for Students, Professionals and Home Use
Medical equipment can be complicated and confusing, and seemingly simple devices like a stethoscope are certainly no exception. Though they seem like one of the most basic tools in the medical field (we find them on practically every doctor and nurse we see), they are actually very intricate and delicate tools that can vary quite drastically between models and manufacturers.
To help you with your search for the best stethoscopes, I’ve create this site, which includes my picks for the most effective, highest quality models I’ve come across. Each review includes the best aspects of the stethoscope, to help you understand how it can help you in your situation.
Best Nursing Stethoscope
3M Littmann Classic II S.E.
While it might not seem like a nursing stethoscope would be any different than what any other medical professional would use, the rigorous and demanding nature of nursing calls for an especially dependable and capable tool for handling diagnostics. All of the features on this classically-built Littmann stethoscope show that it’s a model every nurse can trust.
Sturdy, Versatile Design
This model is built to provide the wearer with a high level of comfort that also enhances its usefulness during common situations in which nurses typically find themselves. First of all, the headset is crafted with a curved, ergonomic construction that creates a more natural path towards your ears, relieving the pain and discomfort that can build up after extended periods of use. These angles, combined with the adjustable tension eartubes and the form-fitting eartips – which are made to mold themselves to the exact shape of your ear – all come together to help you achieve the greatest level of comfort as well as the strongest ability to capture all the important sounds of your patients, so that you can do your job properly.
Along with all the enhancements that 3M put into this model to make it easier for nurses to monitor the symptoms and circumstances of patients, they also took care to add features for both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The entire chestpiece has a teardrop shape, with the goal of making it significantly easier to fit underneath the cuff of a blood pressure machine. Many nurses may know that being able to monitor the flow of blood within a patient’s veins while checking their blood pressure is a key component to monitoring their health, so creating a chestpiece that keeps that in mind can really help to make all of the work nurses must do that much easier.
Best for Pediatric Use
3M Littmann Classic III
Working with children inside a medical setting presents an entirely new set of potential obstacles and challenges, including the safety and comfort of the child. You also need to ensure that you use a device that won’t cause you to miss vital symptoms or misdiagnose a condition. The feature list on this stethoscope makes it very clear that this is the best choice for anyone that regularly works with pediatric patients.
Special Pediatric Side
Unlike many other types of stethoscopes, which only feature a single size that is made to appeal to as broad of a range of patients as possible, this model has a chestpiece is that designed to easily swap into a specially configured pediatric diaphragm. This diaphragm is smaller and more delicate, which makes it more adept at capturing the sounds of pediatric patients, who typically have a softer heartbeat and other internal sounds compared to full-sized adults. If you want, you can also remove the pediatric diaphragm to attach a standard open bell for monitoring cardiovascular symptoms. The pediatric diaphragm is also tunable, which I explain further in the section below.
Smart Tunable Diaphragm
The 3M Littmann Classic III stethoscope has an amazing feature called a tunable diaphragm, which they created to give doctors and nurses more ways to fully understand the condition of their patients. It is available in both pediatric and adult settings. When you place the chestpiece against the skin of a patient, you can exert a small amount of pressure to listen to low frequency sounds, such as the beating of the heart or the sounds of intestines. If you exert more pressure on the diaphragm, pressing down firmly, you can then monitor high frequency sounds in the body, such as the sound of a potentially obstructed passageway in the lungs. These are only a few examples how you might use the tunable diaphragm, as the entire purpose is simply to allow a broader range of function in a single piece of equipment without requiring you to change devices or attach a different type of diaphragm.
Best Stethoscope for the Money
Omron Sprague Rappaport
Whether you’re the director of a clinic looking to purchase the most cost effective medical equipment for your staff, an independent medical specialist trying to keep operating costs down, or just a prospective parent that wants to hear the heartbeat of their baby, this is an affordable stethoscope that doesn’t skimp on the aspects that really matter.
Simple, No-Frills Construction
This is the type of stethoscope that has been in use since the 1940s, when Sprague Rappaport first crafted the then-revolutionary design upgrades that made this a staple of the medical profession. You have two independent tubes that extend outward from the chestpiece, ensuring that each ear will receive the full sound of the vibrations that it picks up. Each piece of tubing is also completely latex free, as are the diaphragm and open bell, which is a fantastic benefit since many patients can have serious allergies to the material. The aural tubes also have a standard curved design that will allow for easy wearing, with a bracing piece sitting between the two that helps retain tension while you wear the unit, to prevent it from falling out. This all comes together to give you exactly what you want in a stethoscope without costing you a fortune.
Multiple Attachments Included
I was very surprised to learn that this stethoscope also came with several attachments, since most models only give you the core components without any kind of extras or add-ons. Here, you not only get a fully-functional base stethoscope, but you also get two pairs of eartips, which is already a huge plus since these are among the easiest parts of a stethoscope to get lost or become damaged over time. The remainder of the attachments have to do with the chestpiece, allowing you to get an impressive amount of versatility out of such an affordable model. There are two diaphragms and three open bells, all of which are different sizes so that you can swap them out depending on the physical needs of your patients.
