With so many brands and levels of stethoscopes to choose from selecting the right stethoscope for your needs can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact choosing a quality stethoscope can be fairly easy once you know what to look for.
A good stethoscope is designed to be lightweight and comfortable when worn over the neck or in the ears and is designed to provide quality sound isolation and performance when listening to a patients heartbeat, lungs and blood-flow.
To make your search for the perfect stethoscope easier we’ve provided a list of our top 8 stethoscopes along with reviews of each stethoscope.
3M Littmann Select Stethoscope
At under $50 the 3M Littmann Select Stethoscope is a decently priced stethoscope in our top 8 list and is an excellent stethoscope for those looking for both quality and a good price.
The littmann select stethoscope comes with a tunable diaphragm for listening to both high and low frequency sounds and has a non chill rim that ensures the patient is comfortable while being listened to.
This stethoscope is made up of latex free materials for those who are sensitive/allergic to latex and comes in a variety of colors such as blue, green, pink, raspberry and black.
The littmann select stethoscope has an average rating of 4.6 from over 220 reviews (at time of writing).
Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope
At under $20 the Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope is a great starter stethoscope for both students and those first starting out in the medical field.
This inexpensive stethoscope is made with latex free tubing and a chrome-plated chest piece for good sound acoustics.
As part of the stethoscope you get three sized bells and two sized diaphragms along with two pair of ear tips.
The Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope has received a solid rating of 4.1 with over 890 customer reviews (at time of writing).
3M Littmann 2123 Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope
The 3M Littmann 2123 Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope is specially designed for children and is great for listening to the heartbeat, lungs and blood pressure of the patient.
This stethoscope features a two sided design with a 1 inch bell and a floating diaphragm.
The 3M Littmann 2123 Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope has a stainless steel chest-piece for acoustic sensitivity and comes in several colors such as black, navy, burgundy and caribbean blue.
With an average rating of 4.7 from over 590 customer reviews the 3M Littmann 2123 Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope is one of the highest rated stethoscopes available.
American Diagnostic Corporation Platinum Edition Adscope
The American Diagnostic Corporation Platinum Edition Adscope has a new gasketed diaphragm that allows the stethoscope to achieve a multi-frequency response designed to provide optimal feedback to a range of frequencies.
The non-chill one sided diaphragm ensures patients are comfortable as they are being examined while the Adsoft delux pvc ear-tips provide the medical professional with soft ear-tips that won’t irritate or cause discomfort when being used.
This stethosocpe can be purchased in a variety of colors for around $50.
The American Diagnostic Corporation Platinum Edition Adscope has been reviewed by over 320 customers and has an average rating of 4.4 (at time of writing).
3M Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope
The 3M Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope offers a durable design with a highly sensitive dual-sided chest peace.
The tunable diaphragm allows the nurse or doctor to easily tune into a range of high and low frequency sounds and is made up of latex free materials with a non chill rim designed for patient comfort.
This stethoscope comes in a wide range of solid colors including traditional black and blue along with fancier colors including stainless steel, breast cancer awareness pink, orange and emerald.
ADC ADSCOPE 603 Stainless Stethoscope
The ADC ADSCOPE 603 Stainless Stethoscope has a stainless steel binaural with reinforcing yoke and a dual sided non chill chestpiece for listening to a range of sounds.
The Adsoft ear tips ensure good sounding acoustics while providing the user with a comfortable seal and the metal components of the stethoscope come with a lifetime warranty.
This stethoscope can be purchased in a variety of colors such as black, white, orange, burgondy, blue, copper and teal, and sells for around $30.
This stethoscope has over 265 reviews with an average rating of 4.2 (at time of writing).
3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope
The 3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope is designed with high performance single-lumen tubing for high quality sound isolation with a single sided tunable diaphragm for listening to various frequencies.
This stethoscope comes in multiple colors such as the black edition as well as navy blue, purple and burgundy.
The 3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope has over 590 customer reviews and has received an average rating of 4.7.
3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope
The Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope is a high end stethoscope with a dual sided chest piece designed for those working in the cardiology field.
It has a two in one design (dual lumen) tube for minimal noise interference and has versatile sound auscultation for both adult and child patients.
The Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope offers a wide variety of color variations for both the tubing and metal materials of the stethoscope.
What makes a good stethoscope?
There are several components that make up a good stethoscope ranging from the diaphragm to the earpiece.
The diaphragm is the part of the stethoscope that makes contact with the patients chest or back and is responsible for isolating and transferring the sound of the patients heartbeat, lungs and blood-flow through the tubing and into the nurses earpiece.
A diaphragm can be made up of different materials including plastic, steel and aluminum and may or may not include a bell, depending on your needs.
While lower quality, disposable stethoscopes can be useful for observing patient sounds the higher end steel and aluminum stethoscope may allow nurses to listen to less obvious (harder to hear) sounds and provide better overall sound quality.
Another important part of a stethoscope is the earpiece.
A good quality earpiece can make all the difference when it comes to isolating sound and providing all day comfort.
The earpiece should be designed to form a comfortable isolation around your ear so that it blocks out the noises in your surrounding area in order to maximize your ability to hear your patients heartbeat and health signals.
In fact you can buy a number of high quality earpieces without purchasing a new stethoscope.
Just make sure the earpiece is both comfortable and good at isolating sound.
A thick high quality stethoscope tube/line can help isolate the sounds traveling through the stethoscope and ensure minimal sound loss quality as the patients heartbeat, pulse and lung sounds travel between the diaphragm and the earpiece.
It is essential to choose a stethoscope with a decent length tube/line as it will be important for being able to observe your patients response while checking their heartbeat and listening to their breathing.
The length is also important for ensuring that you can maintain optimal distance from the patient so that you can communicate with them effectively.
Here are the various components that make up a good quality stethoscope:
- Adjustable diaphragm and/or bell
- High quality tube/line with a decent length that isolates sound well
- Dual lumen design (improves sound quality)
- Comfortable earpiece that conforms well to the ear
- High durability
- Lightweight design for comfortable all day use
Other items/accessories you should consider
In addition to (or aside from) purchasing a high quality stethoscope there are a number of accessories that you can purchase to improve the comfort of your stethoscope, replace missing parts, maintain its cleanliness and help others identify your stethoscope if it gets mixed up or goes missing.
The following items are all optional and can be purchased with or without a new stethoscope.
3M Littmann Snap Tight Firm Ear tips
Having a pair of quality ear tips can make a huge difference in terms of all day comfort.
Littmann makes an excellent pair of ear tips that can be used with a variety of stethoscopes including some non littmann brand stethoscopes.
They provide I nice seal around the ears in order to isolate sounds effectively and are easy on their ears.
3M Littmann Tunable Diaphragm and Rim Assembly
Some stethoscope brands sell separate tunable diaphragms that you can use to replace bad diaphragms and extend the life of your stethoscope.
Littmann makes a nice tunable diaphragm and rim assembly that can be used with some of their stethoscopes, however you may also be able to find diaphragms for your brand of stethoscope if it is not a littmann device.
If you like your stethoscope, but feel your diaphragm is getting old it may be cheaper to replace it rather than buy a whole new stethoscope, especially if you invested a lot of money into getting a high end stethoscope.
Littmann Stethoscope I.D. Tag (Fits All Sizes)
I.D. tags are a great way to keep track of your stethoscope when you are working alongside other nurses and are worried about confusing yours with another nurses.
They’re also a great way to let other nurses know who the stethoscope belongs to when working in a large hospital or healthcare facility.
If you lose your stethoscope and have an I.D. tag attached to it one of your coworkers will be able to page you because it will be easy to identify who it belongs to.
Dynarex 1113 Latex Free Sterile Alcohol Prep Pad (Box of 200)
Latex free alcohol pads are a great way to keep your stethoscope clean whether you’re dealing with multiple patients or storing your stethoscope in a place where it may collect dust or germs.
Alcohol wipes are extremely inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk, which is great for keeping your equipment clean.
Do you need to buy an expensive stethoscope?
You absolutely do not need to buy an expensive stethoscope in order to get good results, however you should also be wary when buying really inexpensive/cheap stethoscopes because the design quality, materials and weight of the stethoscope can be negatively affected by the low quality components that make up the stethoscope.
