As seen in:
3M Littmann
Master Cardiology
Omron
Sprague Rappaport
American Diagnostic
Adscope
3M Littmann
Lightweight II S.E.
MDF®
Stainless Steel, Dual Head
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Good

Tunable diaphragm with excellent acoustics. Ideal in trauma and cardiopulmonary situations.

Three bell sizes and two diaphragm sizes. Extremely low price.

Lightweight and budget-priced. Includes non-chill coating and a five-year limited warranty.

Extremely light. Comfortable ear tips. Non-chill, tunable diaphragm. Seven colors available.

Made of high-quality stainless steel. Excellent sound transmission. 13 color choices. Lifetime warranty.

Bad

Expensive. Bulkier and heavier than some competitors.

Some complaints of earpiece discomfort. Chestpiece does not include a non-chill ring.

Not as effective on smaller subjects (children and animals).

Only includes one pair of ear tips.

Rare complaints of muffled sound. Some issues with murmurs and bruits.

Bottom Line

The king of all stethoscopes, this versatile device yields a top-notch performance. The best available.

A non-latex, budget-priced instrument that is suitable for both veterinary and medical professionals.

A low-priced, entry-level instrument that, for some professionals, offers a decent compromise between cost and quality.

Known for its acoustic sensitivity, this general-purpose stethoscope is extremely popular with medical pros. The best economic deal.

Comfortable and sensitive, this well-received contender is a popular choice among medical professionals.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
92
Models Considered
34
Hours Spent
2
Experts Interviewed
202
Consumers Consulted

Best Stethoscopes

Today's market offers literally hundreds of stethoscopes, but we're not interested in cheap disposable models or electronic stethoscopes (otherwise known as "stethophones"). So what type of stethoscope made our final five? Our elite shortlist covers a broad range of prices. You could get terrific performance from one of our entry-level stethoscopes. If you're willing to invest a bit more, you could choose from devices that clinicians agree are among the best in the world. Our finalists are:

Products we Considered

3M Littmann
Master Cardiology
Omron
Sprague Rappaport
American Diagnostic
Adscope
3M Littmann
Lightweight II S.E.
MDF®
Stainless Steel, Dual Head

Considerations

General Construction

A stethoscope is likely to receive a fair amount of handling over its lifetime. As such, customers want a stethoscope that's well-made and durable. Those who will be wearing the device for much of their working life also want a comfortable device with an ergonomic design.

Chestpiece, Bell, and Diaphragm

A stethoscope's chestpiece, bell, and diaphragm work in tandem. Sound clarity (and an accurate diagnosis) depend on the quality of these individual parts. In this section of our ratings, we look at the different stethoscope models on offer and the sound reproduction they deliver.

Owner Feedback

A manufacturer's product description and statistics can only tell so much. To round out our review as fully as possible, we take into account the thoughts and comments of the medical professionals who use these instruments every day.

Price

You can buy a cheap stethoscope and get perfectly good results within the limits of its specification, but should you spend more for a better model? In the final part of our review, we look at prices and the value they represent.

If you are striving to hear very faint murmurs, you might consider a cardiology stethoscope. But if you are using it to measure blood pressure or assess for breath sounds, any stethoscope would work well.
Dr. Sun
Medical Doctor
Considerations

General Construction

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

In spite of its positioning as a budget instrument (aimed very much at students of both human and veterinary medicine), the Omron Sprague Rappaport stethoscope is not badly made. The two-tube design isn't popular with everyone, but in terms of construction, it's perfectly adequate. The 22-inch tubing is non-latex, so allergy sufferers won't be affected. The chestpiece is chrome-plated, and the Omron Sprague Rappaport is supplied in a vinyl case with two pairs of ear tips. It weighs around 10 ounces.

ADC Adscope 609ST Stethoscope

The ADC Adscope 609ST stethoscope is considered by many to be an entry-level instrument. The PVC tubing is the same length as that of the Omron Sprague Rappaport (22 inches). Overall length is 31 inches. The bell and diaphragm retaining rim have a non-chill coating, and with your purchase, you get a spare pair of large PVC ear tips. The ADC Adscope is quite lightweight at just 4.5 ounces. While looks aren't necessarily important, a few users weren't keen on its all-black appearance.

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

3M Littmann is arguably the most highly regarded manufacturer of stethoscopes, so you would expect their Lightweight II S.E. to be a quality instrument. According to owners, you wouldn't be disappointed. We've mentioned that appearance doesn't really impact a stethoscope's performance, but people still have their preferences; this model allows you to choose from seven different colors. Like the ADC Adscope, there's a non-chill diaphragm and rim. Non-latex tubing stretches the stethoscope to an overall length of 28 inches. 3M Littmann claims that the headset is ergonomically designed and easy to adjust for comfort. While you do only get one set of ear tips, they are particularly soft to adaptable to the ear – and they're firmly attached so you won't lose them. An overall weight of just 1.9 ounces makes this the lightest stethoscope in our review.