Best for Students, Paramedics and EMTs
3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E.
As a current student myself, I can tell you that finding a reliable and dependable stethoscope for use in class and practical settings isn’t easy. Thankfully, there are models like this out there that really show how some manufactures understand a student’s need for an affordable yet sturdy stethoscope to help them work through the learning process.
Crafted with Students and Medical Professionals in Mind
The needs of a student in the medical profession are very similar to those of a paramedic or EMT, so it’s incredibly important that a stethoscope offers the same features. This model is a fairly basic stethoscope, including a dual head chestpiece and standard shape for the headset and tubing. Students, paramedics and EMTs can take this stethoscope with them to classes, out on rounds or to an emergency situation and know that they can perform all the appropriate diagnostic actions necessary for the situation. And that’s without losing out on a single feature or missing a single sound, as 3M Littmann is known for crisp and clear acoustics. The price is right as well, which is sure to bode well with a student’s budget.
Light Yet Durable
Just as paramedics and EMTs already do, a significant part of the learning process for students is spending time with actual patients and working under the supervision of fully-licensed doctors and nurses, which means traveling to hospitals and clinics on a regular basis. This stethoscope is very light, making it easy to carry with you or simply wear around your neck, which is a huge benefit because sometimes you may need to wear these for several hours at a time.
While you might think that a light stethoscope would be weak or brittle, this model is capable of withstanding more wear and tear than other materials. If you accidentally damage the stethoscope, such as by dropping it, leaving it in a backpack with some books, or through an on-site issue, you won’t have to worry about it instantly breaking or about having to purchase a costly replacement.
Best Budget Blood Pressure Stethoscope Kit
Dixie EMS Stethoscope Kit
Stethoscopes aren’t just used for monitoring a patient’s respiratory system, as they are also a key tool for diagnosing issues with the cardiovascular system as well. Since this is done by listening to blood flow while checking the patient’s blood pressure, many medical professionals would need a kit like this that gives them everything they need in a convenient package.
Ideal for Emergency Medical Support Workers
This model was made with EMS workers in mind, since they need to be able to quickly perform a wide range of diagnostic tests on people as quickly and efficiently as possible. First up, you have the sphygmomanometer, which comes in a traditional aneroid model with a nylon cuff sized for the average adult. The unit has a touch and hold closure, which helps to eliminate some of the excess bulk that can come with other types of blood pressure systems. It also has a manual inflation pump, which is a nice feature because it means that you don’t need any batteries or external power source to operate it. The stethoscope is a traditional Sprague Rappaport model with a dual head chestpiece, so you can listen to blood flow underneath the cuff as well as check airways without making any modifications to it.
Compact Carrying Case
This model comes with a sturdy compact carrying case that allows you to keep the sphygmomanometer and the stethoscope together at all times. The case is made out of a similar sturdy nylon, so you won’t have to worry about it tearing apart if you put it in a bag with other equipment. It also has a zipper enclosure that fully covers the bag, which is always a must for me on these types of products because I don’t like the idea that the contents could fall out if a snap lock comes undone. Along with the bag, you also get two pairs of ear tips, three different open bell attachments, and two different diaphragm attachments, which you can store on a front zipper pouch on the bag. Best of all, the bag, the sphygmomanometer, and the stethoscope all come in the same color, with various color options available.
Most Premium Grade Stethoscope
MDF MD One Dual Head Stethoscope
Even though stethoscopes are one of the most common and frequently used diagnostic tools, sometimes a nurse or doctor may want spring for a model that offers a bit more in terms of its visual appeal as well as its functionality. This model from MDF is a beautiful, premium quality stethoscope that represents a perfect union of substance and style.
Durable and Stylish Design
The most eye-catching element of this stethoscope is its rose gold exterior, which stands as a clear contrast to the typical brushed chrome or aluminum appearance that comes with most models. Even with the rose gold appearance on the headset, the core of the components is stainless steel, which means that you are still getting a strong and sturdy tool that will be able to stand up to the demands of regular diagnostic use. The tubing on this model is a soft white, which not only complements the rose gold visually but also works with it to create a very soothing appearance. You can never underestimate how important it is for patients to feel comfortable around you, and a stethoscope like this will definitely help them feel calm and relaxed.
Made for Comfortable Wearing
As with many MDF premium models, this stethoscope was designed to be incredibly comfortable for the medical professional wearing it, since most will end up using them frequently over shifts that can last for up to 30 hours or more. The structure of the headset and tubing calls upon ergonomic concepts to help prevent strain on the wearer’s ear canals and head, as some models can pull on the ears and cause high levels of discomfort. This model also comes with three pairs of MDF’s ComfortSeal eartips, which are specially crafted to provide additional comfort when in the ear as well as to create a strong seal to help block out external sounds and noise. The eartips included come in three different sizes – small, regular and large – allowing an impressive range of compatibility with people that have different ear sizes and shapes.
