging on blu-ray in surround with video to go with it, but the 2-channel version is lacking. Give me the studio versions of the same songs all the time every time. Another example is Rush’s Time Machine concert - great on blu-ray, but the 2 channel audio-only recordings of those songs do not compete with the studio versions, IMO.

So, what’s your preference and why? No wrong answers. I know some really like live albums and I would love to hear your thoughts.

A couple caveats I’ll throw out too. Most symphonic/orchestral works are live recordings and that’s just what they are. That’s not what this question is about. There are some iconic live recordings too, such as Metallica’s S&M record or Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me”. This question is about when there are popular and directly comparable versions of both live and studio for the same track. Thanks to all in advance!

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Depends on the band and music genre.


Studio definitively. Don’t like live at all…

For the most part I’d take studio, there are some Frank Zapper and for that matter Dweezil Zapper Live recordings I prefer, but it’s not because of the musical performance it’s because they tell cool stories on stage.

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I would say most of the time, studio recordings. But that is mainly because it can be difficult to properly record a live venue. But when it’s done right, it is amazing (Alice in Chains Live MTV Unplugged is a great example).


The telling a story on stage aspect is likely why I enjoy concert videos. This is a good observation.

Yes! I particularly like “It’s Over Now” from that record.


Nutshell from that album still gets me to tear up.

Live is my fav but most bands suck live and this studio is needed.

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I think I want to hear live music if that’s what the band is known for. I’d always start up a Grateful Dead bootleg before I would ever think about their studio albums. But a band known for their studio and production work like Steely Dan, or more recently, Beck, I would always want to hear the best possible audio quality. I love a lot of 70s prog rock and most of that translates pretty poorly to live recordings. Even when it works, I’d still probably prefer the studio.

And to contradict everything I’ve just said, I also really like live performances where the focus is on the vocals. I like when singers can pull it off without all the studio help to cover up the flaws

I think a lot of it depends on how the band develops their live sets. Some just pick an assortment of songs and sing them without much care for the venue, while others write songs specifically to be performed live (particularly classic rock bands). Queen is the only band I have entire live albums for though. Actually, I have Hendrix at Monterey, Isle of Wight and Woodstock

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Studio audio.
Live DVDs/Blurays.
And show tickets. :grinning:

One strange exception to this… I swear the Slayer “Decade of Aggression” live CDs sound better than their entire discography. They just recorded the show, put in on the CD, unmodified, and the raw result is impressive.


Another exception…

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I’m all about a album experience listening to a well crafted album from start to finish is one of my favorite things to do. While I e joy love recordings. I definitely prefer the sound of a good studio recorded album

Love the Alice In Chains unplugged. Probably more than most of their studio recorded.

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Me too, classic album.

Down in a hole and would are my go to’s there. I love watching the video too. It’s just crazy watching how laynes so chill and not even trying but voice projects so amazingly.

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Yeah, there aren’t any bad performances on that album. Again, Would, Sea of Sorrow, Nutshell and Rooster are my all time favorites by them.

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I agree! Lots of the MTV unplugged are a great example of this. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Lauren Hill.

Eric frickin’ Clapton??!?

I mean, Eric Clapton Unplugged singlehandedly defined the live acoustic album!!

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Eric Clapton, the man that has played 30 years the same songs… lol.