Top 10 Best Stethoscopes for Nurses in 2019

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For many medical professionals their stethoscope is vital. It is used daily, and actually has a fundamental role in the identity of the practitioner in the eyes of the patient.

But with so many options available, how can you determine which is the best stethoscope to buy? One of the most important considerations is to determine your needs on a daily basis.

How often do you use your stethoscope? What level of noise frequency would best serve you? A good stethoscope must be comfortable for both the user and the patient in order to get accurate readings in an effortless manner. Your budget is another factor.

In this article I will attempt to help you decide which is best stethoscope for your unique scenario. In the table below I have provide information on 10 top rated models currently available.

I have then provided an in depth buyers guide covering the types of stethoscope available, what to look for when buying one and other essential tips.

Finally, I have provided in depth reviews on each of our 10 selected picks. By the end of this article I am confident that you will have all the knowledge you need to choose the right stethoscope for you.

Top 10 Best Stethoscopes for 2019

STETHOSCOPENAMEOUR RATING
BEST STETHOSCOPE FOR NURSES
3M Littmann Classic III
Monitoring Stethoscope
MDF Rose Gold MD One
Premium Dual Head
Stethoscope
BEST BUDGET STETHOSCOPE
3M Littmann Lightweight
II S.E. Stethoscope
BEST FOR CRITICAL CARE
3M Littmann Cardiology IV
Diagnostic Stethoscope
BEST ELECTRIC STETHOSCOPE
EKO Core Digital
Stethoscope
BEST CARDIOLOGY STETHOSCOPE
3M Littmann Master
Cardiology Stethoscope
ERKA Finesse 2
Stethoscope
BEST PEDIATRIC STETHOSCOPE
3M Littmann Classic II
Pediatric Stethoscope
ADC Adscope Adimals
618 Pediatric Stethoscope
Tunable AFD Technology
Primacare DS-9290-BK
Classic Series Dual-Head
Stethoscope

Stethoscope Buyers Guide

Dual head stethoscope

The Most Common Types of Stethoscopes for Nurses

There are a wide range of stethoscope types and models available.

For those on a lower budget, there’s a number of basic, economical stethoscopes (generally classic acoustic models) on the market.

At the other end of the buying spectrum are high-performance digital stethoscopes, (some of the best coming from 3m Littmann) with in-built amps and Bluetooth capability. These can connect with your phone and even offer app-based diagnostic and recording capabilities.

I have broken down the list of stethoscopes by type as follows:

Choosing a Stethoscope by Head Type

single head stethoscope
A Single-head Stethoscope

Single Head Stethoscope

Single head stethoscopes offer a specific listening experience by utilizing a one sided chest-piece with an adjustable diaphragm.

The user can also adjust the diaphragm in order to listen to the different sounds of the lungs, stomach and heart.

Because the device is able to tune into a wide range of sounds, with a clear and reliable sound output over a wide frequency, it is a popular choice for general usage like taking vital signs and lung auscultation.

Basic heart sound assessments can also be carried out with the single head stethoscope.

Dual-Head Stethoscope

Dual-head stethoscope
A Dual-head Stethoscope

A dual-head stethoscope is composed of two heads – the diaphragm and the bell.

The diaphragm is the flat part of the head and is designed to detect high-frequency sounds. The bell is shaped like a small cup and is used for low-frequency sounds and murmurs that the diaphragm might normally have difficulty detecting.

The versatility of this type of stethoscope make it a good choice when dealing with patients of varying condition and age.

Furthermore, stethoscopes with small and large diaphragms allow the user to detect sounds from the large organs as well as small, specific areas of the body.

Ultimately, this gives the nurse of doctor a wider range of sounds in order to more accurately diagnose their patients condition.

Triple-Head Stethoscope

Welch Ally Harvey - Triple-head Stethoscope
Image Credit: Welch Ally Harvey – Triple-head Stethoscope

The triple-head stethoscope is the most expensive of this head type category of instruments.

Because it is designed to accurately hear and assess critical heart sounds; the more cumbersome design (it weighs more than other types of stethoscope) make it more of a specific choice for critical cardiac assessments.

This lack of versatility as well as high cost make it an unlikely choice for most nurses.

Choosing a Stethoscope by Usage

paedatric stethoscope for children
A Paediatric Stethoscope

Paediatric Stethoscope

Paediatric stethoscopes are designed with the size of the patient in mind. With a head piece smaller than standard scopes, (measuring one inch in diameter) the diaphragm is also contoured to better fit the shape of a child.

If you work as a paediatric nurse, you will need a stethoscope with these dimensions in order to suit the patients.

