Working memory is the type of memory that allows one to hold information in mind while working on a task or problem. The present study investigated attention-independent auditory sensory ('echoic') memory in 18 schizophrenic participants and 17 controls. Schizophrenic participants showed impaired delayed tone matching performance in comparison with controls. However, when groups were matched for performance at 1 s by varying the difficulty of the task across groups, schizophrenic participants showed normal retention of information as reflected in normal tone matching performance. These findings demonstrate that schizophrenic participants show working memory deficits even in extremely simple tasks and that the critical deficit in schizophrenia may be in the sensitivity of the system rather than the duration for which memory traces are retained.