To determine the level at which certain response characteristics originate, we compared monaural auditory responses of neurons in ventral cochlear nucleus, nuclei of lateral lemniscus and inferior colliculus. Characteristics examined were sharpness of frequency tuning, latency variability for individual neurons and range of latencies across neurons. Exceptionally broad tuning curves were found in the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus, while exceptionally narrow tuning curves were found in the inferior colliculus. Neither specialized tuning characteristic was found in the ventral cochlear nuclei. All neurons in the columnar division of the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus maintained low variability of latency over a broad range of stimulus conditions. Some neurons in the cochlear nucleus (12%) and some in the inferior colliculus (15%) had low variability in latency but only at best frequency. Range of latencies across neurons was small in the ventral cochlear nucleus (1.3-5.7 ms), intermediate in the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus (1.7-19.8 ms) and greatest in the inferior colliculus (2.9-42.0 ms). We conclude that, in the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus and in the inferior colliculus, unique tuning and timing properties are built up from ascending inputs.