Infant Stethoscope

The infant stethoscope is again smaller than traditional models. Here the bell part of the head piece is a mere ¾ inch in diameter. The head is also contoured to comfortably fit the body shape of infants and babies.

Cardiology Stethoscope

Cardiology Stethoscope

As well as the 3 headed, ultra-sensitive stethoscopes described above, you can also find specific cardiology stethoscopes in single and double head configurations.

This are designed to provide high quality sound detection so that vital cardiac assessments can be carried out.

The single tube design (usually bi-lumen) ensures that no noise pollution is present from two tubes rubbing together.

High performing diaphragms also ensure that even the slightest frequencies can be detected.

Choosing a Stethoscope by Other Factors

Acoustic Stethoscopes

The most affordable stethoscopes are generally acoustic ones. Branded as basic or classic models, the normal design is 2 heads: bell cup for low frequencies and a wider diaphragm to capture higher frequencies.

Acoustic stethoscopes are not as sensitive as electronic models and are not able to pick up as many sounds due to the lack of amplifications.

However, they benefit by working at all times as there are no batteries to charge.

Electronic Stethoscope

Electronic stethoscopes have more features, greater versatility and can capture a higher range of noise frequencies.

The noise reduction and amplification features have proved especially popular for nurses and doctors.

Furthermore, electric models with Bluetooth capabilities can offer record-keeping ability making it far easier to track changes in a patient’s condition.

However, electric stethoscopes are not so reliable in emergency mediac situations due to the need to recharge them.

Stethoscopes for the hearing impaired

For doctors, nurses or caregivers that may be slightly hearing impaired, you can now buy stethoscopes capable of amplifying sounds while limiting any outside noise contamination.

These are also designed to be attached to external PDAs, earphones or a tape recorder.

The Anatomy of a Stethoscope – In Search of High-Quality Components

Litmann Stethoscope

When choosing the best stethoscope for you, it is important to be aware of the various components and how to determine the quality of each.

What follows is a short guide to help you with that.

 The Chestpiece

chest-piece-stethoscope

The recommended material for the chest piece is stainless steel. Not only is it a good conductor of sound, stainless steel is durable enough to withstand the demands of daily use.

Additionally, you will find aluminum and zinc alloy chestpieces. While there is nothing wrong with these, they do not match stainless for the level of sound quality amplification.

Tunable Diaphragm

The tunable diaphragm is actually a 3M invention.

You may well have come across this versatile addition to the standard stethoscope already. By adjusting the pressure on the chest piece the medical practicioner is able to hear different sounds.

This increased functionality makes auscultating a patient much easier.

With regards to build quality, the diaphragm should be made from a high-quality flexible material like resin and PE compound film.

Furthermore, the component should be air-sealed so that the amplified sound is clear and apparent to the user.

A diaphragm with non-chill rim is another useful addition, especially for those working with children and infants.

Tubing

stethoscope tubing

The quality of the tubing is important, as it is this component that ensures the reliable transmission of sound to the eartips, while eliminating any unwanted external noises.

Tubes made from Polyvinyl Chloride are recommended as this is thick and durable enough to be crack-resistant, while having enough flexibility to be folded conveniently away.

Double lumen tubing is another development that has been welcomed by practitioners. This allows for two sound paths to be housed inside the one outer tube.

The end result is a huge reduction in the rubbing noise generated by traditional twin-tubed stethoscopes.

The Headset: Tension, Eartubes and Eartips

stethoscope Tension, Eartubes and Eartips

The headset contains two eartubes, tension springs and the eartips:

  • Tension Springs – This should provide precise adjustment so that the user can find a comfortable fit.
  • The eartubes – These need to be able to adjust to an anatomically correct angle, for a proper fit into your ear canals. The ribbed end of the tubes should reliably fasten the eartips into place. Aluminum alloy is the recommended material due to its lightweight, superior strength.
  • EarTips – Durable, soft-sealing eartips should be used to provide a high quality acoustic seal and comfortable fit.

A Quick Word on Hygiene

hygeine and stethoscopes

As every medical professional is aware, the stethoscope is a hot-bed of potentially harmful bacteria that can be transferred from patient to patient. Careful cleaning of the instrument is essential. However, if we are honest with ourselves, how stringent is this process within the practical context of a busy ward?

While there are an abundance of studies showing that Stethoscope diaphragms can harbor potentially pathogenic bacteria, and stethoscope manufactures have filed various patents in attempts to facilitate the sanitization of these tools, (from small cleaning devices that actually attach to the stethoscope earpiece, to standalone apparatus designed for fast sanitization of the chestpiece); the ‘general’ shape and build of the stethoscope has remain unchanged for over a century.

