The objective of this paper is to characterize partial discharge (PD) inception voltages and patterns at sinusoidal and square voltages in insulating ceramic substrates with generic manufacturing defects. PD tests were conducted on active metal brazed (AMB) aluminum nitride (AlN) substrates either with cavities in the polymer coating or sharp protrusions of the metal brazing. The substrates were tested in silicone liquid instead of silicone gel. Light sensitive imaging was used to localize the PD sites on the surface. PDs at square voltage with rise time of 1,6 μs were measured with a high-frequency current transformer and a photomultiplier. In both substrate types, the peak-peak value of the PD inception voltage (PDIV) was higher at sinusoidal voltage compared to peak-peak value of the square wave. This difference was more pronounced in uncoated substrates where discharges incepted at sharp edges surrounded by silicone liquid. For both types of defects, comparable PDIVs were measured at bipolar and unipolar square waves. Results for unipolar pulses are discussed considering the role of charge memory effect.