Before we start… Who should be reading this article?
- Medical students, nursing students or other medical students who are looking for a first stethoscope with which to lay the foundations of their training.
- Novice professionals on a tight budget who are looking for a reliable stethoscope.
The stethoscopes that we show you in this article can almost all be found below the $100 level. This does not mean that they are inferior diagnostic tools, but it is possible that they will be lacking or somewhat limiting in professional practice.
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For example, with some of the models, it will be difficult for you to hear grade 1 murmurs or midsystolic clicks. Others will have a limited shelf-life due to their construction in plastic or due to be made in countries where quality standards are lower.
So, these are stethoscopes that can function well for students or for medical professionals who are only responsible for basic medical examinations. But they may have some limitations when more precise diagnoses are required or if you need to hear S3 and S4 heart sounds.
In conclusion, if in your professional practice you need a reasonably good acoustic performance, greater reliability or if you are looking for a stethoscope that will be with you for the next 15 years… It would be a good idea that you read the article “GUIDE: Littmann Stethoscopes Review —What’s your perfect one?”. Remember that it is most likely that you will use your stethoscope several times a day for years. It is, therefore, worth investing in a good quality stethoscope.
On the other hand, if you are feeling a little lost with regard to the selection of your future stethoscope… Did you know that we have written one of the best guides to buying stethoscopes, right?
That being said, let’s have a look at which are the most inexpensive stethoscopes which offer the greatest performance and reliability.
1. Littmann Lightweight II™ S.E.
One of the most commonly sold stethoscopes worldwide, without doubt due to its tremendous popularity amongst medical students. It is the cheapest Littmann on the market which can on occasions be found at below US$50. Very useful for learning and an excellent foundation stone for good training.
- This is a stethoscope built of plastic resin.
- The chestpiece has a tunable diaphragm (using higher or lighter pressure you can capture high or low frequency sounds) and an open bell on the smaller side.
- It also includes the app “3M Littmann Learning Institute app”, which will enable you to develop your diagnostic skills, listen to real breathing sounds and even test your knowledge.
- Manufactured in the U.S.A. like all Littmann products.
LIST PRICE: Usually, you can find it for around $55–$60, However, quite often it can be found at a cheaper price on Amazon. Let’s have a look at the current price:
- Provides reliable acoustic performance for taking blood pressure readings and making limited physical assessments of adult patients
- Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high frequency sounds
- Tear drop shape for easy fit under blood pressure cuff
- Anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal
2. ADC ADSCOPE 600 Cardiology
One of our favorites from ADC (American Diagnostic Corporation), a manufacturer which has become more and more well known. This offers relatively good acoustic performance at a competitive price. However, don’t let yourself be seduced by the word “cardiology” in the name: Whilst performing well, this is a model that does not offer the same level of acoustic accuracy which, for example, can be found in the Cardiology series from Littmann.
- It provides a tunable diaphragm with dual-frequency technology (like the Littmann models). So, even though the head just has one side, we can capture both low and high frequency sounds simply by changing the pressure applied.
- It is solid and well made. It includes a lifetime guarantee, with all parts of the stethoscope being covered.
- It is one of the heaviest stethoscopes weighing in at more than 200 grams. (If you are looking for a light stethoscope, this is not your best option).
LIST PRICE: Its price touches the $100 mark. However, it can almost always be found at below $90 here:
- Adjustable frequency design (AFD) enhances acoustic performance.
- Sculpted chestpiece is CNC machined to exacting tolerances from surgical stainless steel.
- High-performance cardiology headset features black anodized aluminum binaurals and Adsoft Plus silicone eartips for the ultimate in wearing comfort and acoustic seal.
- Includes two additional pairs of Adsoft Plus eartips and a complimentary scope ID tag.
3. MDF MD One
MDF is another brand which has spent years making a niche for itself in the stethoscope market with considerable success. Their stethoscopes are reasonably priced, have attractive colorful designs and a more than adequate performance for the price. The MDF One is the most popular and the most commonly sold.
- Its chestpiece has a traditional diaphragm and an open bell. That is to say that one side is used to capture high frequency sound, while the other low frequency sounds. In other words, its membranes are not tunable (as happens with other brands). In conclusion, this is a stethoscope with a classic functionality.
- Made from stainless steel and good base materials, it is known for its durability and strength.
- It includes a lifetime guarantee covering any of the stethoscope parts.
- It is available in several different colors.
