What do audiophiles mean when they talk about Pace, Rhythm & Timing?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Gretsch6136, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Gretsch6136

    Gretsch6136 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Hi all,

    Long time hi-fi buff here and musician. I've often read where someone changes a component or a cable and gets better PRaT. What the heck does this mean?

    To me, as a musician, PRaT is about the performance of a piece of music rather than its reproduction over a hi-fi. I'm finding it hard to understand what people are really referring to when they use this term in reference to a piece of kit.

    Pace = tempo. I interpret this to mean whatever they changed must now be playing at a different speed they like better (including a change in pitch coming from the speed change).

    Rhythm = a complex mix of time signature, phrasing, syncopation and accents. The only way I can see how a change in equipment can affect this is if the change causes a high level of compression or conversely expansion. Such a change could affect one's perception of rhythm, particularly rhythmic accents.

    Timing = how a musician feels time and sync's with other musicians. No idea how a piece of hifi equipment is gonna change this, unless it has audible wow and flutter!

    Anyone care to discuss and help a confused bloke out?
  2. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    East Coast, USA
    PRaT (n):

    The imaginary, non-measurable quality that makes a $2000 piece of hifi gear sound twice as good as a $1000 piece.

    Seriously, this discussion is as good as any:
    How Do You Explain PRaT to a Layman
  3. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I would say that you are correct.

    With reference to music reproduction, I believe that they are referencing increased dynamics, a more forward live sound.
    nosliw, jupiterboy and russk like this.
  4. andolink

    andolink Forum Resident

    Scottsdale, AZ
    S & M: (smoke and mirrors)

    To me also the terms are meaningless when applied to audio reproduction.
  5. Maggie

    Maggie funky but chic

    Toronto, Canada
    To be charitable, "audiophiles" have a tendency to have trouble expressing what they are hearing -- no surprise since we are talking about the most minute aesthetic differences -- and they tend to use terms that don't mean what they think they mean. For the most part, audiophiles aren't musicians, and vice versa (and none of them are scientists).

    So yeah, equipment can only affect pace, rhythm, or timing when there is a playback speed issue (e.g. with tape or vinyl decks).
    Al_D, seed_drill, Robert C and 4 others like this.
  6. Harbins_Grave

    Harbins_Grave Untitled Original 11383

  7. dividebytube

    dividebytube Forum Resident

    Grand Rapids, MI
    An example: I used to own an old McIntosh MC250 amplifier that was in need of new electrolytic capacitors. It was a warm sounding amplifier with lots of low bass that was a little underdamped. But once I compared the Mac to an *ARC D-52B SS amp, the latter sounded more defined / faster in the bass. This gave me a greater feel of the rhythm of the music, ie PRaT. At least that's my 2 cents.

    * The ARC however had it's own foibles - sounding a lot more lean and solid-statey.
    Ghostworld, timind and SandAndGlass like this.
  8. triple

    triple Forum Resident

    Zagreb, Croatia
    This phrase was coined by Naim users to explain the alleged superiority of their gear. It can be used elsewhere, but is inherent to that religion. Naim and PRAT go together like rastafarians and dreadlocks.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  9. grx8

    grx8 Forum Resident

    Santiago, Chile
    I have a Naim amp and having PRaT or not, it makes listening to music fun like no other amplifier I´ve had.
  10. ggergm

    ggergm red right returning

    I can give you a specific example of when a change in hardware improved the pace and rhythm of my system.

    A few years ago, I added a base and feet under my turntable. Here's the thread - Discs of Silence isolation feet. After I made the change, for the rest of the evening I played drum records as drums were so much tighter and prominent. The change revealed them better. The pace and rhythm of the drums were more audible.
    Dave likes this.
  11. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Florida, Central
    All I add....I thought I had finally got my Pace Rhythm and Timing perfect on my system.....Had a few drinks, and POOF...All focus was gone, the timing went out the window, and I was left with a half resolving system, that was Grain laden, and etched sounding....!
    tmtomh, WapatoWolf, DK Pete and 4 others like this.
  12. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    I think PRaT is a term invented by marketing mavens for salespeople to use when they sense that a prospective customer is enjoying a demo. As far as I personally know, PRaT originated as an inside joke.

    Here’s my take. In the UK, where the term originated as far as anyone can tell anecdotally, referring to someone as a prat is casually derogatory and funny - it’s a conbination of priss and twat. Marketing people who periodically encountered customers who waxed on and on nearly poetically about one piece of equipment or another, referred to such customers variously as twits, prats and a variety of other even less savoury things. Somebody, somewhere came up with the idea that if you re-coined the word prat as an acronym - i.e., as Pace, Rhythm & Timing - you could actually get away with using the word directly at customers. It evolved from there.

    There is no technical basis for PRaT. It’s completely invented. Nonetheless, plenty of people have come up with psuedo-technical explanations, none of which can actually be demonstrated. So we’re stuck with the term. Now, a whole generation later, most marketing and salespeople have forgotten the origin of the term, and simply use it as encouragement when they sense a customer really getting into the sound of a particular component being demo’ed. The salesperson pipes up and states, “You’re enjoying it? This component has great PRaT! That’s what you’re responding to. These speakers (or amp, integrated, turntable/cartridge combo, DAC, etc.) are fantastic.”

