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The generation of acoustic waves in metals by pulsed laser irradiation over a wide range of material conditions has been studied. Capacitance transducers have been used to obtain quantitative measurements of the amplitude of bulk acoustic waveforms where the laser beam was directed onto free metal surfaces in the presence and absence of surface plasmas, and onto modified metal surfaces. The application of acoustic wave propagation theory has allowed theoretical waveforms to be determined. By combining data for thermoelastic and normal force sources, waveforms have been produced that follow closely those measured experimentally.