Abstract Objective Autism is a form of pervasive developmental disorder in which dysfunction in interpersonal relationships and communication is fundamental. This study evaluated neurophysiological abnormalities at the basic level of language processing, i.e. automatic change detection of speech and non-speech sounds, using magnetoencephalographic recording of mismatch response elicited by change in vowels and tones. Methods The auditory magnetic mismatch field (MMF) was evaluated in 9 adults with autism and 19 control subjects using whole-head magnetoencephalography. The MMF in response to the duration change of a pure tone or vowel /a/ and that in response to across-phoneme change between vowels /a/ and /o/, were recorded. Results The groups were not significantly different in MMF power under any conditions. However, the autism group showed a left-biased latency prolongation of the MMF particularly under the across-phoneme change condition, and this latency delay was significantly associated with greater symptom severity. Conclusions These results suggest that adults with autism are associated with delayed processing for automatic change detection of speech sounds. These electrophysiological abnormalities at the earliest level of information processing may contribute to the basis for language deficits observed in autism. Significance These results provide the first evidence for delayed latency of phonetic MMF in adults with autism.