LIST PRICE: Although the price can depend on the colour you choose, the model in black (the most basic) can usually be found on Amazon for less than US$50. Its current price is as follows:
- Handcrafted Since 1971 | Free-parts-for-life Program | Lifetime Warranty | Latex-free
- 100% stainless steel construction and acoustically-superior stainless steel
- PRE-ANGLED > ErgonoMax Headset is anatomically angled at 15 degrees for a precise fit
- SECURED TWICE > Dual-leaf spring construction offers twice the durability
4. ADC ADSCOPE 602
The ADC ADSCOPE 602 is a classic in every way. This is the most traditional style from the ADC brand and incidentally, has been well received in the market. One of its greatest strengths is its acoustic performance.
- The chestpiece includes on one side a highly sensitive diaphragm and, on the other, a deeper open bell (according to the manufacturers this is to achieve better acoustic performance).
- This is a stethoscope made of stainless steel. Although this feature certainly makes for strength, it also means a fairly heavy stethoscope (around 202 grams)
- Like other models from this brand, it includes a lifetime guarantee for free replacement of parts.
LIST PRICE: It normally has a price above US$90. But, at times you can find it on offer on Amazon:
- OUTSTANDING ACOUSTICS: Ultra-sensitive diaphragm for greater amplification and crisper high-frequency transmission; extra deep bell for unsurpassed low-frequency response. Individually acoustic tested in the USA.
- DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: Combination chestpiece is precision CNC machined to exacting tolerances from surgical stainless steel. Overall length 27 inches, weight 7.2 oz.
- HIGH PERFORMANCE: Cardiology headset features dual-channel phthalate-free tubing, large-bore stainless steel binaurals, and Adsoft Plus snap-on silicone eartips for the ultimate in wearing comfort and acoustic seal.
- ACCESSORIES INCLUDED: 2 additional pairs of Adsoft Plus eartips, accessory storage case, and a complimentary scope ID tag.
5. Littmann Select™
The Littmann Select is another basic model of this brand, aimed at students and novice doctors. Unlike the Littmann Lightweight II S.E., this model has a single-sided chestpiece. Both models, however, have a very similar acoustic performance.
- The Littmann Select relies on a single tunable diaphragm. So, we will hear high or low frequencies by changing the pressure applied.
- Made of plastic resin in the U.S.A.
- Includes the app “3M Littmann Learning Institute app”, which enables you to develop your diagnostic skills, listen to actual breathing sounds and, as we have mentioned before, put your knowledge to the test.
LIST PRICE: The recommended price is around US$65. On Amazon, it can often be found around 20% cheaper.
- Reliable performance for heart, lung, and blood pressure assessment
- Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds
- Anatomically designed headset is angled to channel sound into the ear canal
- Latex-free materials for allergy sensitive users
6. Passionate Care Premium
Although Passionate Care is a new brand which is not very well known, it is rapidly gaining a foothold in the market. They use a very simple formula: Offer a classic stethoscope of good quality at a very competitive price.
- This stethoscope (the only model the brand manufactures) comes with a double-sided chestpiece. On one side we can find the diaphragm and, on the other, the traditional open bell which can be activated by turning the head 180º on its axis.
- Very lightweight. Very comfortable to keep it around the neck.
- They offer a policy of a full refund within 60 days of purchase if the stethoscope does not meet expectations.
LIST PRICE: One of the cheapest places to find it is at this Amazon link (when it is on special offer which is not all the time):
- You Will Love The Sound of This Stethoscope Or We'll Refund You! - You Hear Everything! Easily Hear The Blood Pressure. Hear Every Heart Beat Every Heart Sound and Pulse. Hear Every Crackle Rail and Rhonchi. Perfect for the Hearing Impaired.
- Softest Eartips That Won't Hurt Your Ears. Nice tight seal that lets your hear perfectly. Makes the Perfect Nursing student stethoscope gift set.
- Your Peers Will Be Impressed With Your Assessment Skills Because You will Be Able To Hear More Than They Can! Charm your instructor and the doctor with your assessment accuracy. sthescope Fonendoscopios or Estetoscopios
- When Your Patients See You With This Stethoscope They Will Know That You Are a Serious Professional And That You Care Enough In Them That You Are Willing To Buy The Right Tools and Accessories
7. Omron Sprague Rappaport
Many readers don’t know that Omron also manufactures stethoscopes. For those who don’t recognise the brand, Omron is a Japanese company which is involved in many different fields: industrial automation, robotics, security systems and, also, the medical industry. Interestingly, they have a stethoscope that has become a bestseller on Amazon, mainly because it offers decent quality at an incredible price.
- It has a double-sided chestpiece with a diaphragm and an open bell. It also includes three adapters of different sizes for the bell and two more for the diaphragm (for pediatric and neonatal patients).
- It has a double-tubed Rappaport design. On one hand, this design does offer good acoustics. But, on the other hand, the tubes friction noise can cause major interference.