This means that hygiene and effective sanitization remains as big an issue as it as always been.

Rubbing alcohol pads on stethoscope diaphragms is a recommended method, however, these are not always available.

Studies have suggested that a combined process of scrubbing hands and the stethoscope head with alcohol-based hand foam, is an alternative method that would benefit both practicioners and their patients.

Anyway, I bring this up in an effort to raise the importance of this issue when using any stethoscope with a patient. A suitable process of sanitization has to be employed.

Essentially, the ease with which you can keep the stethoscope clean of bacteria is another consideration to have in mind before you buy.

3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803

Top 10 Stethoscope Reviews

1. 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope (Best Buy for Nurses & Medical Students)

The 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope, is one of the best selling, entry-level Litmann stethoscopes currently on the market.

It is easy to see why. This affordable, yet versatile instrument features patented  3M ‘tunable technology’ diaphragms and a two sided chestpiece, making it a great choice for certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, EMT/EMS, licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants and students.

Its teardrop shape makes auscultation around blood pressure cuffs easier and as a diagnostic aid for the physical assessment of a patient; it is difficult to name a better option.

Litmann have a track record innovation and design, and even though this acoustic stethoscope is in the classis series, (meaning it doesn’t have the features and range of some of the higher priced stethoscopes available); you will still enjoy a superior listening experience, with the ability to detect grade I murmurs, S3 and S4 and other noises.

That being said, due to the price point, it doesn’t have the same clarity, amplification, or ability to detect certain nuances required for cardiology work. That is not the aim of this entry level instrument, however.

It can be used with adult as well as pediatric clients due to featuring a smaller diameter side that can be turned into a traditional open bell, (this is done by replacing the diaphragm by the included non-chill rim).

It weighs just under 4oz, (you will not notice this hanging around your neck all day); furthermore, the 28 inch tubing allows extra room to manoeuvre while conducting patient examinations.

The build quality of the Littmann Classic III

In keeping with other stethoscopes within the Classic series, the III is constructed from aeroespacial steel alloy, with some components being made from anodized aluminum.

As I discussed in the buyer’s guide earlier, quality steel alloys provide advanced sound conductivity, making them a great choice for the head.

The tube is made from a fold and pressure resistant material, (which will spring back to its original shape after being folded.) Avoiding latex or phthalate plasticizers in its composition Litmann have ensured the tool is both resistant to skin oils and alcohol.

To top it all off, Litmann offer a very generous 5-year guarantee which does highlight their confidence in the longevity of the product.

The 3M Littmann Learning Institute app

Finally, it should be known that the Littmann Classic III comes complete with the “3M Littmann Learning Institute app”.

This is a very interesting smartphone application designed for medical field students and beginner clinical professionals. The app provides access to a series of lessons with real auscultation sounds, allowing one to test and in some cases further their knowledge.

Pros of the 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope
  • Versatile dual-sided chestpiece with tunable diaphragm and open bell.
  • Teardrop-shaped chestpiece – Position under blood pressure cuffs and around bandages wiyth ease.
  • Tunable diaphragm: Hear both high or low frequency sounds simply by adjusting pressure on the chestpiece.
  • Detect normal and abnormal sounds and rhythms
  • Soft-sealing eartips for a better acoustic seal
  • Ideal for practicioners in non-critical care environments; medical office, general ward, OB/GYN, clinic etc
  • Replace the single-piece diaphragm with the included nonchill rim for Pediatric use.
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Five-year warranty
The Cons
  • The materials used for the various components do not match higher quality instruments – putting the longevity of the stethoscope into question.
  • As this is the entry level Litmann offering, the sound quality is not as nuanced as their more premium stethoscopes.

Bottom Line

The Littmann Classic III is a superb choice as affordable upgrade from a basic stethoscope.

Versatile, comfortable and with a ton of features, the quality of the instrument actually belies the price you are paying. Especially when you consider the long term Litmann warranty.

Overall a great stethoscope option for nurses.

2. MDF Rose Gold MD Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope (MDF777RG-29)

The MDF777 Premium Dual Head Stethoscope is another great choice for general medical purposes.

Constructed from premium-grade stainless steel, the Rose Gold option actually features an attractive gold-plating. While this addition is clearly for aesthetic purposes, it does not detract from the fact this stethoscope performs very well indeed.

The MDF777 scores highly on its accurate auscultation of heart, lung and blood pressure sounds. An impressive range for an instrument of this price point.