Really low end stethoscopes may be comprised of lower cost materials in order to reduce the price, which may have a negative impact on the wearer.
This can include a heavier weight, less durability, reduced ear comfort & lower sound isolation.
If you are looking for a decent stethoscope you can probably find one starting at around the $30 – $50 range.
If weight or sound quality is important than it may be a good idea to buy a higher end lightweight stethoscope that will be more comfortable to wear around all day.
Higher end stethoscopes are often made of stronger materials that are lighter weight, which can make them much easier to carry.
They may also improve the overall sound quality of the patient being observed, so if price isn’t a factor a higher end stethoscope may be right for you, but if you are concerned with price than you can still purchase a good stethoscope for $30 – $50.
What about disposable stethoscopes?
If you work at a hospital or medical facility that has disposable stethoscope’s it may be worth giving them a try before putting down money on a new stethoscope.
If you are pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of the stethoscope it is highly recommended that you purchase a good pair of earpieces that you can swap out whenever you are using a disposable stethoscope so that you can improve the sound isolation and comfort of your ears.
Giving yourself multiple options for choosing a stethoscope is important and depending on the healthcare facility you work for they may have decent disposable stethoscopes that you can use if you aren’t interested in buying a dedicated stethoscope.
How to choose the best stethoscope
In addition to choosing a high quality stethoscope based on its sound sensitivity, isolation, ear comfort and durability you should also ask yourself if price, weight and the likelihood of you losing the stethoscope is a common issue.
Each of these factors is important for ensuring you choose a stethoscope that is not only high quality, but fits into your average work day.
To give yourself a better idea of which stethoscope to choose ask yourself these questions:
- Do you often lose or misplace your stethoscope?
- Is price a strong deciding factor?
- Is weight a major problem?
- Is sound sensitivity really important to you?
Do you often lose your stethoscope?
If you find yourself frequently loosing or misplacing your stethoscope than you may want to steer away from the higher end stethoscopes due to the fact that you’ll likely run up your cost very quickly.
Staying in the price range of $30 – $50 can still get you a quality stethoscope and makes it much less painful of an experience if you lose it.
Alternatively you can use a disposable stethoscope if it is offered by your healthcare center. Just be sure to replace the ear tips with better ones that provide you with better ear comfort and sound isolation.
Is price a strong deciding factor?
If price is a main concern than look into purchasing a stethoscope in the $25 – $40 range that has been reviewed and rated by a decent number of people.
While the price may be lower than a high end stethoscope you can still get decent sound quality out of a decent stethoscope, however it may be made of less durable and/or heavier materials, so do your research when buying on the lower cost end of the stethoscope market.
On the opposite end if you are very good at maintaining the condition of your stethoscope you may want to invest in a higher priced stethoscope that is made up of high quality durable materials.
In the long run a stethoscope made with better components may outlast lesser expensive ones which can save you money over the years.
If you go with a dedicated high end stethoscope choose a stethoscope that has a replaceable diaphragm and other components that you can swap out because it will be less expensive than having to purchase a new stethoscope.
The price of a stethoscope is often determined by the features it has, so decide which features you need and which ones you don’t to figure out what price range you should expect.
Also be sure to check both online websites and offline stores to get some price comparisons and see if the stethoscope you’re interested in is offered at a lower price somewhere else.
Is weight a major problem?
If the weight of the stethoscope is a major concern and the idea of wearing a heavy stethoscope around your neck all day doesn’t sound appealing then you may want to spend a little extra cash and invest in a stethoscope made of durable lightweight materials.
Some nurses have mentioned that heavier stethoscopes can irritate the neck and even cause headaches, so make sure you consider the weight of the stethoscope you purchase.
Is sound sensitivity highly important to you?
If sound is your main concern than it’s a good idea to think about buying a more expensive, but higher quality stethoscope.
While you can get good sound out of fairly inexpensive stethoscopes some of the higher priced models may use better materials for better sound isolation.
If you have difficulty hearing or just want to maximize the quality of the sound than you’ll probably want a professional stethoscope with a steel/aluminum diaphragm and high quality tubing.