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Stethoscope Reviews


Aside from the ubiquitous lab coat and scrub suit, the stethoscope is one device that is heavily associated with medical practitioners. Now despite modern advances in technology, the stethoscope has basically retained its general features with some minor improvements. In this review we shall discuss several brands of stethoscopes such as 3M Littman, American Diagnostics Corp., Cardionics, Heine, Thinklabs, WA Baum, and Welch Allyn. We shall be paying attention though to 3M Littmann as this happens to be the brand most synonymous to stethoscopes and has garnered a significant following worldwide. I will also be providing some personal feedback with regards to particular models I have used and general feedback from other consumers.

3M Littman


The Littman brand of stethoscopes was founded by Dr. David Littmann and acquired by 3M in 1967. They feature six categories of stethoscopes with varying features and costs that are appropriate for your level of practice, needs, and skill. This is a the most popular and well known brand albeit the most expensive line of stethoscopes available. Personally, my experience as a general practitioner with a mix of urban and rural clinical practice is overall positive except for the price. I own two models of Littman stethoscopes, namely the Classic SE II and Cardiology III. The Classic SE II is what I would consider the workhorse and all around stethoscope of all these models, serving me well from internship into practice and is somewhat reasonably priced. My recent upgrade has been the Cardiology III and I still have to settle into this one. I’ll talk about this further into the review. Follow our guide below to determine which model would be best for your practice.

Model

Group

Select
Cardiologist
x
x
x
x
Pulmunologist
x
x
x
Family Doctor
x
x
x
x
x
x
Physical Therapist
x
Medical Student
x
x
Pediatricians
x
x
x
x
Nurses
x
x

Table Of Models Per Category

Electronic
Cardiology
Classic II
Select
Lightweight
Teaching
Select

Littmann Cardiology III

Littmann Cardiology III Features:

  • Has two tunable diaphragms which allows the user to alternate between low- and high-frequency sounds without turning over the chestpiece.
  • Solid stainless steel chestpiece
  • Dual-lumen design eliminates tube noise artifact from two tubes rubbing together.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Patient-friendly, nonchill rim and diaphragm.
  • Come with a five-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of a patient.
  • For cardiology and high performance adult and pediatric use.

Now the Cardiology III serves as the do it all work horse stethoscope of the cardiology series with its relatively more affordable price compared to the higher end series. Based on my own practice I highly recommended this for full spectrum family practice as well as high performance practice. This is the model that I used from internship all the way through practice. Aside from excellent acoustics and reasonable price point, durability is also commendable. I found it very versatile as I could easily convert from adult to pediatric with a simple rotation of the stem. My own gripe with this is the short tubing that comes with it, that forces me to lean too close to patients, although I believe it can be ordered with longer tubes. I also noticed that you can still pick up ambient sounds and rubbing with this stethoscope. However, this is minimal and with regular practice you will eventually grow into it and be able to isolate the ambient sounds from the hearts sound with skill.

Teaching Master Classic II and Classic II SE

Features two headsets which allows the instructor and the student to perform ausculations simultaneously.

Teaching Master Classic II and Classic II Features:

Has one black and one burgundy tube so that teacher and student can readily distinguish the headsets, as well as provide infection control at the eartip.

  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight
    Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • The anatomically correct headset provides comfort and better acoustical seal.
  • Nonchill rim and diaphragm increase patient comfort.
  • Single-lumen tubing is lightweight and durable and does not kink.
  • Comes with a Three-year warranty.

Now your classic teaching series is basically the same as your standard series albeit the existence of another tube and bell so that two people can simultaneously listen to both heart sounds. The features and advantages are definitely the same. Now almost every medical personnel who went through medical or nursing school used this at one time or another as an instructional tool used by a professor. Another probable use for this not mentioned in its official website is it can be used by two doctors listening at the same time at the same location to concur on a particular patients auscultation. [Read More]

Lightweight Stethescope

Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope-Ceil (Sky) Blue
Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: $56.33
 The affordable choice for your entry level stethoscope. Basically this stethoscope is the choice for your basic blood pressure taking and limited physical assessment. The chest piece has been designed for better orientation around blood-pressure cuffs as well as body contours, and has the trademark clear, reliable acoustic performance as well as Littmanns Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips which provide an excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit.

Lightweight Stethescope Features:

  • The chest piece shape  is designed for better orientation around blood-pressure cuffs and body contours. Tunable combination bell /diaphragm allows alternating between low- and high- frequency sounds without turning of the chestpiece.
  • Patented 3M Littmann Snap  tight Soft-Sealing Eartips provide an excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit.
  • Lightweight design
  • Anatomically angled head set for a proper proper fit.
  • Patient-friendly, nonchill rim.
  • Comes with a Two-year warranty. 

