What is the Best Stethoscope in 2021?

The best stethoscope on blue hospital clothing.

Stethoscopes aren’t just for doctors; they’re used by a wide variety of health professionals and other medically trained personnel for a number of different purposes.

They provide essential information that can help doctors and medical staff to either diagnose or monitor a patient during illness or disease. As an important piece of medical equipment, a stethoscope needs to be very good quality so as to supply accurate results.

Historically, if anyone ever needed a stethoscope, there was only one main brand to go for, and anyone who knew anything about stethoscopes would have been surprised to see an alternative in use in clinical practice.

Nowadays, there are several different options, many different colors and designs to choose from—there’s some stiff competition in the stethoscope market sector!

So what are stethoscopes actually used for? And what about these new brands—are they any good? How do they compete with a long-standing supplier with an excellent reputation?

Lead on, MacDuff, and we’ll see if we can get to the heart of the matter!

Product
Details
Our Rating
Our #1 Rated
Stethoscope

3M Littmann

Stethoscope

5 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

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  • Tunable 2.125-Inch Diaphragm
  • Double-Sided Chestpiece
  • Tear-Drop Shape Fits Under Cuff
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #1 Rated

5 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category


Our #2 Rated
Adscope

ADC

Adscope

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

Click for price
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #2 Rated

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category


Our #3 Rated
Adult Stethoscope

UltraScope

Adult Stethoscope

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

Click for price
  • Adult Size for patients over 45 pound
  • Lifetime manufacturer's warranty
  • Weight: 5.8 ounce; Length: approximately 30 inch; Diameter: 2 inch
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #3 Rated

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category


Our #4 Rated
Master Cardiology Stethoscope

3M Littmann

Master Cardiology Stethoscope

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

Click for price
  • Chestpiece delivers Littmann’s highest acoustic performance along with handcrafted, eye-catching design
  • Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds. Occupation -...
  • Two-in-one tube design (dual lumen) eliminates noise interference from two external tubes rubbing together
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #4 Rated

4 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category


Our #5 Rated
ProCardial Stethoscope

MDF

ProCardial Stethoscope

3 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

Click for price
  • Handcrafted Since 1971 | Lifetime Warranty | Free-Parts-for-Life Program | Latex-Free
  • THREE CARDIOLOGY STETHOSCOPES IN ONE > Diagnose adult, pediatric, and infant patients using one cardiology stethoscope
  • TWO SOUND CHANNELS, ONE FOR EACH EAR > Dual Lumen Tubing
HealthAmbition Stamp

Our #5 Rated

3 out of 5

In the Stethoscope category

What Is a Stethoscope?

A stethoscope essentially appears to be quite a straightforward piece of medical equipment. A hollow tube leading from two ear pieces down to a disc-shaped resonator, or chestpiece to magnify internal sounds that happen within humans and animals.

Differing sounds coming from various parts of the lungs through the stethoscope can indicate, for example, pockets of sputum which can then be targeted for mobilization via a number of different treatment techniques.

Stethoscopes can also be used to listen to different parts of the digestive tract—most commonly the intestines—to identify any abnormalities. They can be useful tools in research for identifying air leaks in procedures and investigations that call for an isolated vacuum chamber, and other such scientific purposes.

How Does a Stethoscope Work?

Most of us probably don’t give a second thought to how a stethoscope works, even though some people might use one every single working day. They’re actually very cleverly designed.

In most stethoscopes the chestpiece consists of a tightly stretched material spanning a flat drum, called the diaphragm. Sound makes this structure vibrate. The sound vibrations created by the diaphragm travel up the hollow tubes into the earpieces where they can be heard and monitored by the doctor or health professional. Here’s a quick video on how stethoscopes work:

Will Technology Leave Stethoscopes Behind?

Invented more than two hundred years ago, stethoscopes have been a very useful piece of medical equipment for clinical practitioners working in areas of healthcare where they need to listen to the internal sounds of the body.

There’s ongoing debate about whether or not stethoscopes will soon be obsolete due to the advances in medical technology and the development of other machines and equipment that do the job more accurately.

Portable ultrasound machines and doppler scanners have had a big impact, and can provide more detailed medical information.

However, using new technology on every patient isn’t always feasible—think of the community medical team who often see patients inside the patient’s home. It’s not always possible for them to access larger equipment.

Even if the healthcare provider has access to the latest technological equipment, they may not have the available funding to provide it for each and every healthcare professional to use with every patient at all times.

While some experts in the late 20th century were predicting that it could be sooner rather than later before the stethoscope becomes obsolete, it still remains a valuable and often essential piece of medical equipment.

Stethoscopes are highly portable, very practical, fast and easy to use. Another big advantage over more advanced medical equipment is that stethoscopes are relatively inexpensive. Given their advantages, they’re unlikely to disappear from the medic’s tool kit for the foreseeable future.

