The effect of adding surface-active solutes to water being insonated at 515 kHz has been investigated by monitoring the acoustic emission from the solutions. At low concentrations (< 3 mM), sodium dodecyl sulfate causes marked changes to the acoustic emission spectrum which can be interpreted in terms of preventing bubble coalescence and declustering of bubbles within a cavitating bubble cloud. By conducting experiments in the presence of background electrolytes and also using non-ionic surfactants, the importance of electrostatic effects has been revealed. The results provide further mechanistic evidence for the interpretation of the effect of surface-active solutes on acoustic cavitation and hence on the mechanism of sonochemistry. The work will be valuable to many researchers in allowing them to optimize reaction and process conditions in sonochemical systems.