Amp "timing" ?

I was reading someone raving about the impeccable "timing" of their high-end amp this morning.  I have heard this term tossed around several times recently in my dive back into highish-end audio. 

Can someone please explain what is meant by this term?  Is it snake-oil or confirmation bias?  I just don't understand how a human  can hear  a timing difference of a soundwave unless it's a 2nd+ order reflection.  

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I think this inquiry is best directed to the person who made the claim.
Well, I've even read it in Stereophile when they reviewed pre-amps.  It seems like there's a new hot topic of listening placebo every year or so.  I've seen people describe better/worse timing several times and just wondering if this is more audiofraud minutia or if it's a very clear distinction that can be relatively easily recognized by a critical listener. 
... just wondering if this is more audiofraud minutia or if it's a very clear distinction that can be relatively easily recognized by a critical listener.
This is the logical fallacy of the "excluded middle," aka tertium non datur.

There are things that might be considered timing issues in amps, but when used in the context of a review is probably referring to detail and has nothing to do with timing at all. There is this term- PRAT which is thought to be a British thing, which refers to Pace Rhythm And Timing.
But it should be quite obvious that an amplifier can't change the timing of music; IMO this has more to do with the amplifier being low enough of the bad kinds of distortion to which the ear is keenly sensitive so that the music is processed in the limbic centers of the brain rather than the cerebral cortex. There is a tipping point for this where if the unconscious brain sorts out that there is something wrong with the 'music' it transfers the music processing from one to the other. When this happens the emotional response to the music is lost or attenuated- less toe tapping...
I haven't seen any data that shows this is specific to actual time / phase effects.

I believe that what is meant is that the beats come through so transparently you get more involved in the rhythm of the music. This is probably more of a frequency / amplitude related effect than any actual time domain effect.

I just saw an instagram post by @absolutesound that says this:

"The finesse and muscle of the Naim NAP-500 combined with the Focal Diablo Utopia's speed: the recipe for an incredibly dynamic performance with eye-watering accuracy and timing."  

Why do I feel like we're being duped here.  If I told my 10 year old son to sit down and listen to the timing of this amp, he'd think the timing was awesome.  When it's really a mystical quality that no one knows how to describe.

I'm just getting tired of all the "and the veil was lifted" colour that people are adding to their reviews/opinions that have zero basis.

But I'm still open to this timing thing if it has a basis because I LOVE believing things sound different and better, I'm just not always convinced it's true.
All to do with accurate rise-time and decay of the electronics without overhang, ringing, or harmonic distortion.
Whether it was to this concept of, "timing" that, "someone" was referring(or not), here’s an explanation of, "PRAT"(whether anyone accepts it or not): (Timing is mentioned on the second page) " But it should be quite obvious that an amplifier can’t change the timing of music....", would be my stance as well, in the context of that article(ie: How tight a group might sound, in playback).
Why do I feel like we’re being duped here ... I’m just getting tired of all the "and the veil was lifted" colour that people are adding to their reviews/opinions that have zero basis. But I’m still open to this timing thing if it has a basis because I LOVE believing things sound different and better, I’m just not always convinced it’s true.
I suggest that you listen for yourself, and then decide. There's just no substitute for personal experience.
The only maeasurable parameter that might, and I emphasize might, be involved here is the amplifier slew rate, that is, how many volts/microsecond can it increase?
It's just another way to describe a component,cable,etc. that gives the impression of a livelier presentation.I have heard it myself when trying various tubes.
Ok cool now we're getting somewhere.  So the amount of time something kinda lingers like maybe a quick cymbol.  I would like to hear a "poor timed amp" next to a "good timed amp" to see exactly what I should be listening for. 

Any preferred Spotify tracks to carefully listen to where I might hear this?
Some amp /speaker combinations can sound plodding. It’s often referred to as slow in the bass. An analogy might be running in a pool vs on deck. The beats are on time but without speed or agility in a musical sense.
Amp timing can cause speaker plodding. When this happens, advance amp timing gradually until you hear PRAT, then back off a degree or so. 
Sound is essentially changes in air pressure over time so yes sound is directly time based and there are many factors in an amplifier (and speakers) that together can result in timing differences and differences in sound. A high degree of detail, imaging and sound stage in a good high end setup is a good indicator that things are going well in regards to timing.

Lets not even get into the timing issues that may also be in the recording to start with to similar ill effect. You just have to live with those and try not to make things worse.