MDF® MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope

If you like having your choice of colors, the MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head stethoscope should have a hue to satisfy you, as there are 13 in all! Construction is stainless steel; according to the manufacturer, this material renders better acoustics. There's a non-chill ring around the bell and dual leaf spring internals that are claimed to help durability. The “ErgonoMax” headset, precisely angled and fitted with “ComfortSeal” ear tips with patented “SafetyLock” adapters, is designed for comfort. The non-latex tubing gives the MDF an overall instrument length of 29.5 inches. Although we checked the manufacturer's website, we were unable to find an accurate weight for the MDF MD One. Shipping weight is quoted at 12 ounces.

3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

Owners tell us that our second 3M Littmann stethoscope, the Master Cardiology, is one of the best instruments available. Not surprisingly, it has some things in common with the Lightweight II S.E.: a non-chill diaphragm rim, non-latex tubing, soft ear tips, and a headset angled precisely to the path of the ear canal. It also has non-latex tubing, though this time it's “dual lumen” – one tube inside another – to reduce chances of external noise interference. Overall length is 27 inches and weight is 6.2 ounces. This is quite heavy, but over three ounces of that weight is taken up by the stainless steel chestpiece.

The 3M Littmann Master Cardiology and the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. stethoscopes both feature a non-chill diaphragm rim, non-latex tubing, soft ear tips, and a headset angled precisely to the path of the ear canal.
Considerations

Chestpiece, Bell, & Diaphragm

A stethoscope's bell and diaphragm are vital to good sound transmission. Owners of the Omron Sprague stethoscope enjoy versatility by way of three open bell sizes and two diaphragm sizes. It's important to note that having to change your own diaphragm might be seen as a drawback by some. Sound travels up the two tubes, one for each ear. This is supposedly for better sound reproduction. However, as some owners point out, this construction can lead to false noises caused by the tubes knocking each other.

ADC Adscope 609ST Stethoscope

The ADC stethoscope uses a popular combination chestpiece design made from aluminum. The bell is 1-3/8 inches in diameter, and the diaphragm – claimed by the manufacturer to be highly sensitive – is 1-3/4 inches. Unfortunately, a number of owners do not agree with the manufacturer's sensitivity claim. Those who work with children and small animals have been particularly disappointed. Many think the ADC delivers good sound quality when the patient is an adult, but quite a few consider its sensitivity to be poor when it comes to smaller subjects.

3M Littmann is keen to point out that the Lightweight II S.E. stethoscope is designed primarily for “reliable acoustic performance for taking blood pressure readings and limited physical assessments.” If that makes it sound in some way inferior, you'd get arguments from a lot of nurses to the contrary! The chestpiece is a double-sided unit that is frequently praised for its all-around ability and sensitivity, thanks to its tunable diaphragm. (Light pressure is used to detect low frequency sounds; a slight increase in pressure picks up higher frequencies.) It's an idea invented by 3M and frequently copied by others.

MDF® MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope

Chestpiece precision is an area of great focus with the MDF MD One stethoscope, which uses stainless steel rather than the aluminum often found in cheaper stethoscopes. This dual-sided unit is carefully machined and polished to provide excellent acoustics and, according to MDF, “accurate auscultation of heart, lung, and Korotkoff sounds.” It would seem the majority of medical practitioners agree. Although several owners did say they had difficulty with murmurs and bruits, others who initially reported similar problems found that ear piece angle could be the culprit.

3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

The 3M Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope shares the Lightweight II S.E.'s tunable diaphragm, giving it excellent acoustics. It's housed in a single-sided, stainless steel chestpiece (so you don't have to turn it over) that was designed to slip easily under a blood pressure cuff. The fact that it's not double-sided doesn't mean it loses out in terms of versatility. Indeed, the manufacturer has included a special procedures adapter for pediatric and infant auscultation. Practitioners tell us that the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope consistently performs well. A tiny percentage say that it's over-rated, but nobody we encountered in our research complained about its acoustic quality.

The 3M Littmann Master Cardiology's tunable diaphragm is housed in a single-sided, stainless steel chestpiece (so you don't have to turn it over) that was designed to slip easily under a blood pressure cuff.
Dr. Sun
Expert Consultant
Dr. Sun
Medical Doctor

Dr. Sun is an MIT graduate who also holds a master's degree from Harvard in public health and an MD from Harvard Medical School. She completed her internship and residency at UCLA. Her area of focus is internal medicine.

