Source characteristics significantly affect the signals generated during seismic testing. Proper source selection plays a major role in data quality and can potentially improve investigation outcomes. This is particularly true for surface wave testing where the goal is to establish the frequency variation of phase velocity. Little research has compared the input energy caused by different base plates when impact sources are used. Consequently, data were collected using the Multichannel Analysis of Surface Waves (MASW) method with three base plate configurations (aluminum, aluminum over a rubber mat, and polyethylene) and two different sledgehammers. The variations in signal frequency content and amplitude spectra, energy, and dispersion images were systematically analyzed. There were appreciable differences in the energy introduced by different base plate configurations. Both the aluminum/rubber and the polyethylene base plates led to power spectra increases relative to the aluminum base plate. Subsequently, the aluminum/rubber and polyethylene base plates typically transferred more energy into the subsurface. This was not necessarily the case when the base plates were used on soft surficial soils. The variations in predominant frequency content were also less substantial, though the aluminum/rubber and polyethylene base plates developed slightly lower-frequency content at the expense of higher-frequency components in the dispersion curves. Despite the noticeable differences in energy transfer and frequency content, the base plate materials did not appreciable alter interpretation of the dispersion behavior at the sites given the uncertainty present in the dispersion images. This highlights that the selection of MASW base plate materials can be correspondingly driven by practical considerations such as noise, portability, and durability. Consequently, base plate materials with viscoelastic characteristics are a promising alternative to conventional metallic plates for coupling impact sources in surface wave testing, though care should be exercised when employing them at sites with soft ground conditions.

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