The shape of a wave carries all information about the spatial and temporal
structure of its source, given that the medium and its properties are known.
Most modern imaging methods seek to utilize this nature of waves originating
from Huygens' principle. We discuss the retrieval of the complete kinetic
energy distribution from the acoustic trace that is recorded when a short ion
bunch deposits its energy in water. This novel method, which we refer to as
Ion-Bunch Energy Acoustic Tracing (I-BEAT), is a generalization of the
ionoacoustic approach. Featuring compactness, simple operation,
indestructibility and high dynamic ranges in energy and intensity, I-BEAT is a
promising approach to meet the needs of petawatt-class laser-based ion
accelerators. With its capability of completely monitoring a single, focused
proton bunch with prompt readout it, is expected to have particular impact for
experiments and applications using ultrashort ion bunches in high flux regimes.
We demonstrate its functionality using it with two laser-driven ion sources for
quantitative determination of the kinetic energy distribution of single,
focused proton bunches.