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Whether you’re choosing your first stethoscope or an upgrade, you have lots of options.

The gold standard in stethoscopes for all the nurses, doctors, advanced practitioners, and medical students Healthline talked with is the Littmann brand. It’s known for top quality in a wide range of models and prices. But there are other more economical brands that might suit your needs.

Here we’ll review some of the top choices, as evaluated by professionals we spoke with, medical websites, and purchase reviews.

We’ll look at the best-selling stethoscope models for quality, durability, functionality, special features, and price range.

3M Littmann Classic III

Price point: $$

This model can be a good option for noncritical care professionals and as a moderately priced first stethoscope.

This is the best-selling stethoscope on Amazon, with thousands of positive reviews. It’s a dual-head, single-tube model with high acoustic sensitivity.

Pros:
suitable for pediatric and adult patients
flexible tube
durable
5-year warranty
comes in many colors
can be personalized
easy to clean

Cons:
heavier than comparable designs
single-lumen tubing
the quality of this model has gone down, note some reviewers
some buyers say they were shipped a “knockoff” from Amazon, not an authentic Littmann

FriCARE Dual Head

Price point: $

This is a dual-head, stainless steel stethoscope in black with reasonably good acoustics.

Pros:
lifetime guarantee
inexpensive
durable, heavy tubing
easy to keep clean
comes with replaceable ear pieces

Cons:
single-lumen acoustics adequate but not tops
looks very basic
ear pieces not comfortable for all users

Omron Sprague Rappaport

Price point: $

By all reviews, this is a more than adequate stethoscope for the price. It has a chrome-plated chest piece and a double-tube design. It’s suitable for both adult and pediatric use.

Nursing student Ana Valdez recommends it as a best buy for students.
Many reviewers bought it for home use with family members or pets.

Pros:
good for taking vitals and for training
solid construction
inexpensive enough to replace if you lose it, or to use as a backup
comes with extra set of ear pieces, three sizes of open bells, and two sizes of diaphragms
comes in black or dark blue

Cons:
lacks fine acoustic detail
uncomfortable ear pieces, according to many reviewers
heavier than other stethoscopes (1.5 pounds)
tubes can be stiff
two tubes rub against each other, creating background noise
chest piece is cold, need to warm it up

MDF MD One

Price point: $$

This dual-head stethoscope is made out of stainless steel. It combines high performance with durability.

Pros:
quality is as good as Littmann models but more affordable
lightweight and comfortable
lifetime warranty
free replacement parts for life
two sets of ear pieces
comes in many colors
can be engraved

Cons:
the color coating flakes off, according to some reviewers
the white color stains easily, according to several reviewers
engraving size is very small

3M Littmann Master Cardiology

Price point: $$$

This is called a cardiology stethoscope, but it’s also recommended for any professional who needs good quality acoustics.

It’s a double-lumen stethoscope. This means the tubing has two sound paths inside one outer tube, which cuts down on noise interference.

Pros:
excellent acoustics
tunable diaphragm
can be used for adult or pediatric care
longer tubing
easy to clean
several color choices
an adapter allows you to listen to small areas of the body
7-year warranty

Cons:
high price
relatively heavy
rubber tubing feels stiff

3M Littmann Model 3200

Price point: $$$

If you work in a very noisy environment and like gadgets, an electronic stethoscope may be for you.

It’s more expensive than nonelectronic stethoscopes, but it can aid in heart and lung diagnostics by recording sounds, converting sounds to visualizations, and connecting to other devices. As such, it has uses in telemedicine, too.

In a 2016 study, Andrès measured how much electronic technology helped the accuracy of diagnosis by medical students. This model is his recommendation.

Pros:
records up to 12 30-second sound tracks
amplifies sound up to 24 times
eliminates an average of 85 percent of ambient noise
three colors available

Cons:
easily damaged
battery can run out in the middle of examination

Tokarczyk suggests new stethoscope buyers think about these factors:

  • Frequency of use. “There are some great stethoscopes for $50 to $80 if your use will be light or infrequent,” she says. For frequent or heavy use, “consider a higher quality, more durable model.”
  • The sensitivity of the acoustics. “You want a diaphragm and bell to allow you to hear various frequencies and vibrations.”
  • High-quality durable head and tubing.
  • Comfortable ear pieces.
  • Lightweight design. “This is important if you’re wearing the stethoscope all day.”
  • The length of tubing. “Shorter tubing may provide better acoustics but will also mean bending down more.”
  • Personalizing. “It’s always fun to have the options of engraving, various tubing colors, or stethoscope accessories to tell your stethoscope apart from others.”

Whether you’re shopping in person or online, check out the retailer for reliability, warranties, and the return policy.

Other things to consider are:

Specific use

Are you working with infants or children most of the time? You may want a stethoscope that has a cute design that can distract the patient, Valdez suggests.

Some accessories, like stethoscope covers, are designed with pediatric care in mind.

Or, will you need the best acoustics possible to listen to very faint sounds? If so, you may need to look at a higher-priced model.

Price range

Stethoscopes range from around $20 to more than $300.

When you’re starting out as a student or trainee, one of the budget models is most likely adequate. They’re also easier to replace.

When the time comes for an upgrade, you’ll have a better idea of what your specific needs are.

Comfort

  • Weight. You’ll be wearing or carrying your stethoscope, so weight may be a consideration. Littmann and other brands have lightweight models.
  • Tube length. You may prefer a longer tube to keep your face farther away from patients who may be contagious, but this can cause more loss of sound.
  • Patient-focused features. You may also want a stethoscope with a chest piece that you don’t have to warm up for the patient’s comfort.
  • Ear fit and comfort. Pay attention to ear pieces, advises Boston-area nurse Suzanne McCluskey, RN. You want them to be secure yet comfortable. “I once went to use a stethoscope and the ear piece had fallen off and I hurt my ear,” she said. “Also, everyone has different size ears, so it’s great if they come with a few [ear piece] sizes.”
  • Accessories. You may consider buying ear pieces separately. That way you can get a good fit that blocks out ambient noise.
  • Ease of upkeep. Also note how easy the stethoscope is to clean and disinfect. Stethoscopes can carry bacteria.

Quality materials

The more expensive stethoscopes use materials that conduct sound more efficiently.

Stainless steel is considered the best sound transmitter. The better instruments have thicker steel heads.

All of the stethoscopes mentioned in this article are latex-free.

Whether you’re buying your first stethoscope or an upgrade, there are plenty of options in design, quality, and price.

If you’re a nurse, doctor, advanced practitioner, EMT, student, or respiratory therapist, you’re likely to have your stethoscope with you most of the time.

Littmann is the gold standard brand, with special models for cardiology, newborns, and everything in between. Littmann tends to be higher priced, however. Other stethoscope brands may better suit your needs and budget.