Energy dissipation is observed on seismic data when a wave propagates through a porous medium, involving different frequency regimes depending on the nature of rock and fluid types. We focus here on the role of partial fluid saturation in unconsolidated porous media, looking in particular at P-wave phase velocity and attenuation. The study consists in running an experiment in a sand-filled tank partially saturated with water. Seismic propagation in the tank is generated in the kHz range by hitting a steel ball on a granite plate. Seismic data are recorded by buried accelerometers and injecting or extracting water controls the partial saturation. Several imbibition/drainage cycles were performed between the water and gas residual saturations. A Continuous Wavelet Transform applied on seismic records allowed us to extract the direct P wave at each receiver. We observe an hysteresis in phase velocities and inverse quality factors between imbibition and drainage. Phase velocities and inverse quality factors are then jointly inverted to get a final poro-viscoelastic model of the partially saturated sand that satisfactorily reproduces the data. The model formulation consists in generalizing the Biot theory to effective properties of the fluid and medium (permeability and bulk modulus) to properly explain the phase velocity variation as a function of the saturation. The strong level of attenuation measured experimentally is further explained by an anelastic effect due to grain to grain sliding, adding to Biot’s losses. This study shows that fluid distribution at microscopic scale has strong influence on the attenuation of direct P waves at macroscopic scale and confirms that seismic prospection may be a powerful tool for the characterization of transport phenomena in porous media.