Doctors might soon press their MP3 players to patients' chests to examine heartbeat and breathing.
The stethoscope, which evolved from a simple paper tube, has served cardiologists and GPs well for nearly 200 years, but Canadian researchers claim it is no match for today's MP3 players.
Neil Skjodt, of the University of Alberta, Canada, said even the most up-to-date stethoscopes provided inferior quality, clarity and purity of sound compared with off-the-shelf music players.
Speaking at the annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) in Stockholm this week, Skjodt said the new technology had several other advantages, such as storing recordings for future reference and analysis of them with more sophisticated software.
Chris Del Mar, of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine at Bond University on the Australia's Gold Coast, said stethoscopes were extremely efficient but the new technology might help in complicated cases, such as murmurs.