The 10 Best Stethoscopes

Updated June 03, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Stethoscopes
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. After paying the outrageous costs of medical school, any new doctor would appreciate a gift of one of these stethoscopes as he or she begins a career of caring for others. We've also included high-end models ideal for currently practicing physicians along with a few that come in funky colors and styles, for those medical personnel who like to display some personality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best stethoscope on Amazon.

10. RA Bock Single Head

The RA Bock Single Head is 27 inches long, which is the perfect length to reach patients comfortably without having to lean over too much, and also to stay out of the way when not in use and worn around the neck. It comes with black and cherry red ear tips.
  • includes a spare diaphragm
  • ear tips stay securely in place
  • a bit too heavy
Brand RA Bock Diagnostics
Model master_cardio
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Omron Sprague Rappaport

The versatile Omron Sprague Rappaport is a budget-priced model that includes three different sizes of open bells, two sizes of diaphragms, and interchangeable ear tips. It is best suited to medical students, though, or as a backup unit.
  • includes a vinyl storage case
  • chestpiece isn't very sensitive
  • difficult to clean
Brand Omron
Model 416-22-BLK
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. 3M Littmann Lightweight II

The 3M Littmann Lightweight II is comfortable to wear around the neck for hours on end, yet still performs admirably in loud environments. The chestpiece was designed with a teardrop shape to make it easier to slip under blood pressure cuffs.
  • colors don't fade
  • comes with access to a helpful app
  • not suitable for cardiology
Brand 3M Littmann
Model 2450
Weight 7.5 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Vorfreude Cardiology

The Vorfreude Cardiology proves that you don't need to spend a ton of money to get a decent stethoscope. The headset is anatomically angled and it even comes with a free penlight to check pupils, making it a great gift for any medical practitioner.
  • anti-corrosion mirrored finish
  • louder than comparably priced models
  • not overly durable
Brand Vorfreude
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. 3M Littmann Classic III

The 3M Littmann Classic III is a good choice for recent medical school graduates who can't afford a top of the line model but still want something that works as well as more expensive units. The chestpiece comes in your choice of six finishes.
  • smooth and easy to clean
  • stain-resistant tubing
  • an adult and pediatric side
Brand 3M Littmann
Model 5870
Weight 12.5 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. MDF Pulse

The MDF Pulse has a digital and analog clock built into the chestpiece so you can take heartbeat measurements while looking at your patient, instead of your watch. It's ideal for doctors and nurses who like to offer the best bedside manner possible.
  • free parts for life warranty
  • includes three sizes of ear tips
  • amplifies sound clearly
Brand MDF Instrument
Model MDF74008
Weight 14.7 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Ultrascope Adult

The Ultrascope Adult comes in your choice of seven different colors and eight unique designs, so there is a style for everybody. It can be used on human and animal patients and allows the user to easily hear a heartbeat even in loud environments.
  • beautifully hand painted
  • latex-free to avoid skin irritation
  • works through clothing
Brand UltraScope
Model UA038LPHP
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

3. MDF ER Premier

Good for emergency room physicians and first responders, the MDF ER Premier is made from stainless steel that effectively transfers even the quietest sounds. The diaphragm itself is super sensitive and it contains a non-chill-retaining ring.
  • convertible pediatric chestpiece
  • dual-lumen design
  • extremely well-built
Brand MDF Instrument
Model MDF797DD11
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. ADC Adscope 615 Platinum

The ADC Adscope 615 Platinum has a lightweight diaphragm that won't become burdensome after keeping it around your neck for 8 to 12 hours a day. The headset is held by a reinforced yoke that ensures it will stand up to years of regular use.
  • comes with a scope id tag
  • impressive quality for the price
  • available in 10 different colors
Brand ADC
Model 615ST
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. 3M Littmann Master Cardiology

The 3M Littmann Master Cardiology features a chestpiece that delivers one of the highest-quality acoustic performances possible. Designed for true clarity, its tunable diaphragm can capture both high and low frequency sounds.
  • almost no noise interference
  • slightly angled headset for comfort
  • soft ear tips create a nice seal
Brand 3M Littmann
Model 2161
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

An Acoustic Tool Of The Trade

If it's just about time for your annual physical or you require a trip to the doctor's office, it's likely that your doctor will use a series of tools to determine your current state of general health. You'll more than likely see your physician use an otoscope to look inside your ear canals, a scale to check your weight, a reflex hammer to check for neurological abnormalities, and a stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat and breathing.

