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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Best transcription services - at a glance
Highly accurate transcribing with a choice of plans
Scribie offers both manual and automated transcription services. The manual transcription service offers 99% accuracy and a 36 hour turnaround time, as well as speaker tracking, for $0.80 per minute of audio. .
These prices are for clean files of American speakers, with an additional charge of $0.50 a minute 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 with an accuracy of between 80-95% for clean audio of American speakers.
Fast transcription turnaround at the right price
iScribed offers both general transcription services, as well as for the legal and medical professions. A two-pass process is used to review transcribed files, resulting in a claimed accuracy of 99%, as well as a relatively fast turnaround time of 48 hours.
Pricing starts at $0.89 per minute, but there is an extra $0.20 per minute charge for verbatim or timestamped transcripts. Additionally, you can pay at extra $0.60 per minute (for a total of $1.49 per minute) if you need to rush your order through much faster.
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.
Apple’s iOS does transcription
Rev provides a range of audio and video transcription services, including captions, subtitles, and translations for all types of audio and video files.
Straightforward transcriptions can be complated in a few hours and come with a very high accuracy rate of over 99%. Captions and subtitles for videos are also available as a service, and are FCC, ADA, and Section 508. Both sets of services are charged at $1 per minute.
Translation services are also available for over 35 languages, and are charged at 10c per word. Perhaps of more interest is the foreign subtitles service for video, which is an additional feature other services tend not to offer directly, and this is charged at between $3-7 per minute depending on the task.
What also makes Rev stand out is that it 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.
A premium, automated transcription service
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.
Lightweight web-based transcription
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.
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.
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.