Best for Doctors and Cardiologists
3M Littmann 6152 Cardiology IV
Clinicians know that working with patients can present you with a whole bevy of challenges and complications, even on the best of days. To keep up with the demands and do the best job possible, you need a strong and effective stethoscope that works with you to give patients the optimal amount of care.
Made for Heavy Clinical Use
This model of stethoscope was most definitely made with clinical use in mind, as there’s so much about it that really shows that 3M Littman understands the type of extensive wear and tear that these devices can experience. One feature that really exemplifies this is the heavy duty, next-generation tubing that is made to keep this device in top working order even when it gets put to the test in a working clinical environment. Doctors are going to be putting on and taking off their stethoscopes constantly, which could lead to bending and warping of the binaural. This type of damage can not only make the device uncomfortable to wear, but also prevent a clinician from properly hearing everything going on with the patient. Professional grade dual-lumen tubing prevents that kind of warping from happening, improving the effectiveness of the tool as well as the audibility.
Precision Dual Head Chestpiece
This stethoscope is created to capture and transmit sound in the best possible way. 3M Litmann includes a precision dual head chestpiece that allows you to monitor respiratory and cardio vascular health without hindrance. The tunable diaphragms on both sides of the chestpiece make it possible to either detect high frequency sounds with greater accuracy, or low frequency sounds. This tuning for high or low frequencies works very intuitive and can be changed by increasing or reducing pressure on the chestpiece, a very subtle and effective feature of this stethoscope. The open bell is also constructed to increase acoustic performance, and helps to eliminate outside noise interference while also amplifying the sounds that it does pick up.
Most Lightweight Travel Stethoscope
MDF Dual Head
As many medical professionals may know, sometimes you need to travel to different locations in order to offer full medical care to your patients. In these instances, it can be incredibly beneficial to have a stethoscope that isn’t overly bulky or needlessly heavy, such as this model from MDF.
Perfect for Portable Use
The full design of this stethoscope shows that MDF really put great efforts to keeping it as balanced and functional as possible without leaving you with a device that would weigh down your medical kit or be just too uncomfortable to wear. The chestpiece is made out of a special type of aluminum that is created to provide maximum durability while retaining a very light weight, unlike other models that have heavy metal chestpieces. The acoustic tubing is also crafted out of light PVC, which not only provides a trustworthy sound transmission but also helps to protect the equipment from environmental damage or contamination. Finally, the headset is made of chrome-plated brass, which completes the efforts to give you a stethoscope that is strong enough to handle travel and transportation without literally weighing you down.
Puts Patient Comfort First
It’s not always the case that a piece of medical equipment takes a patient’s comfort into consideration, but that’s exactly what you get with this model. Both the diaphragm and the bell come with a non-chill design. This doesn’t hinder the auditory performance of the stethoscope, and in fact can actually help to better amplify the sounds by creating a firm seal around the area under inspection. Small touches like these can really go quite a long way in terms of making a patient feel relaxed, which helps all medical professionals to better perform their jobs.
Best Children’s Beginner Stethoscope
Learning Resources Stethoscope
Most of us have probably played with or seen children’s toy stethoscopes before, and know that in most cases they aren’t made to function anything like an actual working unit. However, this model was created to function as realistically as possible, so that children can truly understand how they work, making them an excellent educational resource.
Functions Just Like a Real Stethoscope
Instead of offering a simple toy that has basic tubing attached to non-functional plastic components, this stethoscope is a real, functioning tool that is capable of picking up sounds and transmitting them to the wearer. It includes a single head chestpiece with a basic diaphragm, and has a basic split tubing system that feeds into a metal headpiece with standard hard plastic eartips. It’s definitely not a stethoscope that you would want to put into daily use in a real medical environment or use for official diagnostics, since it’s not built with that level of medical-grade precision. That said, it’s a fantastic choice for children that are truly curious about how the body works or about the medical profession, as it will allow them to experience a working stethoscope that is safe for them to use.
Great for Teaching
There are a lot of ways you could use this stethoscope beyond simply giving your children a realistically functional model to use for play time. For example, this could be a valuable tool for explaining the body and the respiratory system to children, particularly if they have an upcoming doctor’s visit that is making them nervous. Being able to see exactly what the doctor will do during a checkup by experiencing it themselves, or acting as the doctor and practicing on the parent, can help them to become more comfortable with the entire process. It also helps encourage a better understanding of multiple medical and scientific principals through the fact that the stethoscope actually captures sound – it lets them see it work in action instead of having to pretend that it works.
Closing Thoughts on the Reviews
These are definitely the best stethoscopes that I have come across, and as you can tell there is definitely a lot more to these tools than just a piece of metal attached to some tubes. I did my best to highlight the points that I felt were most helpful to others searching for a quality stethoscope, so hopefully you will be able to make a confident choice from one of these models.
If you’re still not sure what type or brand of stethoscope is right for you, please head over to the other pages on the site and check out the articles and guides I put together. I go into some specific situations in more detail, so they should help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of different models more clearly and point you in the right direction.