What is the best stethoscope? Well, nobody really knows for sure. Likewise, it is impossible to decide which is the best brand of stethoscope as different kinds of stethoscopes, like most products, are suited to different kinds of people. A stethoscope designed for a cardiologist, for example, may not be the top rated kind for a general practitioner, and a stethoscope designed for a general practitioner may not be the best type for an EMT.
That being said, it is possible to separate the good stethoscopes from the bad ones and proceed to separate the great stethoscopes from the good ones. We have done so in this article. Here, we will take a look at ten of the top stethoscopes on the market today, examining five in detail and leaving five for you to research in your own time.
Best Stethoscope Comparison Table
Before we do that, however, let’s take a moment to discuss the most popular stethoscope brands.
Founded in the latter half of the 20th century, Littmann is considered by many to be the top stethoscope brand in the world today. Modern day Littmann draws on decades of experience in both medicine and design in order to produce exactly the kind of stethoscopes that a medical professional in 2016 might need.
The brand has been on the forefront of stethoscope technology almost since day one and has produced many game changers, particularly over the past couple of years. One of Littmann’s greatest achievements has been the popularization of the electronic stethoscope, a tool which not too long ago was viewed as a wacky novelty. Littmann’s electronic stethoscopes are perhaps the best on the market, with the Littmann 3200BK27 being one of the most popular in the world. Remember that name, because we’ll be looking at that line in more detail just a little bit down this list.
Littmann kits are great, but they can be a little pricey. Those who don’t want to spend upwards at the cost of $100 on a stethoscope may want to look elsewhere, like MDF Instruments.
MDF Instruments, like Littmann, is extremely popular among doctors and medical students alike, but its products sell for significantly cheaper. Despite the difference in price, MDF stethoscopes tend to be just a good as Littmann ones.
Combining a traditional design with modern engineering, MDF stethoscopes provide clear and accurate auscultation and make it possible to hear everything that is going on inside your patient’s chest. There are a variety of MDF stethoscopes available, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the one for you.
All MDF stethoscopes are handcrafted, eliminating the possibility of an error being caused by mass production. Furthermore, all MDF Instrument stethoscopes are backed by a lifetime warranty, so you won’t have to worry about spending money to replace your stethoscope should something go wrong.
Prestige Medical is arguably the most unique manufacturer in the stethoscope game. The design team takes pride in its ability to make stethoscopes, as well as other medical instruments, look more personable and a lot less intimidating. With pleasing color patterns and combinations, Prestige Medical sets are perfect for those who deal with children or nervous patients on a regular basis.
Of course, a visually pleasing design does not a good stethoscope make, something of which Prestige Medical is well aware. The brand puts just as much effort into the mechanics of its products as it does the exterior. Each one from Prestige Medical is meticulously designed to ensure it provides incredible comfort for the wearer and the subject, as well as near-unrivaled sound clarity.
Prestige Medical ones are often seen as quite basic tools, offering little more than what one would expect from a just passable stethoscope. However, those who have used Prestige Medical ones in the past understand just how impressive these tools can be.
The Top Stethoscopes
Now that we have looked at some of the top rated stethoscope brands, we can examine some of the products they produce. The stethoscopes included here have all proven extremely popular with medical professionals and all offer the basic features one would expect from a stethoscope, as well as a couple of extra features unique to each individual product. Through high sound quality, durability, and a plethora of positive reviews, the following types have earned their place on this list.
Kicking off our search for the top stethoscope is this fancy little model from MDF Instruments. The MDF Pulse Time is unique in that it hovers between a traditional and electronic one. While it does not offer electronic sound amplification or bluetooth recording, it does come fitted with an LCD clock which will monitor your patient’s heartbeat automatically. More and more doctors prefer this as one of the best ones as it allows them to talk to their patients while examining their heart, creating a stronger doctor-patient bond and making the subject feel more at ease.
Like all stethoscopes from MDF Instruments, the MDF Pulse Time is composed of hand crafted parts, meaning hours of careful attention has gone into each one. Because this was put together by hands and not just pumped out by a machine, it is one of the more durable types on the market. It will hold up for years when used and looked after correctly. It is backed up by a lifetime warranty on the off chance that something goes wrong.
I mentioned this type a little earlier on and told you to remember the name. Did you remember to remember the name? Well, it doesn’t matter because we’re going to be talking about it now anyway, and you’re bound to remember the Littmann 3200BK27 after you hear about everything it has to offer.
The Littmann 3200BK27 is an electronic type and is probably Littmann’s most successful and popular foray into the electronic stethoscope world. It comes equipped with a bluetooth system, which allows you to record the sound of a patient’s heartbeat. This may seem a little pointless at first, but in reality it is one of the valuable functions for any dedicated medical professional. It makes it possible to play back the sound of the patient’s heartbeat and examine it in more detail, drastically reducing the chances of a defect going unnoticed.
Furthermore, this stethoscope offers 24X sound amplification, which just can’t be matched by regular types.
If you like the idea of owning a Littmann stethoscope but don’t want to spend all that money on an electronic model, you might be interested in the Cardiology IV, which is one of the most popular types in one of Littmann’s most popular series.
