Nonlinear wave propagation in materials, where distribution function of mesoscopic mechanical elements has very different scales of variation along and normally to diagonal of Preisach–Mayergoyz space, is analyzed. An evolution equation for strain wave, which takes into account localization of element distribution near the diagonal and its slow variation along the diagonal, is proposed. The evolution equation provides opportunity to model propagation of elastic waves with strain amplitudes comparable to and even higher than characteristic scale of element localization near Preisach–Mayergoyz space diagonal. Analytical solutions of evolution equation predict nonmonotonous dependence of wave absorption on its amplitude in a particular regime. The regime of self-induced absorption for small-amplitude nonlinear waves is followed by the regime of self-induced transparency for high-amplitude waves. The developed theory might be useful in seismology, in high-pressure nonlinear acoustics, and in nonlinear acoustic diagnostics of damaged and fatigued materials. © 2002 Acoustical Society of America.