Btw you can easily set this using track 3 of Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon.
A good musician will play on, behind, or ahead of the beat, resulting in the "feel" of a musical presentation...that’s timing, and if my hifi rig does any of those things on its own I’ll assume I’ve lost my mind.
Wolf, your mind is safe at least for now....
I was trapped into a "presentation" (in the late 80s maybe) at a stereo shop of why a Linn LP12 table, when compared to a Denon direct drive table, was more  rhythmically wasn't.
I was trapped into a "presentation" (in the late 80s maybe) at a stereo shop of why a Linn LP12 table, when compared to a Denon direct drive table, was more rhythmically wasn't
Regardless of your opinion about the turntables, it easy to see how a turntable could have an effect on timing. An amplifier, not so much.
PS - A lot of reviewers call "accurate" what I call "bright hearing aids."

Don't get me wrong, please buy what makes music sound good for you, but be aware that a lot of these "golden eared" reviewers are in the "golden age" of their hearing and don't want to admit it.
I hear a difference a little like mapman was referring to. One slight addition from my perspective to add, is for me, speakers do more of that then an amplifier. so my Thiel 2.4’s and 1.2’s and Spica TC60’s have what I perceive as a better timing impact than my Vienna Mozart Grands. But amplifiers do contribute and take away from that experience.
+1 erik
When I go to a dealer or a audio show I cannot believe people like to hear the sound thin, metallic, and boosted high frequencies.
When I go to Benaroya the orchestra sounds nothing like the million dollar (Seriously. Okay. Technically more like a million two.) stereo at Definitive. Mine does.

But we are getting a little OT. Regarding amp timing, which do you guys think works better for timing? Amp timing belt? Or chain?

It’s a concept held onto by Linnies (fans of the Linn Sondek turntable), now applied to even electronics. Art Dudley and Herb Reichert apply the term in their amp and pre-amp reviews in Stereophile, claiming something about the electronics effects the perceived timing of the playing of musicians. It’s such a purely subjective construct, with no way to quantify the degree involved.

I’m sure most here have no problem with the idea of tables and speakers---components with moving parts---being able to effect timing, but how would a pre-amp or amp do that? Art seems to believe electronics can "hold onto" a note too long, or can effect the "attack" (leading edge of a transient), thus effecting the timing of music.

Even more subjective is this new idea being used, that of a component being able to reproduce the "intent" of a musician. Try to quantify THAT!

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        My car mechanic stops by,  looks under the hood and uses a strobe light gun-thingy to set my amp's timing.  Changes the oil, too.

I'm not so sure that "timing" is the best adjective. Perhaps it refers to the ability of an amp to handle transient spikes in conjunction with damping factor to present an accurate representation of the original performance. But I'm just speculating here. Play on....
" PRAT are the most basic building blocks of a musical performance ". TNT audio...…..I personally came to the realization of it in the late 60s, but in my circle, it was Pace, Rhythm, Attack and Timing. I was a Linnie, and all gear was either good at it, or not. Make fun if you always, to each his own.....Enjoy ! MrD.
If you don't believe in PRAT, all you have to hear is a SLI-80 in comparison with VSI75. SLI-80 is slow in both directions, rise and decay and the decay is especially wrong, as in it hangs too long, too loud and then just stops. And that basically breaks everything, but especially sound staging. VSI75 is wide and deep, SLI80 is flat. I still have one SLI80 and it's a great background music piece, precisely because the PRAT is all wrong.
Comparing two power amplifiers I owned many years ago.: A Dynaco 410, and a GAS Ampzilla. Through any loudspeaker I owned at the time ( Klipsch Lascala; Dahlquist DQ10; Martin Logan CLS; AR3, and a pair of JBL monitors, ) the Dynaco was slow and ill defined compared to the Ampzilla. Although some tube amps sounded good on the Klipsch, they did not have prat. All the amps were " as new " from the manufacturers and had been "broken in ". I still feel tube amps have a problem in this area ( lets keep the attacks down please ). I have owned some beefy ss power amps that have " grip ", so to my ears, this is ime. If a system shows signs of anemic bass quality ( slow and ill defined ), I will move on. Sorry if I made anyone ( wolf ) cry. Enjoy ! MrD.
I have read about ’speed’ and ’timing’ in regard to components and could not get my head around what that meant. Probably neither are very good terms.

@jctf said:

"I have heard it myself when trying various tubes."