The diaphragm is sealed by the non-chill diaphragm retaining ring. Not only does this provide an increased level of comfort for the patient, it also helps ensure a secure acoustic transmission.

The stethoscope also has an extra large bell (this too is crowned with non-chill bell ring). The result is a tool that provides increased acoustical amplification, while at the same time able to isolate low frequency sounds such as the murmur of mitral stenosis, for example.

The overall build quality is pleasing too. The stainless steel Dual-Head Chestpiece and full-rotation Acoustic Valve Stem are precisely machined. This is a stethoscope designed to withstands the knocks and scrapes of everyday use.

The anatomically angled headset is also machined to a high standard; the polished stainless steel construction not only looks good, but is reassuringly sturdy too.

Other components such as the extra-thick latex-free white PVC tubing, super-soft silicone ComfortSeal Eartips, all help make the MDF777 stethoscope a pleasure to use.

To top it all off, MDF also supply liftetime warranty support to every stethoscope they sell. If that doesn’t instil confidence into the build quality, I don’t know what will, (we all know the abuse a stethoscope gets week in, week out).

Pros of the MDF777 Rose Gold MD Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope
  • Dual head chestpiece with Stainless steel construction
  • Non-chill ring
  • Extra-large bell
  • Latex-free PVC tubing
  • Patented internal metal alloy chamber
  • Ergonomax™, ultra comfortable headset
  • 2 Sets of ComfortSeal™ eartips
  • Latex-free, Non-toxic design
  • Free replacement parts for life
  • Lifetime Warranty
The Cons
  • For all the good points on robust build quality, this is still a budget option stethoscope. It lacks both the acoustic nuance and sturdiness of more premium models.
  • This particular aesthetic design, (Rose Gold) will not be to everyone’s taste.

Bottom Line

Designed to help medical professionals perform accurate diagnoses each and everytime, the MDF777 Rose Gold Dual Head Stethoscope really is a great instrument.

With a similar price to the top pick Litmann Classic III, this general all-purpose stethoscope from MDF is more than worthy of your attention.

An attractive design aesthetic, build quality (a lifetime warranty speaks volumes) and a top rate acoustic performance make this a highly recommended option across the board.

3. 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope (Best Budget Buy)

The 3M™ Littmann® Lightweight II S.E. is the best budget option in our top 10 for good reason.

As the most affordable stethoscope in this list, the Lightweight II S.E provides the superior expertise of Littmann at a price-point all nurses and medical students will find agreeable.

So who is this stethoscope primarily designed for? In my opinion, basic clinical use, primary assessment, and initial triage. This is first and foremost an entry level instrument that serves as an enticing alternative to common Sprague and nurse stethoscopes.

In other words, for blood pressure and basic physical assessment, the Littmann Lightweight II is the best on the market.

This purpose is very evident in the overall design too. It features a teardrop-shaped chestpiece which makes auscultation easier around blood-pressure cuffs and body contours.

Similar to the Classic III, the Lightweight II has the 3M patented tunable diaphragm, dual-sided chestpiece, toxic free tubing and ergonomic headset design.

On the subject of that, the adjustable tension on the headset is far superior to other general stethoscopes available at this price point.

Combined with the snap-tight, soft-seal eartips this really is a comfortable instrument to use.

This level of comfort is also increased by how light this stethoscope is. Weighing in at a mere 118 grams, this is the lightest of all Littmann adult stethoscopes, (hence the model name).

For caregivers that wear their scope around their necks all day long, this is yet another benefit of opting for the Lightweight II.

Pros of the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope
  • Very affordable Littmann Stethoscope
  • Reliable acoustic performance *(best for blood pressure readings and limited physical assessments)
  • Tunable diaphragm (Alter pressure to capture low and high-frequency sounds)
  • Tear-drop shape designed for easier auscultation under blood pressure cuff
  • Ergonomic headset designed to meet the path of the ear canal
  • Soft-sealing eartips for improved acoustic seal and comfort
  • Nonchill rim and diaphragm provide for improved patient examining experience
  • 2 year warranty, made in the USA.
The Cons
  • 6 out of 10 acoustic performance rating
  • This is an entry level stethoscope

Bottom Line

The Lightweight II S.E is the best way to experience Littmann quality, at an extremely budget friendly price-point. Be under no allusions as to the functionality here however.

As an instrument designed for blood pressure assessment and basic physical examination, you will not go wrong. If you need anything more detailed than that, you should look eslewhere.

4. 3M Littmann Cardiology IV Diagnostic Stethoscope (Best for Critical Care)

From one end of the Littmann quality scale to the other.