Who Needs a Stethoscope?

Although a stethoscope is most closely associated with listening to the heart, this is just one of the jobs it performs. Sometimes a stethoscope isn’t used directly over the heart, but can be used to listen to heart sounds at other locations around the body.

Most of us at some point will have experienced or seen a nurse using a stethoscope to listen to our blood flow through the inner elbow when taking a blood pressure reading. Stethoscopes also have a role in prenatal care, allowing midwives and other health practitioners to listen to the baby’s heart sounds.

Doctors and other clinicians, such as physical therapists and many different health professionals working in areas of cardiorespiratory care will use stethoscopes not only to listen to the heart, but also to listen to the sounds coming from the lungs.

Humans aren’t the only being with a heart beat and other internal sounds which need to be monitored. Veterinarians and veterinary nurses often have need of a stethoscope to help them diagnose and monitor illness in many different kinds of animals.

What to Look for When Buying a Stethoscope

As a clinical practitioner, a stethoscope can be an important purchase because it’s something we use everyday in our working lives. With various different models from a number of manufacturers now available, it can be a little confusing as to which might be the best for you.

Here’s our guide on some important things to consider when you’re buying a stethoscope:

Earbuds

It’s important to make sure these fit comfortably and securely, creating a seal at the top of your ear canal to eliminate external noise and help isolate internal sounds.

Headset

This should be made of similar quality material to the chestpiece, and the metal tubing should be angled at around 15 degrees to make it comfortable for the earpieces to sit in the ears.

Tubing

The most effective stethoscopes have thick durable tubing which helps to insulate the noise as it reaches the ears. Depending on what kind of patients you’re working with, slightly longer tubing on your stethoscope can be an advantage.

Stem

The stem of a stethoscope connects the chestpiece to the tubing, and should be made of the same quality and metal as the chestpiece. A good stem will allow the chestpiece to sit squarely on the patient, helping to contain the sounds within the stethoscope.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm on the chestpiece should be made of high-quality material which is durable—a diaphragm which pierces easily isn’t much use.

Precautions for Use

Stethoscopes are quite hardy pieces of equipment. A decent-quality stethoscope should last for a number of years. They do however have some delicate parts, most notably in the chestpiece.

It’s important to make sure that the chestpiece is protected from damage to allow your stethoscope to continue to function properly—one of the most common areas of damage is a puncture to the diaphragm, so keep this away from sharp objects.

What Is the Best Stethoscope?

The world of stethoscopes has traditionally been dominated by one particular brand—Littmann. They’re still right up there at the top of their game, and we’ve included their top quality stethoscope and their budget option.

There are, however, other manufacturers who are producing some very good quality stethoscopes. Let’s lift the lid and discover which is the best stethoscope around.

Our #1 Rated
Our pick our #1 rated

3M Littmann

Stethoscope

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

This was a very popular product from the most reputable company when it comes to stethoscopes. People reported that it works very well for all but the most technical of applications. Others also stated that it’s very lightweight, and suitable for people who need to wear it around their neck for hours at a time.

The design incorporates a teardrop shaped chest piece to make it easier to slide underneath the edge of a blood pressure cuff. The only negative point was that one or two users received a product that was faulty, and were relieved that this stethoscope comes with a two year warranty.

At the lowest price of all the stethoscopes reviewed, this device represents excellent value for money, and is an ideal budget option for medical students or newly graduated health professionals.

Pros
Pro Weight: 7.5 ounces.
Pro Length: 28 inches.
Pro Good acoustics.
Pro Single tubing lumen.
Pro No noise interference.
Pro Tunable diaphragm.
Pro Teardrop shaped chestpiece.
Pro Head piece is angled for greater comfort.
Pro Soft, comfortable earbuds.
Pro Choice of seven colors.
Pro Excellent quality for a low price.
Pro 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Cons
Con One or two users received faulty models and needed replacements.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #2 Rated
Our pick our #2 rated

ADC

Adscope

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

There were several things that really stood out for many users about this product. People reported it’s lightweight enough to barely notice if you have to wear it around your neck all day. Users liked the elongated chestpiece, finding it much easier to handle than those on other stethoscopes.

A few people had more difficulty hearing heart sounds with this device, but compared to more expensive stethoscope models, many clinicians didn’t notice a dramatic reduction in acoustic performance.

Many people found the earbuds sat very comfortably in the ear. With a performance to compete with much more expensive stethoscopes and the price that gives poor quality stethoscopes a run for their money, this is a serious option to consider for many medical practitioners.

