Medical Grade Stethoscope – Which One is the Right One for me?

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Let’s separate the toys from the real deal. Medical grade stethoscope come in all shapes and sizes. However few can truly be called medical grade. Everything depends on how good the acoustics are in the stethoscope at hand.

Also different medical professions call for slightly different tools. For example if time is of the essence, you’d want to have a stethoscope with a tunable diaphragm. As a result you’ll save some during an auscultation that might mean the difference between life and death.

Best medical grade stethoscope for nurses

This will sound like a drag but as many of you might be aware, the Littmann Cardiology series offer by far the best acoustics of any stethoscope out there. However they’ll cost you an arm and a leg to get one. At the same time you can assess yourself that what is the cost of a Littmann now, compared to a usage of 7 years on average. Then the price aspect of your purchase diminishes considerably.

However for the sake of argument let’s review the Littmann Cardiology 4, which to my opinion is best suited for nurses at the moment.

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  • Outstanding acoustics with better audibility of high-frequency sounds (adult side, firm pressure)
  • Tunable diaphragm: hear high or low frequency sounds by slightly adjusting pressure on the chest piece
  • Dual-lumen tubing: two Sound paths in one tube eliminates the rubbing noise of traditional double tubes
  • Next-generation tubing lasts longer and resists stains. Not made with natural rubber latex or phthalate plasticizers
  • Headset is easily adjusted for individual fit and comfort. Angled ear tubes align with ear canals


In short what we are all used to hearing from a Littmann cardiology series. However this does not necessarily mean every nurse needs to buy one today. If money is hard to come by when you start your studies or if you don’t feel like spending the $150+ USD for a medical grade stethoscope then there are other options out there. You don’t even have to change brands!

If your Littmann tubing has cracked, read here what to do next!


Other options


Introducing the Littmann Classic:

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  • Two-sided chestpiece with tunable diaphragms on both the adult and pediatric sides.
  • Single-piece tunable diaphragm is easy to attach, and easier to clean because its surface is smooth without crevices.
  • Pediatric side converts to a traditional open bell by replacing the single-piece diaphragm with a non-chill rim.
  • Next-generation tubing provides longer life due to improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol; less likely to pick up stains.
  • Small tunable diaphragm is useful for pediatric, small, or thin patients; around bandages; and for carotid assessment.


As we can see these stethoscopes look very similar to each other but the main difference lies in the finishing and in the acoustics. That does not mean the acoustics of a Littmann classic would be absolutely terrible. Far from it. However there is a reason why the Cardiology series are recommended to everyone. I also love the slogan of Littmann “For the sounds you NEED to hear”. In that sense the Cardiology is unbeatable.

However as nurses most likely won’t be required to do as intensive auscultations as diagnosticians then nurses will get away with a Classic model.

What about the Lightweight model?

Unfortunately you won’t see the lightweight model listed here. There is a good reason for that as from reviews I have noticed that the lightweight model has acoustic issues. More so the lower frequency sounds seem to be tricky to hear with a Lightweight model. As a result since the purchase price is the same, I recommend going for the Classic model.


Best medical grade stethoscope for EMT’s

The job of an EMT is an extremely demanding one. Time is of the essence, often you are working under extremely stressful conditions. I’d like to see anyone try and make a successful auscultation under those conditions!

As an added difficulty level at times auscultations have to be done in an ambulance or outside. This means outside white noise seeping in. As a result you need a stethoscope that can correctly manage and dissipate the background noises. “So you hear the sounds you NEED to hear”. I love that slogan!

Littmann has a stethoscope that does just that:

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By far the best medical grade stethoscope for EMT’s is the Littmann MASTER Cardiology.

  • 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
  • Two-in-one tube design (dual lumen) eliminates noise interference from two external tubes rubbing together
  • Special-Procedures Adaptor (included) for infant or pediatric auscultation adds versatility to the instrument
  • Anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal


Best medical grade for medical – and nursing students, doctors

You can’t go wrong with a Littmann Cardiology series stethoscope!



Your next question will be “So does this mean Littmann only offers the best medical grade stethoscopes?”. The answer is that they definitely aren’t the only ones who offer good quality stethoscopes. However they are the most consistent quality-wise.

Other stethoscope manufacturers might have stethoscopes that work just as well, but the tubing won’t last as long. Others might offer cheaper stethoscopes but the acoustics aren’t nearly as good as a Littmann stethoscope.

One stethoscope that stands out though thanks to a pretty hard quality guarantee is the Vorfreude stethoscope. A german engineered wünder-stethoscope. You can check the review I did on that one here.


Do you agree or disagree with our list of medical grade stethoscopes? Do you think we missed one? Let us know in the comments below!