Seventeen piston cores up to 13 m long were recovered from representative acoustic and lithologic environments of the Hatteras and Nares Abyssal Plains in the western North Atlantic. Compressional-wave velocities (corrected to in situ conditions) and bulk physical properties measured on the cores are used to characterize the acoustic framework of these areas. For correlation with conventional seismic data, whole-core averages of properties are a better index to the acoustic nature of abyssal plain sediments than properties of the upper few centimeters of the seafloor because (1) strong changes in lithofacies (and acoustic properties) occur over depth scales of tens of centimeters to meters in the sediment column, and (2) conventional seismic frequencies of 3.5 kHz or less sample these variations to subbottom depths of tens of meters and more. Whole-core properties are a function of the thickness and distribution of high-velocity silt and sand layers in the core; they vary in a complex fashion with proximity to the source of turbidity currents, distance from axial paths of turbidity-current flows, local and regional basin geometry, and seafloor slope. Thus strongly reflective seabed regions with numerous high-velocity layers are not restricted simply to near-source areas nor are weakly reflective seabed regions (clay sediments only) limited to ''distal'' areas. Whole-core properties show a good qualitative correlation to variations in 3.5-kHz reflection profiles, and 3.5-kHz echo character therefore provides a useful means of mapping general acoustic properties over large regions of abyssal plains.