High spatial density recording and better topographic mapping algorithms have improved the spatial resolving power of the event-related potential (ERP), adding to its already excellent temporal resolution. This study used a 64 channel recording array and spherical spline interpolation to create topographic descriptions of the voltage and current density scalp distributions of the ERP in an auditory oddball paradigm. Frequent (standard) and infrequent (target) tones were presented at a rate of one every approximately 2500 ms to a group of 20 college undergraduates in passive listening and active (count the infrequent tones) task blocks. ANOVAs and topographic analyses were performed on the primary deflections in the 'late' portion of the ERP: the P1, N1, P2, N2 and P3. A target minus standard difference wave was also created for each task. The difference wave contained a mismatch negativity (MMN), an N2b and a P3d. The MMN did not differ between the passive and active tasks and had a topography similar to the N1; also the difference wave P3d was topographically similar to the target P3. The N2b, which occurred only to targets in the active condition, and was the first index of target detection, had a scalp distribution consistent with generation in frontal and superior temporal cortex, suggesting activity in cortical areas of selective attention and auditory stimulus representation.