I had the chance to experience this briefly as a fellow intern who got tired of getting his stethoscopes going AWOL all the time decided to purchase this one. The acoustics are good. However, I find this product to be very reliable mainly for general physical assessments and blood pressure measurement. I wouldn’t put my bet on this one for heavy duty, and intensive clinical use.

General Examination Stethescope

Is an affordable general examination stethoscope with a single-sided tunable chestpiece design. It has good response in both high-frequency and low-frequency ranges. The durable chestpiece provides long-lasting performance and is protected with a scratch-resistant, satin finish.

General Examination Stethescope Features:

  • Has a tunable diaphragm that allows alternating between bell and diaphragm modes without turning over the chestpiece.
  • Portable convenience of a single-sided chestpiece.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Comes with a Two-year warranty.
  • Used for limited physical assessment and blood pressure of a patient.

 

Classic II Infant Stethescope


Classic II Infant Stethescope Features:

  • Has a one-inch traditional bell (for pediatric) and 3/4 inch bell (for infant) combined with a floating diaphragm.
  • Stainless steel chestpiece.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann  Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Comes with a three-year warranty.

Again, the same features as your Classic II Pediatric at a smaller size fit for infant use.

Classic II Pediatric and Infant Stethoscope

Classic II Pediatric and Infant Stethoscope Features:

  • One-inch traditional bell (for pediatric) and 3/4 inch bell ( for infant) combined with a floating diaphragm.
  • Stainless steel chest piece.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset. 
  • Comes with a Three-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of an infant or pediatric patient.

Now basically the same features as your classic II SE but adapted for pediatric use. My pediatric colleagues and nurses often recommend this for newborn up to 12 years as most 12 year olds tend to be bigger these days.  I had to a chance to use this during pediatric rotation and the only difference from your classic II SE is the size

Classic II SE Stethescope

Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: View Sale Price

Classic II SE Stethescope Features:

  • Traditional bell combined with a tunable diaphragm allows the user to conveniently alternate between low- and high-frequency sounds without turning over the chestpiece.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and  anatomically correct headset.
  • Patient-friendly, nonchill rim and diaphragm. .
  • Comes with a Three-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of a patient

This model falls into your classic types of stethoscopes that most people are familiar with, and often times the gold standard were most conventional stethoscopes are measured by. This is also one of my favorite models being relatively conventional in construction, ease of use and affordable price. It tends to be very ubiquitous in the hospital as most medical students, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, use this. It is very durable considering it lasted 2 years of abuse and rugged use indoors and outdoors. I find that it has the best acoustics compared to other brands at its level, and its ear tips provide an excellent seal to block out ambient sounds. It is also very comfortable so at the end of the day my ears don’t feel like they have otitis. I would recommend this for most general practitioners, nurses, and medical students.

Master Classic II Stethescope

Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: View Sale Price
Features high acoustic sensitivity and a tunable diaphragm on one side, which augments the traditional bell function of the opposite side. It also allows the user to conveniently alternate between low- and high-frequency sounds without turning over the chest piece. This is generally the workhorse of the Littmann brand as it is used by both medical students, residents, nurses and consultants.

Master Classic II Stethescope Features:

  • Tunable diaphragm alternates between the low- and high-frequency sounds without turning over the chest piece.
  • Convenience of single-sided chest piece.
  • High-performance single-lumen tubing for excellent acoustics.
  • Highly ergonomic design.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Patient-friendly, nonchill rim and diaphragm.
  • Comes with a Three-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of a patient.

The Master Classics II acoustics is often compared to that of the Cardiology III, however it is at a lower price point compared to the latter. According to colleagues and nurses also using this product, it is relatively lighter compared to the Cardiology III and usually makes for a good stethoscope for rural practice. The product usually receives an internet consumers rating of 4 – 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Cardiology S.T.C.

Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: View Sale Price

Cardiology S.T.C. Features:

  • Chest piece that is easy to grasp in multiple hand positions.
  • Outstanding acoustics.
  • Single-sided chest piece provides both bell and diaphragm frequency responses.
  • Dual-lumen design eliminates tube noise artifact from two tubes rubbing together.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Patient-friendly, nonchill rim.
  • Has a six-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of a patient.
  • For cardiology and high performance adult and pediatric use.