The Cardiology series is a collection of stethoscopes for medical professionals who need nothing less than perfectly clear and accurate auscultation. It is of particularly popular use among cardiologists, which really is no surprise.
The Cardiology IV features heightened acoustic performance and can pick up high-frequency sounds with greater accuracy than its predecessors. A no-chill rim ensures total comfort for the patient as you go about your business.
This stethoscope offers a free download of the Littmann Learning Institute app, which is designed to help students master the art of auscultation. For that reason, The LIttmann Cardiology IV may just be the perfect gift for the medical student in your life this holiday season.
A sprague rappaport stethoscope, for those who don’t know, is a stethoscope which features two different tubes from the chest piece to the ear pieces, one for each ear. While this design in theory provides the wearer with a more comprehensive listening experience, sprague rappaport stethoscopes have been growing increasingly unpopular in recent years. The Prestige Medical Sprague Stethoscope, however, is a gentle and non-chilly reminder of why the sprague rappaport design was once so popular.
This is one of the most widely used types in the world as it is relatively inexpensive (often on sale for less than $20) and can be used on most patients as it features both adult and pediatric diaphragm attachments. While the practice of using attachments to hear a heartbeat probably isn’t the way to go if you are a cardiologist and need the very best sound quality possible, it is perfect for any GP or nurse.
Many ones which sell for the price of the Prestige Medical Sprague Stethoscope tend to perform about as well as you would expect something of that price to perform, but this type is an overachiever. It performs to the standard of a much more expensive stethoscope and is arguably the best type for a medical student or young doctor.
I hate to include so many Littmann stethoscopes on this list, but I promised to present you with the top stethoscopes and it just so happens that Littmann has produced some pretty good ones. Next up from LIttmann is the Lightweight II S.E.
As the name suggests, the Littmann Lightweight II S.E is a lightweight type, which is one of its major selling points. I know it seems like any stethoscope would be a lightweight stethoscope, but anybody who has used one for a couple of hours at a time or has walked the halls of a hospital with one strung over their neck will tell you that stethoscopes do indeed weigh quite a bit. For that reason, a lightweight type is invaluable, particularly for those who work long hours (which is pretty much everybody in the medical industry).
As well as being lightweight, this stethoscope provides a clear and trust-worthy acoustic response and is one of the most accurate types on the market. It is fitted with a tunable diaphragm, allowing it to capture both high and low frequency sounds with a simple change in pressure.
- MDF MD One
- Littmann Cardiology III
- Passionate Care Premium Stethoscope
- Prestige Medical Clinical Lite
- MDF Acoustica Deluxe
So what we just looked at was a collection of some of the best and most popular types in the world today, but which is the right one for you? Well, there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration when you’re in the market for a stethoscope, such as:
There are a couple of different types of stethoscopes out there. Single head types are generally preferred as the best ones among cardiologists as they provide clear and accurate auscultation and are usually pretty high performing. GPs and nurses might prefer a dual-head type as they are more versatile and can treat both adult and pediatric patients. Those who wish to be ahead of the medical curve should consider the best electronic stethoscopes, which will essentially give you everything you need for every situation, but will also set you back quite a bit. Further information on the different types of stethoscopes an be found in the video below.
Let’s be honest: as a doctor or other medical professional, you’re probably going to make a nice amount of money. However, it is totally understandable if you don’t want to put that money back into medical equipment. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a stethoscope to get a good one. You can purchase a reliable and durable stethoscope for multiple uses for $20 if you look in the right place, though a more expensive one will admittedly be of a better quality. If you have the money to spare, you might as well go for an expensive model, but a medical student struggling to make ends meet for the duration of their education will probably wind up going for a cheaper option. And that’s just fine.
Personal preference may seem irrelevant when you’re in the market for something as cold and as ironically heartless as a stethoscope, but there is actually quite a bit of room for your tastes. Once you find a stethoscope which meets your professional needs, you will likely be asked to choose which color you would like, and sometimes even your preferred size.
It’s important to remember that it is not just your preferences which you should be taken into account while making this decision. The comfort of your patient will always come first, so you should choose a stethoscope which will make them feel at ease. Obviously, this won’t be too much of an issue for those who work with older patients, but a pediatrician should probably go for a brightly colored stethoscope. Check out our review on the best pediatric stethoscopes.
At some point during this article, maybe a couple of hundred words in, it likely occurred to you that stethoscopes are nowhere near as straightforward as they seem. They are, in fact, quite complicated and there’s a lot to understand if you want to be able to make an informed purchase of one. Check out our separate post on the Different Types Of Stethoscopes for a more detailed discussion.
That being said, if you continued reading after that realization and didn’t just skip to the end, you’ve probably already learned everything you need to know to make sure you don’t get ripped off or end up with a stethoscope not suited to your needs.
If you’re still unsure which stethoscope you should be buying, take a couple of minutes to re-read the article or maybe even checkout some of our best nurse stethoscope reviews or one of our more specific stethoscope-related pieces.
Last updated on May 28th, 2020