Where the Lightweight II S.E is designed as an entry level stethoscope, the Cardiology IV is one of the highest grade diagnosis instruments currently available.

The Cardiology series of Littmann stethoscopes has always pushed the boundaries of performance, and the IV is no different.

Useful in critical care and similar challenging medical environments, the Cardiology IV is just as at home in ED, ICU and Cardiac ICU as it is in step-down units and other dynamic locations.

And it is easy to see how the scope offers improved acoustic performance over other instruments in this price point.

Enhanced audibility of high-frequency sounds can be gained on the adult side of the chestpiece (by applying firm pressure), which is in keeping with the Littmann brand where a tunable diaphragm comes as standard.

The chalice-shaped, double sided chestpiece delivers diagnostic versatility; with the instrument being designed to diagnose both adult and paediatric patients.

(By way of comparison, the IV has a 40% larger chestpiece and 60% deeper bell than the 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope; that’s an indication of just how sensitive the acoustic performance is once you get into the domain of premium-priced stethoscopes.)

Other, sophisticated Littmann features are all present and correct. The dual-lumen tubing reduces sound contamination (from tubes rubbing together) by allowing for two sound paths in the one casing; the tubing is also more durable to crimping and stains, and is devoid of any natural rubber latex or phthalate plasticizers.

The ergonomic headset is easily adjusted to fit the dimensions of the individual, and angled eartubes ensure that the eartips align perfectly with the user’s ear canals.

To top it all off, 3M Littmann offer an incredible 7 year warranty on the Cardiology IV, making this made in USA stethoscope one of the best currently on the market.

Pros of the 3M Littmann Cardiology IV Diagnostic Stethoscope
  • Designed for critical care and challenging environments such as the ED, ICU, Cardiac ICU, and step-down units.
  • High quality acoustic performance allowing you to diagnose with confidence.
  • Very versatile; Tunable diaphragm; double-sided chestpiece allows for comfortable diagnoses of both adult and pediatric patients.
  • Dual-lumen tubing reduces sound contamination, (also non toxic and durable)
  • Extremely generous, 7 year warranty.
  • Made in the USA
The Cons
  • Clearly more expensive than other stethoscopes in our list
  • Not designed for nurses in general care, medical environments
  • Larger and heavier than stethescopes such as the RDF, Leightweight II S.E and Classic III.

Bottom Line

The Cardiology IV stethoscope is a high-quality, superior grade instrument. Don’t be fooled by the name however. This scope is not just for Cardiologists. Specialists and general practice physicians, critical care nurses, EMTs, medical students, and other healthcare professionals benefit from using a tool with such precision acoustic ability.

If you have the budget, and your job requires you to identify, listen to, and study cardiac, lung, and other body sounds in both adult and pediatric patients, the Cardiology IV could very well be the stethoscope you have been waiting for.

5. EKO Core Digital Stethoscope (Best Electric Stethoscope for Nurses)

The EKO Core Stethoscope deserves a place on our list, as not only is this a top quality electronic instrument, with a flick of a switch it also performs as an analog stethoscope.

This versatility should put some of the naysayers about the risks of using an electric stethoscope in critical environments, (what happens if you run out of battery precisely when you need to use it most?), into place.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look.

Beyond, the electric/analog dual functionality, the EKO Core also provides a whole host of other technologies.

Auscultation in the main of course, however by connecting with your cell phone device via an app, there’s also, processing, visualization, record keeping as well as EMR storage of sounds.

And when you consider the regulatory pressures on medical professionals in 2019, how long will it be before essential risk management demands that auscultation EMR sounds are recorded.

In my professional opinion, this regulatory environment will see electronic stethoscopes becoming a lot more widespread in coming years.

The EKO Core may well be at the centre of the gradual adoption.

The stethoscope is sturdy in design, comfortable to use, and most importantly delivers clear amplified auscultation sounds of both heart and lungs, and works well on both adult and paediatric patients.

The software

Clearly, the software aspect of any electronic stethoscope is what sets itself apart from the competition.

After downloading the app you can easily connect the EKO Core to your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth.

Then, when you use the stethoscope (on auscultation exam for example) you can follow up by using your device to, record and store the sounds.

You can also annotate these sound files too, clearly defining the area of the body they came from during the process of the examination.

There’s also the ability to share sound files too. This is HIPAA compliant, and allows you to easily forward on recordings, along with your notes to colleagues. Importantly, you can also save them to an EMR.

Other useful features within the software includes live streaming of auscultation for remote live monitoring, playback of recorded and shared sounds from within the actual stethoscope headset, an educational library of sounds, with MP3 recordings available for download.