Considerations

Owner Feedback

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

It would be easy to dismiss the Omron Sprague as a cheap stethoscope for students that should be replaced as soon as finances allow. However, owner feedback suggests that this particular instrument is a good deal better than that. It's fair to say some people don't like it; there have been complaints about general quality, and some find the earpieces uncomfortable. Nevertheless, many owners tell us that the Omron Sprague performs very well in general use. In short, this budget-priced stethoscope is definitely not just a throwaway item.

ADC Adscope 609ST Stethoscope

Given the fact that it's an entry-level stethoscope, many owners are highly complimentary of the ADC Adscope's light weight and economic value. In particular, respiratory specialists and EMTs have given it a lot of praise. Others say it lacks sensitivity for anything beyond lung sounds. Veterinarians have been notably disappointed with its effectiveness.The overall impression from our research is that the ADC Adscope might be a good learning instrument, but it's perhaps not the best for those who plan to use it day in and day out.

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

The 3M Littmann Lightweight S.E. is a very popular stethoscope. It's consistently rated as the best general-purpose instrument in independent reviews. Professionals underline those results, telling us that while certain specialist models might be superior within narrow niches, it's as good as anything for heart and lung sounds in the majority of medical practices and field situations. It also lives up to its “lightweight” name in that it's comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. It has a few critics: there have been a couple instances of diaphragms breaking, and some thought the instrument produced insufficient sounds. However, only a very small proportion of the comments made about this instrument are negative.

MDF® MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope

With components like a precision chestpiece and acoustic tubing that focuses on sound transmission, there's no doubt that the MDF MD One is a quality stethoscope. Owners rave about how comfortable it is – especially if you must wear it all day – and the sensitivity of the diaphragm, too. Several people who have used a number of different stethoscopes say the MDF MD One out-performs its more expensive counterparts. A number of people do struggle to hear clearly when using the MDF. (This is a complaint you will hear about most stethoscopes.) There have also been some concerns about picking up murmurs and bruits from doctors and nurses, and some find the ear pieces to be too long.

3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

The main challenge we had when reviewing the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope was finding any criticisms at all! The Master Cardiology receives consistently high ratings from both reviewers and working medical professionals. It's precise, it renders excellent sound, and it's made extremely well. You do pay for these advantages, but most users wouldn't be parted from theirs. Nothing is perfect, of course; one or two people think it's a bit bulky (they didn't criticize its functionality, though), and a couple said that although it's beautifully made, this stethoscope's performance is a bit hyped. Most owners have nothing but good things to say about this device, and many clinicians think it's better than anything else available.

Most Master Cardiology stethoscope owners have nothing but good things to say about this device, and many clinicians think it's better than anything else available.
"Do you want a single-sided tunable stethoscope with a diaphragm and bell on one side? Or do you want a double-sided stethoscope that separates the two? A tunable stethosocope allows you to change from one mode to the other by varying the pressure applied. A double-sided stethoscope requires you to turn the chestpiece around to change from one mode to the other." — Dr. Sun
Considerations

Price

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

At just $13, the Omron Sprague Rappaport stethoscope is a very cheap instrument – yet many professionals from all branches of medicine think it does a perfectly good job. It's reasonably well-made with non-latex tubing (as are all of our finalists) to minimize allergic reactions. The chromed chestpiece lacks a non-chill ring, but it does come with three bell sizes, two diaphragms, and spare ear tips. Not everyone likes changing their own diaphragms, and the twin tube design has been criticized for picking up extraneous noise. The Omron is also quite heavy compared to some of its lightweight competitors, and the warranty is limited to one year. Considering its price, though, it offers a great value.

ADC Adscope 609ST Stethoscope

At $18, the ADC Adscope 609ST stethoscope's price is close to that of the Omron Sprague Rappaport. It's an entry-level instrument that offers a good compromise between cost and performance. It does benefit from a non-chill, reversible aluminum chestpiece, and it's comparatively lightweight for a low-cost model. As a tool for those who work in respiratory medicine, it scores well, but it isn't rated quite so highly by those in other branches of medicine. Durability shouldn't be a problem; this instrument comes with a five-year limited warranty.

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

You might expect to pay more for a stethoscope from 3M Littmann, yet the Lightweight II S.E. stethoscope is very reasonably priced at $44. The manufacturer has paid great attention to every detail, from the soft ear tips to the ergonomically designed headpiece to the dual chestpiece with its tunable diaphragm. It's a versatile device that produces terrific sound. The only negative that surfaces with any regularity is an apparent weakness in some diaphragms. (Given that we've only had a few reports of this, it may have been a fault with a particular production batch.) The limited warranty on the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. stethoscope lasts two years.

MDF® MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope

The $54 MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head stethoscope is a high-quality instrument from a well-respected manufacturer. With 13 colors to choose from, everyone should be able to find one they like! The MDF has the precision required to produce good sound and the ergonomics needed for medical practitioners to comfortably use it all day long. Stainless steel is used where appropriate (for superior acoustics and increased durability); positive performance claims are largely supported by positive owner feedback. The only areas that attract negative comments are murmurs and bruits, which some found difficult to detect. (Apparently, the ear tip angle can affect this.) The manufacturer's confidence in the way the MDF MD One stethoscope works is backed by a lifetime warranty.