It is the stethoscope that is most closely associated with a trip to the doctor's office, particularly for kids who need regular checkups. Regardless of the situation, the stethoscope is a necessary part of the medical tool arsenal that a doctor has at his or her disposal.

The stethoscope is an acoustic medical device for listening to the internal sounds of a person or animal's body parts. This listening action is often referred to as auscultation. A doctor or nurse will often use a stethoscope to listen for abnormal rhythms of a person's heartbeat, breathing irregularities, compromised lung functions, intestinal noises, and to monitor blood pressure.

Stethoscopes are composed of three major parts that include the chest piece, tubing, and the headset. The chest piece consists of both a diaphragm and bell. The diaphragm is made up of a plastic piece residing inside a silver metal piece. It is this silver metal piece that actually touches a patient. The bell detects sounds at low pitches, while the diaphragm detects those at high pitches. The tubing is usually made of a combination of sturdy rubber and metal. It connects the chest piece to the headset.

The tubing is primarily responsible for carrying the sounds, detected by both the bell and diaphragm, directly to the headset. The rubber portion of the tubing connects to metal tubing closest to the headset, which ultimately directs sound to the doctor's ears. Eartips at the end of the metal tubing are usually insulated with rubber to minimize the impact of surrounding noise on a doctor's interpretation of the sounds he or she is listening to when examining a patient. Just as the eardrum vibrates when sound waves pass through it, so does the diaphragm on a stethoscope's chest piece. The vibrations move through the rubber tubing, through the metal tubes, and into a doctor's ears.

The two major types of stethoscopes include acoustic and electronic. Acoustic stethoscopes are the most familiar and operate via sound transmission from their chest pieces. Electronic stethoscopes are capable of amplifying a detected body sound; they operate wirelessly, and can even record sound waves for review on a computer if necessary.

This device makes individual body sounds easy to distinguish and it's not painful to the patient. Although the stethoscope is usually associated with the medical profession, it can also serve other purposes. For example, a mechanic can use the device to diagnose engine problems with an automobile by listening to the sounds of its moving parts. It can also be used to detect leaks inside of a vacuum chamber.

A Brief History Of The Stethoscope

The stethoscope was invented in France in 1816 by physician René Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris. Its original design was monaural (a single channel of sound coming from one position) and consisted of a long wooden tube.

Due to both the age and gender differences among his patients and the hands-on nature of his job, Laennec felt uncomfortable placing his ear directly against the chests of his patients. The wooden tube allowed Laennec to listen to a patient's heartbeat without making physical contact with his own body.

In 1852, George Philip Cammann perfected his design of the binaural stethoscope for commercial production. This stethoscope was more durable than Laennec's design with individual earpieces so that the sound could reach both ears simultaneously. Cammann's design became the standard for the medical stethoscope that is still in use today.

Fast forward to the 1940s when Rappaport and Sprague redefined the standard for most other stethoscopes made during that time. Rappaport and Sprague devices were made with two sides, one used for listening to the respiratory system, while the other was used for the cardiovascular system. This design persisted for decades until it was finally abandoned around 2004.

By 2015, an open-source project for the 3D-printed stethoscope made the device much more affordable and accessible than ever before, particularly for developing countries.

Choosing A Stethoscope

When choosing a stethoscope, the particular profession you have in mind is an important consideration. A cardiologist, for example, would benefit from a stethoscope that can easily detect both high and low-pitched sounds, regardless of how faint they might be.

One must also be sure that the earpieces fit snugly and comfortably in the ears for the best accuracy when making a diagnosis. The tubing for your intended device should also be durable and well insulated in order to prevent external noise interference.

The best stethoscopes feature high-density chest pieces made from either steel or titanium for the best sound conduction. The chest piece should also be hand-polished on both its inside and outside for producing the most crisp sound possible.

The device is also available in an array of different colors, which is particularly useful for pediatricians who may be working with a lot of young kids.

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Last updated on June 03, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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