LIST PRICE: Here is its strongest feature. The sale price to the public is around US$20. But, if you are lucky, you may be able to find it even cheaper than that:
- Latex FREE tubing and chrome plated chestpiece
- Includes: three sizes of open bells, two sizes of diaphragms, and two pair of eartips
- Comes with three sizes of open bells
8. MDF ProCardial ERA
Although the MDF ProCardial ERA does not have such a low price as some other stethoscopes on this list, it does have a range of features which make it attractive to students and novice doctors. To start with, its acoustic performance is higher than the majority of the models on this list. But, it is obvious that, so is its price.
- Despite being a classic double-sided stethoscope with a diaphragm and an open bell on each side, these pieces are removable. Thus, they can be replaced by an infant’s or pediatric bell or diaphragm (parts included).
- Therefore, this is the one of the few stethoscope on the list that allows us to listen to adults, children and infants (Ideal for students of pediatrics).
- It includes a lifetime guarantee and free replacement of parts.
LIST PRICE: Although its price is usually around the $100 mark, here you can almost always find it for less:
- Handcrafted Since 1971 | Free-parts-for-life Program | Lifetime Warranty | Latex-free
- Acoustic Tubing: Constructed of latex-free PVC the 2-in-1 X-configuration non-stick acoustic tubing maintains two uninterrupted sound transmission channels to preserve acoustic integrity while sealing out extraneous sounds even in high-noise conditions
- Classic Sprague Rappaport-like dual acoustic output but with an innovative X-configuration dual lumen tube construction that eliminates the rubbing that can cause acoustic interference
- The chestpiece is fitted with an ultrasensitive diaphragm sealed with a non-chill retaining ring to provide a secure acoustic transmission of heart and lung sounds of 100Hz to 1000Hz
9. ADC ADSCOPE 615 Platinum
The ADC ADSCOPE 615 Platinum is a simpler version of its “big brother”, the ADC ADSCOPE 600 Cardiology. They share an almost identical design but the acoustic performance of this model is considerably inferior. However, if we keep in mind the price at which we can find it (less than $50) we can see that this is an alternative that offers a very good quality to price ratio.
- It comes with a single-sided chestpiece with dual-frequency tunable diaphragm (which can be tuned by applying more or less pressure).
- The head is manufactured from zinc alloy and offers a lifetime guarantee which covers all the parts of the stethoscope.
- Much lighter than its heavy “brother”: 152 grams.
LIST PRICE: In many shops, we can find this for around $70-80. However, on Amazon, occasionally you can find it for up to 50% less. Have a look at the current price:
- INCREDIBLE ACOUSTICS: Proprietarty adjustable frequency design (AFD) technology enhances acoustic performance; use light pressure for low frequencies, firm pressure for high frequencies. Individually acoustic tested in the USA..
- ERGONOMIC: Sculpted oversized chestpiece is precision CNC machined to exacting tolerances from lightweight alloy. Overall length 30 inches, weight 5.4 oz.
- COMPACT & COMFORTABLE: Clinician headset features silicone reinforcing yoke molded into flexible phthalate-free PVC tubing, stainless steel binaurals, and Adsoft Plus snap-on silicone eartips for the ultimate in wearing comfort and acoustic seal.
- ACCESSORIES INCLUDED: 2 additional pairs of Adsoft Plus eartips, accessory storage pouch, and a complimentary scope ID tag.
10. RA Bock Single Head
Although RA Bock (also known as Bock Medical) is a brand which is better known for its otoscopes, they also manufacture a stethoscope which has succeeded in gaining a good reputation. It has a patently similar design to the Littmann Master Cardiology™, which may initially put many buyers off if they think this is simply a copy of the latter. However, when we analyse its performance, we can see that it refers to a stethoscope that is competitive with reference to the acoustics (of course, without reaching the acoustic performance of the Master Cardiology™ original).
- It has a single-sided chestpiece with a dual-frequency tunable diaphragm (like the Littmanns, it is tuned by changing the pressure applied).
- It offers a lifetime guarantee for the head, tubes and the binaural.
- In short, it is a copy of the Master Cardiology™, but “made in China” and with a performance level that is not bad for the price.
LIST PRICE: Nearly always it can be found on Amazon for less than $50. Its current price is:
- RA BOCK LIFETIME REPLACEMENT GUARANTEE! - From workmanship to function to everything else, we want you to be TOTALLY HAPPY
- Single Head Cardiology model with excellent function.
- Pressure Sensitive Tune-able diaphragm
- ANATOMICALLY ALIGNED Headset and ear tips angled to typical ear canal allow for flexibility and adjustment to ensure a comfortable fit for a wide range of ear canal alignments.