Pros
Pro Weight: 13.6 ounces.
Pro Length: 30.5 inches.
Pro Good acoustics.
Pro Reinforced yoke for longevity.
Pro Low noise interference.
Pro Lightweight, tunable diaphragm.
Pro Comfortable , includes two pairs.
Pro Choice of ten different colors.
Pro Stylish satin finish chestpiece.
Pro ID tag included.
Pro Free consumables (diaphragm and ear buds) with product registration.
Pro Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty.
Cons
Con Some users reported poor resonance quality compared to other similar models.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #3 Rated
Our pick our #3 rated

UltraScope

Adult Stethoscope

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

People working in pediatrics were particularly impressed with this stethoscope. It not only comes in a range of colors, but also a range of funky prints on the chestpiece—and who doesn’t want a zebra-stripe stethoscope?!

People found it worked very well on both human and animal patients. Some users reported they could hear internal sounds much more clearly with this stethoscope compared to using other more expensive ones.

One or two people found it a little harder to use than other stethoscopes they’d used before, but overall most really liked the design, the quality and the mid-range price.

Pros
Pro Weight: 5.8 ounces.
Pro Length: 30 inches.
Pro Good acoustics.
Pro Dual lumen tubing.
Pro No noise interference.
Pro Bell design amplifies sounds.
Pro Latex free.
Pro Soft, comfortable earbuds (extras included).
Pro Choice of seven colors.
Pro Choice of eight chest piece designs.
Pro Lifetime manufacturer’s warranty.
Cons
Con May be less ergonomic than similar devices.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #4 Rated
Our pick our #4 rated

3M Littmann

Master Cardiology Stethoscope

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

The gold standard from an extremely reputable supplier, this is the stethoscope of choice for many medical professionals. It features a resonator which produces the highest possible quality acoustics. This stethoscope is tunable to high and low frequency sounds, and has no noise interference.

A stylish-looking stethoscope, nicely presented, good-quality product, many people commented on the excellent quality and workmanship of this device, and found it worked extremely well in practice.

Several people commented on how much clearer the internal sounds were using this stethoscope compared to other models. The only real downside to this excellent quality device is that it comes with a significant price tag.

Pros
Pro Weight: 15.2 ounces.
Pro Length: 27 inches.
Pro Excellent acoustics.
Pro Dual lumen tubing.
Pro No noise interference.
Pro Tunable diaphragm.
Pro Head piece is angled for greater comfort.
Pro Stainless steel finish.
Pro Soft, comfortable earbuds.
Pro Choice of seven colors.
Pro Choice of numerous chestpiece styles.
Pro 7-year manufacturer’s warranty
Cons
Con High cost
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our #5 Rated
Our pick our #5 rated

MDF

ProCardial Stethoscope

  • Quality
    Quality

  • Quality
    Price

  • Quality
    Our rating

This product was a big hit, with many people reporting that the stainless steel construction helped enormously in transferring the most quiet chest sounds very clearly, even in the back of a moving ambulance. Some people really liked the option of changing between adult and paediatric chest pieces.

On the negative side, some users found it heavy to wear around the neck for extended periods of time. A couple of people thought the weight of the stethoscope caused traction on the earbuds, which made them uncomfortable.

In general, this stethoscope was very popular with the vast majority of users. It does, however, come at a considerable cost; this was the second most expensive stethoscope we reviewed.

Pros
Pro Weight: 1 pound 1 ounce.
Pro Length: 31.1 inches.
Pro Good acoustics.
Pro Little noise interference.
Pro Sensitive diaphragm.
Pro Dual lumen tubing.
Pro Interchangeable adult and pediatric chestpieces.
Pro Soft angled earbuds.
Pro Selection of eight different colors.
Pro Full lifetime warranty.
Pro Free replacement parts for life.
Cons
Con Heavy stethoscope, can cause ear discomfort through traction.
Con High cost.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Choice

Stethoscopes are a very important piece of medical equipment which work by converting sound waves into vibrations that can be transmitted to the ear for monitoring. They’re used by numerous different medical staff and health professionals to treat both human and animal patients.

When buying a stethoscope, it’s important to make a balanced decision with regards to quality and function while also considering how much you can afford to spend. With top models running into a few hundred dollars, cost may be a limiting factor.

After auscultating our way through a number of different stethoscopes, the top five products were all good quality, and received lots of positive feedback. All factors considered, the single device that really stood out as the best stethoscope was the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope. This model was popular with many users for a number of different reasons.

This stethoscope is lightweight enough to be worn around the neck for several hours without any discomfort. Many people found the earbuds very comfortable, and the teardrop chest piece design provoked many positive comments regarding ease of use.

A great low-cost option, this stethoscope performs very well, providing good acoustics. A generous two year warranty from an extremely reputable supplier means you can rest assured that this stethoscope is a wise investment.

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