The Best Stethoscope? 3M Littmann vs Welch Allyn

The Best Stethoscope? 3M Littmann vs Welch Allyn

Patrick Tigue

Patrick Tigue

Published in MedShop Blog

0 min read

January 31, 2021

When it comes to making an investment like purchasing a stethoscope — especially for students — making the right choice is mission-critical. There's so much to think about that sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, however, your new stethoscope may be the main tool any medical professional uses for several years. An incorrect choice could have lasting ramifications. 

So, to help you out, here we take a look at two heavy hitters in the stethoscope world. Favourites of healthcare professionals around the world, Littmann and Welch Allyn are both highly respected manufacturers of healthcare equipment, and while some buyers prefer the history behind the Welch Allyn name, others will take comfort in the 3M Littmann line of stethoscope options and innovative single head stethoscope or traditional double head technologies. 

In truth, they are both great brands, but they do offer a range of different products that are suitable for a variety of different applications

But which is better?

This blog will break down those differences and examine why they may matter to you. So, whether you're looking at an entry-level Littmann Cardiology stethoscope or a top of the line Welch Allyn Harvey Elite, we'll give you the background information you need to ensure your next high-quality stethoscope is the right fit!  


Welch Allyn vs Littmann — History


Neither the Littmann or Welch Allyn brands are fly-by-night operations. They’ve both been around longer than most medical institutions, and they have the pedigree to back up a broad range of medical equipment. 

More than 100 years ago, in New York (USA), Welch Allyn opened its doors as a family business making medical diagnosis equipment. In fact, despite now employing nearly 3,000 people worldwide, the same family still owns Welch Allyn.

What started in the 1960s as an American company called Cardiosonics, begun by cardiologist David Littmann, eventually grew into the Littmann brand of stethoscopes.

3M bought Littmann’s patents in 1967. Back then, there were only two models, one for doctors and one for nurses. Oh, how times have changed.


Welch Allyn vs Littmann — Variety


Where Welch Allyn has a little more history than Littmann to back up its credentials, the variety and range of 3M Littmann stethoscopes take precedent.

Within the Medshop Singapore catalogue, we offer more colours and model options for Littmann than one can count, and from the Littmann Classic II S.E to the Littmann Cardiology III, you can always count on the highest acoustic performance and sound quality. 

Our Welch Allyn selection, on the other hand, is less diverse, however solid stethoscope designs such as the Harvey DLX and the entry-level Professional model are always firm favourites with healthcare professionals. 

Welch Allyn's reputation with medical professionals also extends to their ophthalmoscopes, otoscopes, blood pressure monitoring tools, ECG equipment, sphygmomanometers, and that’s just to name a few items.

That Welch Allyn quality is what one should expect from their stethoscopes too.

In the end, if a variety of colours and models matters to you, Littmann is where you will spend your money. 



Welch Allyn vs Littmann — Price

Welch Allyn Steth

The costs associated with stethoscopes depends very much on the kind of features and functions you require. Today, you can choose between electronic stethoscopes and acoustic stethoscopes, between stainless steel binaurals or rose gold, you can even select from a range of different earpieces, ear tips, chest pieces, while also finding features that block out ambient noise, offer dual sound channels, tuneable diaphragms for both high-frequency and low-frequency sounds, as well as with either dual or single head chest pieces.  

Naturally, durability and reliability should also come high up on the list. Put simply, some of us are harder on our tools, particularly healthcare professionals working within paediatrics or in EMT settings. In these cases, purchasing a stethoscope that will last, that has a long warranty, and that has a broad range of replacement parts available is likely to push up your initial expense. Over the long term, however, this is likely to be a good investment. 

All aspects being equal, the Littmann line of stethoscopes generally retail a little higher than most Welch Allyn models. For example, the Welch Allyn Lightweight Stethoscope is an excellent piece of entry-level equipment that comes in at a bargain price, however, it is unlikely to provide the kind of accuracy and durability that is required in most professional settings. The Littmann Classic II S.E Stethoscope in our catalogue comes in at double the price, however, it does offer a few more advanced features and more accurate identification of heart sounds and other auscultation tasks. 

Sitting in the middle of the spectrum, the Littmann Cardiology IV Stethoscopes offer an excellent price/performance balance and are only slightly more expensive than the Welch Allyn Harvey Elite, which we carry in four colours. Both of these are included in our list of best stethoscopes and they are extremely popular with healthcare professionals of all kinds. 

At the top end, the Littmann 3200 Digital Stethoscope sits on a platform all of its own, and this fully digital stethoscope offers a range of advanced features, including ambient noise reduction, an ergonomic headset, and wireless connectivity to a computer through Bluetooth. 

In short, the costs associated with Littmann versus Welch Allyn stethoscopes parallels their respective features. At Medshop, we offer a broader range of Littmann products, however, that is not to say the Welch Allyn should be written off. Identify the features that you need and compare them in the shop—after all, your investment could last you many years if you choose carefully.  


Welch Allyn vs Littmann — Bottom Line


Considering both Littmann and Welch Allyn garner plenty of respect in the healthcare industry, it would be foolish to rank one brand above the other definitively. Like many competitive brands, Welch Allyn and Littmann offer similar products with a range of different features, it is up to you to choose the model that best suits the way you work and your specific role. 

A well-maintained stethoscope could last years, if not decades, with proper care, and when you consider that many of the better models have replacement parts readily available, you can rest assured that your kit will be as comfortable and functional as the day you bought it. 

Try not to get too hung up on colour options. The tubing on most stethoscopes will need replacement in time. You don’t have to be a one-colour stethoscope stiff. You could swap out your tubing every time you clean your tools… every day if you want.

So, whether it’s the Littmann Master Cardiology range, the Welch Allyn Harvey Elite or something in between, you'll find all the information you need to choose the right stethoscope for your needs at Medshop. However, If you still can’t decide between these two brands, reach out to us. We can try to help you find the best fit for your needs.

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