I’m a new audiophile with limited experience. But just last night I changed tubes in my AR LS-16 preamp with some tubes rodman99999 sent me to try out. My immediate impression was that everything sounded more laid back and the music did sound ’slower’ which I knew was not possible. It was really a shocking impression and I still don’t know how to describe it. Maybe it has to do with stridency. I don’t know.

The point being, I now have a understanding of what some folks might be trying to say and just don’t have good enough words to say it.
Negative feedback works great for steady state sine waves, which ain’t music

so let’s think about timing and Miller Carbons example....and be glad car timing does not depend on negative f/b

because I am actually a worshipper in several tents, I own and listen to a NAIM amp in the PRAT camp, along with 6 others....

most however are fairly low negative feedback

have fun

Also, words suck for describing music and anything Audiophile....
so I would think of PRAT in a less narrow fashion....

kinda like reading about... wine..... the howl of a tricked out flat 6, the swing of a sweet light double, the love of a good bird dog, maybe even women...,words

” written by an Italian Poet
from the thirteenth century”

Here's what I hear and I don't necessarily attribute it to the amp (though more about that in a minute): when my system sounds 'right' with a good recording, particularly of something like piano music, I hear the attack (with the fundamental) and the harmonics, which decay. There is an aspect of 'timing' to this that gives shape and body to the presentation of the instrument. That is different than what I understand to be "PRAT" and I'm not sure what to attribute it to beyond the recording. I do know that the amps I use on my main system-- the Lamm ML2 SET-- seem to contribute to this because I hear this aspect more through them than some other amps that have been in the system. I'm not staking out any absolute position on this, other than to observe what I hear as an end result. It could also be part of the rest of the chain-- starting with the phono cartridge- where I've heard more emphasis on leading edge with some cartridges (e.g. Lyra) than others ( Airtight). 
I have a Linn now, but my point was that those specific tables had absolutely the same speed, and the music presented was in identical pitch (which I'm extremely sensitive to, as are most people if they know it or not). Maybe the dealer should have been using a crappier table for comparison than an expensive direct drive Denon. I don't think "prat" is a particularly useful term and am glad it's seemingly fallen out of fashion as I rarely see it anymore, even in UK audio mags.

Belt or chain?


Gear drive!!!!!!
I was doing some tube rolling. I had a bunch in the phono pre and it sounded a little clearer on the night. Few days later, the sound wasn't great. Played an album, "Friends - Manifest!" Not great. Flat, musically all over the place. Put tubes back. Lots better. Everything snapped into focus including timing. 
@tomic601 : " the swing of a sweet light double"

I doubt many people here have any idea what that is referring to.
@n80 well with you, there are at least three of us that will get it....

nobody as yet bit on the Dylan, so my expectations are low...
I was reading someone raving about the impeccable "timing"
  Can someone please explain what is meant by this term?
It all starts with the source, if it doesn't have it then it can't be made up down the line properly, a device like the Schiit Loki can lift it artificially, but your not listening to a flat FR then

Cheers George

The only maeasurable parameter that might, and I emphasize might, be involved here is the amplifier slew rate, that is, how many volts/microsecond can it increase?

Slew rate really doesn’t effect how “quick” the amp is, though it seems like it would. All slew rate tells you is how much wattage it gives for a frequency range.

If you have a slew rate of 24V/microsecond and you have 100W into 8ohm (~80 Vpp, ~28Vrms), that means it’s frequency range is about 48kHz (meaning it can accurately reproduce 86kHz sampling rate).

(2π • 48000 • 80) / (1,000,000) = ~24

It’s not 1:1 with the impulse/decay response.
I tried rolling tubes one night on impulse. Bad pitch. One rolled right into the amp, threw the timing off so much it slewed right into the Schiit. 
noun (præt ) slang. incompetent or ineffectual person, a fool. Derogatory.

Accurately describes a fair segment of the audiophile community <weep>

IF someone speaks of the timing of a component, RUN, don’t walk away.
Systems have timing. Components only add or subtract from the overall effect. In one system, an amp could be stellar and another, meh. Change cables and reverse the rating.

Beginning with the microphone and continuing all the way through the loudspeakers, EVERY component introduces affects phase. Never forget there are probably two orders of magnitude more electronic stages contributing phase prior to the consumer source material. After that, player, cables, [preamp], amplifier, cables, louspeakers, ROOM.

Line conditions, temperature and load affect power supply phase, which contributes mightily.

Every so often the muses bestow their blessings and permit us to experience rapture.
When it happens, I expect to listen far into the wee hours.
Correct. Engine's have timing. Distributor's do not.