We examined relationships between the phase of narrow-band electroencephalographic (EEG) activity at stimulus onset and the resultant event-related potentials (ERPs) in an auditory oddball task, varying both stimulus intensity and active vs. passive task requirements between groups. We used a novel conceptualisation of orthogonal phase effects (cortical negativity vs. positivity, negative driving vs. positive driving, waxing vs. waning). This study focused on the operation of three previously-reported phase-influenced mechanisms, involving prestimulus amplitudes, poststimulus amplitude changes, and the prestimulus contingent negative variation (CNV), in various EEG frequency bands. ERP responses to the standard stimuli were analysed. Prestimulus narrow-band EEG activity (in 1 Hz bands from 1 to 13 Hz) at Cz was assessed for each trial using digital filtering. For each frequency, the cycle at stimulus onset was used to sort trials into four phases, for which ERPs were derived from both the filtered and unfiltered EEG activity at Fz, Cz, and Pz. The occurrence of preferred phase-defined brain states was confirmed at a number of frequencies, crossing the traditional frequency bands. These preferred states were associated with more efficient processing of the stimulus, as reflected in differences in latency and/or amplitude of all ERP components, and provided evidence of the operation of the three separate phase-influenced mechanisms. The preferred brain states occurred similarly across groups, suggesting that they reflect reflexive aspects of brain function associated with the timing of the stimuli, rather than voluntary attention. The impact on markers of cognitive function, such as the P3, suggests their important contributions to the efficiency of brain dynamics involved in perceptual and cognitive processing.