The cardiology is another high performance cardiology stethoscope. What is unique about this product is its unique soft touch chest piece that is designed for better assessment of the carotid. Again this product is rated at an average of 4 – 4.5 stars (what else would you expect from a Littmann product?), with barely any negative aspects cited.  Audio quality according to feedbacks is actually discernible from the Cardiology III. Again, could be overkill unless you have an intensive practice.

Master Cardiology

Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: View Sale Price

Cardiology – Next in line to the electronic series would be Littmanns cardiology series which is your conventional stethoscope but with outstanding acoustics and exceptional versatility. It has a patented tunable diaphragm on each side of the chest piece for adult, pediatric, and small site auscultation. You might be wondering what a tunable diaphragm is, and this is discussed at the bottom of the page.

Master Cardiology Features:

 

  • Littmann’s patented tunable diaphragm allows alternating between the low- and high-frequency sounds without turning over the chest piece.
  • Made of hand crafted solid stainless steel chest piece.
  • Dual-lumen design eliminates tube noise artifact from two tubes rubbing together.
  • Excellent acoustic seal and comfortable fit with patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips.
  • Comfortable and anatomically correct headset.
  • Patient-friendly with its nonchill rim and diaphragm. Has an adaptor for difficult sites or pediatric auscultation.
  • Comes with a Seven-year warranty.
  • Used as a diagnostic aid as part of the physical assessment of a patient.
  • For cardiology and high performance adult and pediatric use.

Widely regarded as the ultimate acoustic stethoscope, it is one the best choices for those a little bit skeptical or intimidated with the electronic series technology. Internet consumer rating is at an average of 4 – 4.5 stars. It is often commented that audio quality is of a discernable difference from cardiology III and STC, and its appearance is usually positively commented on. I’ve also seen one of my professors in medical school use this and got to try it out during rounds with him and based on my experience with the Cardiology III, the Master Cardiology has louder and clearer heart sounds and that the breath sounds are less muffled relative to the Cardiology III. I also noticed that the ear tips fit really well and has the capacity of removing ambient sounds. Anyway, my professor highly recommends it if you plan to get into internal medicine with plans of venturing out into cardiology. The Master Cardiology looks very dignified and professional as well. This product can be overkill if your practice does not really go beyond checking normal heart sounds of just taking blood pressure.

Stethescope Model 3200

Overall Rating:
 
Retail Price: Varies based on product options
Amazon Price: View Sale Price

Stethescope Model 3200 Features:

  • Littmann’s Ambient Noise Reduction technology reduces about 85% of ambient background noise.
  • Has the patented 3M Littmann Snap Tight Soft-Sealing Eartips for a comfortable fit and a tighter seal from ambient noise.
  • Built with state-of-the-art sound sensor.
  • Frictional noise reduction technology reduces handling noises
  • Maximum 24X sound amplification
  • Easy to operate
  • Built in LCD interface conveniently indicates remaining battery life and when Bluetooth transmission is active.
  • Auto-on feature stays in battery-saving “sleep mode” until you start your next auscultation.
  • Worry-free power with multiple reminders when battery life is low.
  • Operates on single AA battery.
  • Lightweight and comfortable to
  • Rugged design for durability
  • FREE Zargis® StethAssist™ Heart and Lung  sound Visualization Software for visualize what you are hearing, playback andstorage of sounds in patient records or transfer to colleagues for further analysis.
  • Sold Separately Zargis® Cardioscan™ Heart Murmur Detection Software – Designed to support physicians in analyzing cardiac sounds for the identification and classification of suspected murmurs.

[Read More]

Stethescope Model 3100

This would serve as Littmans entry to the digital age stethoscopes with a battery powered device that amplifies sounds up to 24 times that of the cardiology series. It comes with Bluetooth (model 3200 only) which can be used to transmit heart and lung sounds to your PC or Laptop. The device also comes in handy as it can monitor your patients heart rate with a back lit LCD display and has excellent battery life at 60 hours with no decrease in sound quality even during low battery levels. It features a proprietary automatic Ambient Noise Reduction and Frictional Noise Reduction Technologies. Despite its digital features, ease of use and maintenance is another attractive feature of this series.

Stethescope Model 3100 Features:

  • Ambient noise reduction technology reduces about 85% of ambient background noise.
  • Maximum of 24X sound amplification
  • Controls are easy to use.
  • Built in LCD keeps you informed of current settings and battery life
  • Auto-on feature
  • Worry-free power system with multiple reminders when battery life is low
  • Lightweight and comfortable to use
  • Rugged design for durability
  • Built with a state-of-the-art sound sensor frictional noise reduction technology
  •  Has an Easy-to-Use Interface

[Read More]