Evolution of sound in a relaxing gas whose properties vary in the course of wave propagation, is studied. A relaxing medium may reveal normal acoustic properties or be acoustically active. In the first case, losses in acoustic energy lead to an increase in internal energy of a gas similarly as it happens in Newtonian fluids. In the second case, acoustic energy increases in the course of sound propagation, and the internal energy of a medium decreases. Variations in the internal energy of a gas are proportional to some generic parameter, the sign of which is responsible for acoustical activity, and depends on intensity and shape of the sound waveform. Hysteresis curves in the plane of thermodynamic states are plotted. Curves for harmonic and several aperiodic sound impulses are plotted, discussed and compared.