3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

Few medical instruments get such consistently high ratings as the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology stethoscope – but it will cost you $197. Some will think that price is too high, and if you're an occasional stethoscope user, any of our other finalists would do a perfectly good job for a lot less money. For others, however, the build quality and attention to detail offered by the Master Cardiology stethoscope make it worth the price. From the “dual lumen,” non-latex tubing to the shaping of the chestpiece, this device was designed to produce the best sound possible. It's not particularly light, but most find it comfortable, and while some have commented on it being a bit bulky, nobody we heard from criticized its performance.

3M Littmann has paid careful attention to every detail of its Lightweight II S.E. stethoscope, from the soft ear tips to the ergonomically designed headpiece to the dual chestpiece with its tunable diaphragm.
Did You Know?
Most stethoscopes are quite durable and can be used for years, if not decades. The pieces that often wear out include the eartips, diaphragm rims, and bell covers, which can be purchased on Amazon for a fraction of the cost of replacing the stethoscope!

Best of the Best

Although there are no bad choices here, the best stethoscope on our shortlist is undoubtedly the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology. Yes, you pay a premium price for it – and unless you use a stethoscope regularly, one of our alternatives could be a better choice – but if you want something that's regarded by both independent experts and the majority of the medical community as superior to just about anything else, the investment is definitely worth it.

The Master Cardiology's materials and construction quality are second to none. It doesn't just have non-latex tubing (all good stethoscopes should); it uses “dual lumen” technology (one tube inside another) to help ensure that the only sounds you hear are coming from the patient. The headpiece is designed to present the ear tips at just the right angle for comfortable sound reception. The ear tips are soft, so they seal the sound path.

The chestpiece is beautifully sculpted, and it's shaped for a purpose: to slip under blood pressure cuffs without disturbing readings or the patient. Inside, a tunable diaphragm allows you to hear different frequencies in accordance with the amount of pressure applied. It's not double-sided, and at first glance, this might seem like a drawback. However, a special processes diaphragm has also been included for pediatric and infant auscultation.

Nothing is ever perfect, but feedback from actual owners is almost universally positive. Some find it a bit bulky, and some think it's overrated. However, even those who say it's overkill admit that it's the stethoscope of choice in severe trauma or cardiopulmonary compromise situations. It's not for everyone, and there are plenty of other excellent alternatives if you're a practice nurse or an EMT. The 3M Littmann Master Cardiology is a special instrument that has been designed for specific situations and for people who demand the very best stethoscope available.
Best of the Best
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The 3M Littman Master Cardiology stethoscope's chestpiece is beautifully sculpted, and it's shaped for a purpose: to slip under blood pressure cuffs without disturbing readings or the patient.

Best Bang for your Buck

While our overall winner was easy to pick, we struggled with this part of our ratings; all of our finalists are excellent stethoscopes! In the end, however, our Best Bang for Your Buck stethoscope is the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E.

The Omron Sprague Rappaport and ADC Adscope are both inexpensive and effective. As one doctor pointed out, those professionals who are new to medicine probably don't have the experience to distinguish all the sounds a high-end stethoscope produces. As such, either of these entry-level devices would be perfectly good for students. The affordable MDF MD One wouldn't be a bad option, either. But in the end, the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. takes the title.

The Lightweight II S.E. offers the best of all worlds. It's made by arguably the top manufacturer, but it's sold at a highly affordable price. It may not quite have the specialist construction of 3M Littmann's Master Cardiology, but it's made to the same exceptional standards from equally good materials.

There are seven colors to choose from, each with non-latex tubing. While the non-chill headpiece is of the double-sided kind, it's still been shaped to slip under cuffs. It shares the tunable diaphragm technology of our Best of the Best model, and like its 3M Littmann counterpart, it offers an anatomically focused headset that allows sound to travel at an optimum angle to your ears. It's also very light, and many owners have complimented it for its comfort.

What's not to like about the Littmann Lightweight II S.E.? Very little. There have been reports of easily damaged diaphragms, but fortunately, that problem doesn't seem to be widespread. One or two thought the sounds were muffled, but there are always some folks who aren't suited for certain stethoscopes. The majority of owners – from all walks of medical life – rate it as a very good instrument that they would happily recommend to other professionals. You can't get a much higher compliment than that at any price!
Best Bang for your Buck
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The 3M Littmann Lighweight II S.E. offers the best of all worlds. It's made by arguably the top stethoscope manufacturer, but it's sold at a highly affordable price.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jess
    Jess
    Researcher
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Ben
    Ben
    Operations

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