There’s also a predefined PDF template available that makes creating an auscultation report even easier, (and billing and compliance more efficient).

Pros of the EKO Core Digital Stethoscope
  • A quality stethoscope with rich and clear amplification
  • Can be used in both electronic and analog modes
  • Designed for both adult and paediatric auscultation
  • Excellent software – connects to IOS or Android device for sound recording, sharing and annotation.
  • HIPAA compliant, can save sounds to an EMR with ease
  • Comes with a library of sounds and downloadable MP3’s for comparison and educational purposes
The Cons
  • Arguably the sound detection lacks nuance for critical medical environments
  • Having to use an electronic recording device, (phone, ipad etc) can be cumbersome in the middle of an examination
  • Bulkier than the traditional analog stethoscopes included in our top 10

Conclusion

The Eko Core digital stethoscope is a real indication of where the technology is taking us.

Whether it is education, sound amplification, EMR storage, or serial follow up of patients, the provided features made available by the included software, really are impressive.

The stethoscope is also well built, comfortable to use and versatile in a wide range of clinical environments. However, for critical care and more demanding cardiologist situations, it doesn’t quite make the grade.

6. 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope (Best Cardiology Stethoscope)

If your work is specific to patients with heart problems, there is one clear winner when it comes to which stethoscope you should buy.

A firm favourite with Cardiologists across the world, the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope is that instrument.

Designed from the ground up specifically for detailed heart auscultation, the Master is able to provide the very best of valve sound clarity.

It features a tunable diaphragm of course, (as we have covered elsewhere, this allows the user to hear a variety of frequencies by adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece), however the high performance nature of the diaphragm is central to the overall design of the Master Cardiology. Acoustic clarity is the priority here.

This of course is reflected in the price point. As one of the most expensive analog Littmanns currently available, you are paying significantly more for the acoustic performance it provides.

Does this make it appropriate for all medical practitioners? Not really, no.

The chestpiece is more intimidating than that seen on standard stethoscopes, making it unsuitable for general paediatric use.

Furthermore, not all medical staff will require the superior sound detection that the Master offers, (why pay top dollar for features you won’t actually use).

However, as we stated in the opening paragraph above; if you do work with adult patients with cardiac issues, this is the number one choice.

Pros of the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope
  • Unique single side chestpiece design with oversized tunable diaphragm
  • Handcrafted solid stainless steel for better acoustic sensitivity
  • Special Procedures Adaptor
  • Two-in-one tube design to cancel unwanted noise
  • Ergonomic and comfortable when in use
  • Soft-sealing earpieces
  • Choice of tube length: 22 or 27 inch tubes
The Cons
  • Expensive
  • The oversized design not so appropriate for paediatric patients
  • Limited color selection when compared to other Littmann stethoscopes

Bottom line

Quite simply, if the nature of your work requires high precision diagnostic capabilities, with cardiology assessment being the order of the day, this is the stethoscope you should be using.

If not, you are better placed saving some money and looking towards the likes of the Littmann Classic III instead.

7. ERKA Finesse 2 Stethoscope

The ERKA Finesse Stethoscope is a good option for both for both students, nurses and clinicians in a range of patient situations.

We would categorize the ERKA as a worthwhile alternative to the Littmann Classic III, their price points are similar and the quality here is definitely comparable.

The company is actually based in Germany. The stereotype of German Manufacturing being of precision quality definitely stands here. The ERKA Finesse is a well constructed instrument.

So how does it perform?

Again, very well. Sound transmission and resonance is clear enabling reliable auscultation.

The tool features a reversible, combined chest-piece with two prestressed convex diaphragms suitable for assessing both adult and paediatric patients. (Again, a direct comparison can be made to the Classic and Lightweight Littmann models that offer such versatility).

The headset offers a comfortable fit, with dual Channel Tubing and soft ergonomic ear tips that position into the ear in a manner that effectively blocks out unwanted noise.

The range of colors is again comparable to the Classic Series, with 13 choices available.

Finally, ERKA provide a 2 year warranty for valuable peace of mind.

Pros of the ERKA Finesse 2 Stethoscope
  • Dual-membrane technology for superior sound quality
  • Suitable for both paediatric and adult auscultation
  • High level of precision engineering
  • Soft binural and parallel tubing to block out external scraping sounds
  • FDA-approved (ERKA have partnered with Medelita to sell the stethoscopes in the USA)
  • 2-year warranty (free returns before 30 days)
The Cons
  • The “Y part” or yoke tension is not as tight as the design on Littmann stethoscopes. The result means you sometimes have to pull the Y-part to tighten, which is a nuisance while in the middle of an assessment.

