Here's why, KellyI know it may seem wrong, Kelly. But here's why it's right. An orchestra, or acoustic ensemble (forget amplified forms of music such as rock, pop, country, etc...because these must go through electronics in order to even exist...and the electronics will impart different characteristics upon the sound every day, in every environment) playing the same music night after night in different acoustic environments will sound different in so many ways from day to day. Tempos will change a little bit. Balance among instruments/voices will change a little bit. Environmental conditions under which the musicians are performing will change a little bit. The health and mood of the players will change a little bit. The result is that a live performance by the same musicians of the same music on two different days will change far more significantly than a recording of a single event heard on two different systems (or on headphones, then on speakers).
All of the above conditions (acoustics of the recording space, environmental conditions, tempos, instrumental/vocal balance/etc.) are locked in place FOREVER on a recording. They NEVER change. This is why I believe a recording with which you are intimately familiar (a cd of a favorite musician/group which you've heard so many times that you have all parts memorized) is infinitely more valuable for judging reproduction of equipment than a random live musical performance you may have attended. ESPECIALLY if any part of the live preformance was amplified! If an "Absolute Sound" (or absolute reference) exists at all for live music, it certainly only exists for unamplified ACOUSTIC music!
So yes, I'll state it again...and I think the truth is obvious. There are far more variables influencing the sound of live music from day to day than a recording. Certainly the variables (at the recording site) DID exist at the time of the recording. But the recording process locked them in place PERMANENTLY so that they're not an un-varying part of the original event. They NEVER change. So again, Kelly I'll say it...there are fewer variables when using recordings as a reference than live music, so I do believe that recordings are more valuable!
In my opinion the ONLY situation in which a live event is a valuable reference to reproduced music is when you were present at the time of the recording, and witnessed firsthand what the musicians sounded like in that particular acoustic space on that day, and the way the equipment being used affected the recording/reproduction of that sound (certainly even the finest recording gear will have made major changes to the way the music sounded in the room!) Only with that reference (the music sounded like THIS, and the signal having passed through mic/mixer/recorder sounded like THAT) can it (live music) be valid for making meaningful comparisons! Only those present at the original session know for sure how the recording gear, and production process imposed themselves on the final sound! If we weren't there, we can never know for sure!