Transcription is the process of turning audio into written text. This is useful in plenty of situations, from college students needing the transcript from a recent lecture for study, to journalists recording a spoken interview and needing to search it to grab a quote for their article, or professionals wanting a written record of a meeting. Whatever the scenario, having the written word is often more convenient to work with than an audio recording.
Unfortunately, the process of transcription is laborious and time consuming to accomplish. Furthermore, it is difficult to accomplish with full accuracy, without spelling errors, and with correct punctuation, and even more so for those who are ‘two-finger typers.’ This is where a transcription service comes in, which can do the heavy lifting, and convert that audio file into written prose on demand.
Choosing a transcription service comes down to cost, whether it is a human or computer doing the transcribing, and the other integrated services. With the basics laid out, here are our best choices for a transcription service.
- We've also highlighted the best voice recognition software
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Scribie is a popular service in the transcription segment. They price their service which uses people to do the transcribing (better known as manual transcribing) based on the turnaround time. The budget service starts at $0.60 (£0.45) per minute, but there is a pokey 5 day turnaround time; their regular service offers a speedier 36 hour turnaround, for the price of $1.20 (£0.91) per minute.
These prices are for clean files of American speakers, with additional charges for speakers with an accent, a noisy background, or a poor audio quality file. The user simply uploads their file, chooses their plan, pays the fee, and the text in a Word file is returned within the expected time window. They claim 99% accuracy with their incorporated proofreading, and full confidentiality.
For transcribing jobs that are less sensitive, and do not require such a high level of accuracy, there is also an automated service, that is free. Simply upload the audio file, and a 30 minute turnaround time is claimed with 95% accuracy for clean audio of American speakers.
- You can sign up for Scribie here
iScribed offers transcription services that are highly accurate, with a compelling price for the turnaround time promised. It promises manual transcription with 99% accuracy, with a turnaround that averages 48 hours, which all adds up to a competitive offering factoring in the $0.89 (£0.67) per audio minute.
To achieve such a high accuracy rate, iScribed takes the extra step to have the transcription read by two experienced transcribers.
iScribed also offers a range of related services to complement and go beyond their transcriptions, including subtitles, closed captioning, translation services and even content writing services.
- You can sign up for iScribed here
Cassette takes a smartphone voice recorder approach to transcription. Available for the iOS platform, this app will record voice, and transcribe it in real-time, with the option of bookmarking sections of interest. The user then stops it, and then either the text, the audio file, or both can be saved, which are ready to be used by the application of your choice. Cassette claims designers use it at the tech giants Google, Apple, Netflix and Facebook among others, so Cassette’s service seems to be useful.
The iOS only app is free to use for voice recordings, and quite convenient, but can get expensive for transcription duty. Making it more difficult is that it is not priced by the minute, but rather you need to purchase a bucket of hours for the month, which of course for most folks can be hard to predict. The service starts at 3 hours of transcription for $10 (£8) per month, with the next plan up includes 10 hours of transcription for $29.99 (£23) per month, making this more expensive than other plans.
- You can sign up for Cassette here
Temi offers an automated voice transcription service at an affordable price. Their service gets used by ESPN, The Wall Street Journal, and PBS among their 10,000+ customers.
Via their “advanced speech recognition software,” they can transcribe voice to text via an uploaded audio or video file in a quick 5 minutes. The accuracy claimed is 90-95% with clear speakers with minimal accents, and minimal background noise, which are pretty much ideal recordings. Text files can be downloaded as MS Word or PDFs.
The cost is $0.10 (£0.07) per minute, and there are no minimums, subscriptions or additional monthly fees making this ideal for users with less regular transcription requirements.
- You can sign up for Temi here
Speechnotes is a lightweight voice transcription service that transcribes in real time, which works in a browser, or via their Android app. For users that find it more convenient to speak than to type, Speechnotes is a compelling offering. Simply click on the microphone, and start dictating right into the browser-based Notepad page.
There are also commands for punctuation, including “Period,” “New paragraph,” and even for the emoticon “Smiley.” The service is free, autosaves while being used, and the text can be downloaded to the computer, emailed or saved to Google Drive. Conveniently, there is no login or registration required. The significant limitation is that it only works with voice, and audio files cannot be uploaded.
- You can sign up for Speechnotes here
Other transcription services to consider
There are a lot more transcription services available online, but while you may be tempted to shop around on price, it's also important to take account of error rates. There's little point paying a fee for a transcription service that is so riddled with errors that you need to fork out more for it to be completely rewritten.
Therefore in this next section, we'll present a number of alternative products also worth considering, not because of their price points, but because of their low error rates.
Rev specializes in transcription services and manages to achieve one of the best balances between transcription speed and error rate. In terms of speed it's relatively fast, rather than blindingly fast, but where it really comes up trumps is in its low error rate. So if accuracy is your key concern, look to Rev. It's also a relatively affordable option, especially by comparison to some of the other products listed here, costing $1 per minute of transcription.
TranscribeMe follows the trend here in trying to balance speed of transcription with a low error rate and competitive pricing. While it's not as fast as Rev at transcribing, and while it can also have a slightly higher error rate, it costs significantly less at $0.80 per minute. So if cost is a key consideration in your budgeting, then TranscribeMe could be one of the better options, without sacrificing quality.
Transcription Panda positions itself very similarly to TranscribeMe, in that it costs the same and has a similar error rate, but enjoys a slightly faster transcription speed in our testing. So if turnaround time is a key consideration, then Transcription Panda may be the product to go for.
GoTranscript is a British company that offers competitive pricing, while aiming to provide the accuracy that business customers need. One of the bigger advantages of choosing GoTranscript is that it can cater for the more complex projects you may need to handle, not least technical, scientific, or academic projects where word accuracy can really suffer if the service isn't already set up to handle it.
GMR Transcription is a US-focused company that also looks to tackle the more complicated transcription jobs, not least academic and legal work. It does this by employing only human users for the transcription service, as opposed to machine processing that can introduce a higher rate of error. However, its transcription pricing is a little higher than some of the competition because of this.