Bottom Line

ERKA, is a 133 year old company and it is evident that they know what they are doing when it comes to quality engineering. There’s many reasons to like the Precision Stethoscope, it offers superior performance at a very good price point.

However, it is in direct competition to the Classic III from Littmann and unfortunately falls a little short. Which does beg the question, why opt for this model at all?

I’ll leave you to consider that one yourself.

8. 3M Littmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope (Best Pediatric Stethoscope)

The best stethoscope for paediatric nurses and paediatricians is, yes you’ve guessed it, another offering from Littmann.

Part of the Classic Series, the Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope is an excellent instrument for regular auscultation on children and infants.

Designed to be appealing to children, the range of bright colors used for this stethoscope, (orange, pink, raspberry to name but a few) brings a welcome bit of cheer to a tool that would normally intimidate the young patient.

(Another benefit is that there’s little chance of your stethoscope getting mixed up or lost among those belonging to other staff members).

Beyond the colorful aesthetic, you have stethoscope that offers superior sound quality for confident diagnosis.

The versatile dual-sided chestpiece consists of a standard diaphragm and a traditional open bell.

For reference, the standard diaphragm measures 2.7cm, the open bell is even smaller at 1.9cm; dimensions that make the Classic II ideal for neonatal and infant patients.

The chestpiece features a rubber non-chill rim and diaphragm to help ensure patient comfort.

As with other Littmann products in this top 10 round up, the anatomically-designed headset is comfortable to wear, snapping into place in a manner that angles the soft-sealing eartips perfectly.

Other standard features include the next-generation tubing, (more durable, less toxic, prevents contamination sounds of tube material rubbing together); and an excellent 3 year manufacturing and mechanical defect warranty.

Pros of the 3M Littmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope
  • Dual-sided chestpiece and floating diaphragm – listen to low (bell) and high frequency (standard side) sounds
  • Chestpiece with smaller dimensions for easier assessment and diagnosis of infant patients
  • Ergonomic headset angled to meet the path of the ear canal
  • Next-generation tubing made from latex-free materials
  • Nonchill rim and diaphragm, and bright colors designed to appeal to infants
The Cons
  • Difficult to fault the Littmann Classic II Pediatric stethoscope, as it delivers exactly what it needs to for high-quality, general paediatric medical assessment
  • More expensive than other dedicated paediatric stethoscopes available.

Bottom Line

If you are a medical professional working with neonatal and infant patients on a daily basis, the 3M Littmann Classic II Pediatric Stethoscope is the scope for you.

Littmann quality acoustics, ergonomic comfort, and features designed specifically to cater for infant patients, there is very little to fault here. Highly recommended.

9. ADC Adscope Adimals 618 Pediatric Stethoscope

If you are looking for more affordable, paediatric stethoscope than the Classic II from Littmann, this stethoscope from ADC is a good option.

The Adscope Adimals 618 Pediatric Stethoscope features Tunable AFD Technology. By altering pressure on the chestpiece the user can switch between listening for bell-like low frequency sounds, and diaphragm-like high frequency sounds.

The stethoscope is designed to appeal to infants of course, and this is achieved wonderfully with the clever 7 interchangeable animal face snap-ons that can be attached to the chestpiece.

Give your patient the choice between a Panda, Frog, Koala, Deer, Monkey, Tiger or Bear, and enjoy a happy face as you actually get them involved with the examination in a fun and enjoyable way.

The chestpiece itself is optimally sized (1½”) for pediatric use, allowing the user to access the relevant areas on the patient’s small frame.

Patient comfort is further increased with the non-chill bell and diaphragm ensuring the infant’s skin does not feel the cold steel of the stethoscope.

Lightweight aluminum binaurals make for comfortable listening experience too.

Pros of theADC Adscope Adimals 618 Pediatric Stethoscope
  • Chestpiece optimally sized (1½”) for pediatric use.
  • 7 interchangeable animal faces included: your patient can choose between Panda, Frog, Koala, Deer, Monkey, Tiger and Bear – a great way to make them feel at ease.
  • ADC’s AFD Technology – switch between bell-like low frequency and diaphragm-like high frequency just by altering the pressure on the chestpiece.
  • Non-chill bell and diaphragm
  • Lightweight aluminum binaurals
The Cons
  • The build quality is relatively cheap
  • The transparent tubing is prone to picking up stains and does look quite dirty relatively quickly

Bottom Line

The ADC Adscope Adimals 618 Pediatric Stethoscope with Tunable AFD Technology is a great little instrument for the price.

