William Ralston Listening Library and Archive

The William Ralston Listening Library plaqueThe William Ralston Listening Library and Archive is located on the second floor of duPont Library at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. This state-of-the-art facility offers an unparalleled teaching and learning resource and was created in memory of beloved Sewanee professor Father William Ralston, C’51. It houses his world-class collection of recordings and features the best sound playback system available. The heart of the Ralston Listening Library is the nationally acclaimed acoustically designed loudspeaker listening room, able to reproduce the full impact of concert music without strain or distortion. This elegant, cherry-paneled room is equipped with the world's finest audio and video components, centered on the room's pair of Wilson Alexandria XLF Loudspeakers. It has been described by experts as "unique in the United States and perhaps the world," certainly the finest facility of its kind at any college or university in America.

The headphone listening room at the Ralston Listening Library

The Crawford headphone listening room

This listening room holds over 15,000 records as well as rare scores and books about music. An adjacent room with high-density storage provides access to over 15,000 compact discs.  In addition to physical media, the listening room is equipped with TIDAL hi-fidelity streaming, providing access to over 35 million uncompressed recordings. The University's circulating collection of 7,000 audio recordings is also located next door to the loudspeaker listening room. A separate headphone listening room with turntables, CD players, and digital music storage allows students to listen to uncompressed music on high-quality equipment.  A 3,000 square foot reading room containing duPont Library's music books and scores provides the most popular study space on campus.

On a normal school day during the semester, the Ralston Library is alive with activity, as students at the University host and attend listening sessions and film showings, professors teach classes, and community members and visitors from all over browse the collection and experience the full impact of the playback system. And year-round, audiophiles and music lovers from around the world find their way to Sewanee to hear music played on state-of-the-art equipment in an elegantly designed, acoustically thrilling space.

The gallery outside of the Ralston Listening Library

The Savannah Room gallery

"An absolutely seamless soundfield from top to bottom. You simply do not hear the individual drivers. This results in a frighteningly life-like presentation that is absolutely addicting." Frank Berryman, Ultra High-end Audio Review

"The Ralston Music Listening Library is unique in the United States and perhaps the world."
John Marks, Ultra High-end Audio Review

"I had the uncanny feeling that I was hearing everything at some indefinably high level of resolution. Breathtaking."
Jonathan Scull, Stereophile Magazine

Make a gift to support the operations of the Ralston Listening Library.

View our current Audio Equipment List

The William Ralston Listening Library is free to visit and open every weekday for drop-by visits during listening hours, and listening events are held almost every day. Appointments are also available outside of open listening hours and on weekends.


Read about the project in Stereophile magazine

Read about the project in Sewanee Magazine

Visit our Facebook page

The project was featured as a hidden treasure at OnlineSchoolCenter.com

And featured on Cross Country Songbook's blog

Tam Carlson


Thomas Carlson
Professor of English
The University of the South

For appointments and general information, email the curating staff at ralstonlistening@gmail.com.