For example, if the toms and cymbals don't sound natural to you, then you start paying more attention to that element, and this, in turn, throws off the "timing" of the whole performance in terms of how you experience it.
A creative hypothesis, one of the better I have seen to explain PRaT.
I am not a toe-tapper by nature, partially as a result of classical training (an orchestral musician does not tap his feet). PRaT has never made sense to me as a meaningful audio concept; it has always merely appeared as a way to make a highly subjective judgment of “I like it and get into the music” appear quantifiable and objective. And claim it is a result of minute differences in timing.
If you are a toe-tapper, whether the playback makes you do so is a useful test. But I am not convinced this is grounded in timing.
Whenever I write a review, I try to refrain from using jargon like PRaT. A linguist or rhetorician would have loads of fun with a phrase that tries to cram three distinctly different phenomena to into a single phrase. Yet, I understand why someone would attempt such a feat in the world of audio.
I think most of us “seasoned” folk can agree that it’s a feeble acronym and that we should strive to find a better way of talking about what we hear.
I fully concede that my ultimate response to equipment (and now “operating systems”) is wildly subjective. For example, I’ve heard some pretty crummy tube preamplifiers in my life. So, I can’t say that tube preamps are better than solid state preamplifiers. On the other hand, when I hear two equally matched preamplifiers, there is always something about the one that employs tubes that elicits a more intense emotioinal response in me. My brain tells me that this should not be. The solid state preamplifier produces better measurement results. It produces less noise. Some sounds that come out of it are more defined and easier to hear. Nonetheless, I enjoy listening to the tube preamplifier more. The difference is that I “like” the solid state preamp and am even impressed by its performance (what it can do), but I utterly LOVE how the tube preamplifier makes me feel. Rather than merely performing for me, the tube preamplifier involves me in the music. Somehow, it manages to help me suspend my disbelief and feel as though I am hearing a live performance as opposed to a mere recording of one.
Helping the audience to “suspend disbelief” is one of the most important goals of all great performing artists. Exactly how this is done cannot be easily measured or easily accomplished. A common misconception is that “accuracy” is the only way to “trick” the audience into believing that something is real. In fact, some of the most effective performances involve all kinds of “distortion” and “misdirection.”
Instead of using jargon like PRaT, I prefer to say that a piece of equipment or recorded music did a good job of making me forget that it’s part of a forgery and that it helped me to feel connected to or involved with the performance.
Best I can do at midnight.