Average acoustic and build quality it may have, but for general peadatric use in a non-critical environment, these scopes really do fit the bill.

The interchagable animal faces on the chestpiece is a lovely touch, and does a lot to make young patients feel at ease.

The versatility provided by the AFD Technology is another real benefit. While it doesn’t hold up to the experience of using the Littmann Classic II Paediatric scope, at almost half the price it is definitely worth a look.

10. Primacare DS-9290-BK Classic Series Adult Dual-Head Stethoscope

The final stethoscope in this ultimate review round up is this extremely affordable option from Primacare. Currently retailing for less than 10 bucks this scope blows everything else we have reviewed from a price point perspective.

However, how good can a stethoscope really be if you can buy it at this price.

The answer is not bad. You clearly will not be able to do any critical assessment with such an instrument, and nuanced cardiology is a non-starter. This doesn’t mean that the Primacare doesn’t have a place within general medical care.

Designed for blood pressure monitoring and general auscultation, the tool is surprisingly well built.

The DS-9290-BK features an adjustable chrome plated brass binaural and a chrome plated dual head chest piece, (one can’t expect stainless steel components at this price).

As with all dual-head stethoscopes, it provides the versatility of a bell on one side (low frequency sounds) and the diaphragm on the other.

The 22″ single channel lightweight, latex-free tubing is of surprisingly good construction, and feels like it will withstand regular use.

Finally, Primacare include a spare diaphragm and pair of mushroom ear tips, increasing the longevity of a tool that is priced to be a throwaway in the first place.

Pros of the Primacare DS-9290-BK Classic Series Adult Dual-Head Stethoscope
  • Insanely affordable, adult-size stethoscope – adequate enough for general medical use and the monitoring of blood pressure and heart, lung, and bowel sounds
  • Versatile Dual-head chest piece (bell and diaphragm) for increased frequency range
  • Adjustable headset (that is actually relatively lightweight and comfortable) made of chrome-plated brass
  • 22″ long, single-channel, latex free tubing – again adequate acoustics
  • Includes a spare diaphragm and pair of mushroom ear tips
The Cons
  • This is an extremely cheap stethoscope with no real additional features
  • Build quality is what you’d expect from a sub 10 dollar tool. There’s no stainless steel here.
  • For general, non-critical adult patient use only

Bottom Line

If you only need to use a stethoscope occassionaly for limited, general blood pressure and non-critical auscultation, the Primacare DS-9290-BK would be an okay choice.

If however, you use a stethoscope on a daily basis, it is definitely in your better interest (as well as your patients), to have a higher quality instrument.

Which is the best Stethoscope for you?

cardiology stethoscope

If you have reached the end of this article and you still remain undecided on which is the best stethoscope for you, then to finish off I will round up with this.

No one stethoscope is the best per se. The two most important issues when choosing which one to buy, is:

  • Appropriateness to your needs
  • Your budget

Essentially, each stethoscope we have reviewed, (along with the countless others available on the market) have pros and cons depending on the viewpoint of the person that is using it.

The important issue is to understand exactly what makes sense for your unique situation and buy accordingly.

Medical practitioners that diagnose on the basis of low-frequency sounds should opt for a reputable dual-sided stethoscope with a bell.

Working with infants and babies? Then the highest quality paediatric stethoscope you can afford, should be your aim.

In situations where sounds might need to be recorded, or the user is hard of hearing, an electronic stethoscope might be of interest.

Cardiologists will have a completely different view and all of the above would fall short; a specific, high sensitive instrument designed for cardiology would be the focus.

Whether you’re a registered nurse, cardiologist, paramedic or in the first year of medical school, your needs will differ.

Each medical professional has to consider this before they buy.

Recommended Reading

  1. Digital stethoscope: technology update – Authors Swarup S, Makaryus AN
  2. Automatic Heart Analyzing CADence System Cleared by FDA
  3. Validation of an effective, low cost, Free/open access 3D-printed stethoscope
  4. Researchers combine separate technologies to develop new digital stethoscope design – Medicalxpress
  5. Physicians’ stethoscopes more contaminated than palms of their hands – Elsevier Health Sciences, ScienceDaily
  6. A Simulator-Based Study of In-Flight Auscultation – Authors Tourtier et al., Simul Healthcare
  7. Stethoscope Still Valuable Despite Technological Advances – PracticeUpdate
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About Hannah Drake

Hannah Drake, RN, CSP is a registered nurse and owner and founder of Nurse Focus. Her nursing career spans almost two decades, and in that time she has developed her skill base across a variety of settings, including med surg nursing, clinical informatics system administration and implementation, and healthcare community management. Contact Hannah.

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