    It means that your mood, the quality of the amp, your personal sense of hearing, the music being played, and so on, are all aligned at that moment.
    sbayle, jtw, thxphotog and 16 others like this.
  13. tiller

    tiller Forum Resident

    I personally believe that when people talk of "PRaT" (what a silly term) they are mainly referring to a couple of measurable characteristics which mainly pertain to amplification and speakers. Perhaps the subtleties are mostly imperceptible, but there are measurable quantities that directly pertain to the idea. The term PRaT is obviously an invented one, as what qualitative descriptors are not? It is a qualitative way of describing a couple of attributes:

    - transient response: the time it takes the system to go from 0V to xV. This varies with the frequency of the input signal, i.e., the transient response for low frequencies is often different than that of high frequencies. This can affect a number of perceived things. For example, slow transient response (referred to as slew rate in reference to electrical responses) can affect the "snap" of a snare, or the initial attack of an upright bass, or kick drum. A deliberate and real-world analogue of this is during the mix stage of a record where mix engineers will use compressors as a way of controlling the initial attack of an instrument. These changes affect our perception of the timing and cohesiveness of an ensemble significantly. Obviously in a mixing situation this is an artistic choice, but the same principles apply to the transient response of your equipment: it is modifying the initial attack of instruments.

    Another way the transient response (slew rate) of your equipment can be related to the concept of "PRaT" is the fact that transient response is not linear across the entire frequency spectrum. I explain above how this characteristic can affect our perception of the attack, and thus the (micro) timing of a sound. When these transient responses differ across the frequency range of the equipment, then it is conceivable that we will perceive very small differences in the timing between instruments in an ensemble that occupy primarily different frequency ranges. For example, if the low frequency transient response is significantly longer/slower than that of the high frequency response it is possible we could hear the upright bass as being out of time with the hi-hat or vice versa. These differences are often very, very subtle, but they may be perceivable.

    - system resonances/system ringing: somebody touched on this above in their allegory of placing an isolation platform below their turntable. Whereas the transient response of a system can affect the attack of a sound, the system's resonances can affect the perception of the release (or end) of a sound. A real-life analogue would be a choir. Choirs place great emphasis on the timing of both the start and ends of their text. If a choir starts a word perfectly on time, but the end consonant is not exactly in time we perceive that as a smearing of the note. When both the attack and release of the sound is perfectly in time we perceive the ensemble as much more cohesive on a whole. You can extend this analogy to an electrical system where uncontrolled resonances affect the perception of the timing of signals.
    jfeldt, tmtomh, royzak2000 and 6 others like this.
  14. Guitarded

    Guitarded Forum Resident

    I think it's just a poetic way of saying 'Tightness'.

    Sort of like when guitarists talk about 'attack' and to a slightly lesser extent, 'Decay'.
    nosliw, Tim Müller and slovell like this.
  15. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Forum Resident

    New Mexico USA
    Thank you.

    It's so refreshing when the arid bickering between the subjective sonic oenophiles and the skeptical/objective denouncers of snake oil is interrupted with a lucid, non-reductive, acoustically literate account of the subtle interplay between music-making and listening.
    jfeldt and Fiddlefye like this.
  16. tiller

    tiller Forum Resident

    That is flattering of you to say, thank you!
  17. skimminstones

    skimminstones Forum Resident

    Bexley, UK
    To me S&M is a totally different thing ;)
    nosliw, Old Rusty, Merrick and 3 others like this.
  18. Pastafarian

    Pastafarian Forum Resident

    You may be right, I'm a Naim owner but when I first got my amp home it totally floored me. Can't remember the albums, after 26 years, however some sounded like a totally different band, for the better I should add.

    Of course any language trying to describe a metaphysical experience is bound to be flawed, it's just that we normally presume we understand the experience,just goes to show we're not normal:uhhuh:.
  19. juno6000

    juno6000 Forum Resident

    Pembroke Pines, FL
    Oddly enough, it is generally used to describe turntables that run slightly fast.
    I have never heard PRAT used to describe a DAC or CD player, for example.
    Very rarely an amp. Some do use the term to describe cables. Sometimes used to describe "fast speakers" such as Omega or others of that type.
    beowulf and Tim Müller like this.
  20. juno6000

    juno6000 Forum Resident

    Pembroke Pines, FL
    FOR THE WIN!!!!!
    H8SLKC likes this.
  21. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident

    PRAT: You know it when you hear it.
  22. Otlset

    Otlset The tree demon abides

    I think PRaT describes turntable performance as MOjO describes people performance.
  23. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    System synergy. Add a piece and you degrade the synergy No PRAT. Add a piece and you perceive a move towards what your perception is of live music, PRAT!
    Helom and Tim Müller like this.
  24. ggergm

    ggergm red right returning

    allegory: a symbolic representation (definition #2, Mirriam Webster)

    There was nothing symbolic about my example. It was a real life experience. As explained in my original thread, by focusing the turntable resonance to 4Hz, I greatly lowered its resonant energy in the audible range. By eliminating resonances, I heard a cleaner drum tone and better transient attack. As you can see, we are essentially in agreement as to the source of improved PRaT. My point here was to reject the "smoke and mirrors" put-downs by some posters in this thread and demonstrate that improving PRaT through a hardware upgrade is very possible. I did it.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  25. tiller

    tiller Forum Resident

    I meant to say anecdote. I think it was pretty obvious that I was arguing in favour of your experiences.

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