We examined whether the detection of audio-visual temporal synchrony is determined by a pre-attentive parallel process, or by an attentive serial process using a visual search paradigm. We found that detection of a visual target that changed in synchrony with an auditory stimulus was gradually impaired as the number of unsynchronized visual distractors increased (experiment 1), whereas synchrony discrimination of an attended target in a pre-cued location was unaffected by the presence of distractors (experiment 2). The effect of distractors cannot be ascribed to reduced target visibility nor can the increase in false alarm rates be predicted by a noisy parallel processing model. Reaction times for target detection increased linearly with number of distractors, with the slope being about twice as steep for target-absent trials as for target-present trials (experiment 3). Similar results were obtained regardless of whether the audio-visual stimulus consisted of visual flashes synchronized with amplitude-modulated pips, or of visual rotations synchronized with frequency-modulated up-down sweeps. All of the results indicate that audio-visual perceptual synchrony is judged by a serial process and are consistent with the suggestion that audio-visual temporal synchrony is detected by a 'mid-level' feature matching process.