The best audio in the world, and on our campus?: A review of the Ralston Listening Room

Thomas Walker   
Contributing Writer

The Ralston Listening Library provides a unique experience to students by allowing them to hear music at the highest possible fidelity. The room’s speakers are some of the best in the world, but what really makes the experience stand out is the room itself.  English Professor Thomas “Tam” Carlson (C ’63) described how the room was planned out by Chris Huston, who Carlson said was “maybe the most important acoustic engineer in the world.” He also toured with The Beatles’ John Lennon. 

“He spent months working on the room and did 21 different drawings until he hit on the right design,” Carlson said. “It started in 2003 and wasn’t finished until 2011. We had dozens of additional designers come in and volunteer to work on it because they were so interested in the project.” 

The combination of speaker system and custom designed room make the room what Stereophile Magazine described as “one of a kind.” The room is specially made with a soundproofing concrete that is equivalent to ten feet of sheetrock. This allows the room to act as an anechoic chamber (a room that does not echo) so the room distorts the sound as little as possible. 

The room is so special it almost begs the question: why is it here? The Ralston Listening Library was created in the memory of the late professor Father William Ralston and seeks to continue his love of sharing high fidelity music with students. This explains why, unlike almost any other comparable listening room, the Ralston Listening Library is open to students. Carlson said while “the double doors may look intimidating” they love to have students come by and listen to our sessions or even their own music. The listening sessions are run by the staff and work-study students of The Ralston Room, and weekly emails are often sent out to students to let them know which hours of the day they can hear their favorite music played aloud, and which hours they can come in and pick their own music. The Ralston Listening Library is open Monday through Thursday from 4-9 P.M. and on Fridays from 4-5 P.M..