MR spectroscopy (MRS) has been used to analyse noninvasively tissues at a molecular level. Hydrogen and phosphorus MRS have been used for characterisation of intracranial solid and cystic masses, gynaecological tumours and lymph nodes. We report a cystic, tick-walled mass in the soft tissues of the neck. Single-voxel proton MRS revealed a prominent acetate peak at 1.92 ppm and a diagnosis of abscess was suggested. At operation a pyogenic neck abscess was confirmed, with culture of the pus.