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How To Transcribe Audio Files to Text: Your Definitive Guide 2024

Matthew Patel
Matthew Patel
Posted in Zoom Sep 5 · 7 Sep, 2022
How To Transcribe Audio Files to Text: Your Definitive Guide 2024

Today’s technology made available to us with a simple click of our finger made things from transcribing to voice recording easy. 

Years before voice recording in a recording device or a cell phone application was invented, everything from documenting the minutes and proceedings of a meeting to a journalist interviewing a topic for their story was done by taking down information with a pen and paper. 

This old-fashioned method has a few downsides like problems with convenience and sometimes missing a few critical parts of a meeting, making the invention of recording a great innovation that made many jobs more manageable. 

Now that voices can be recorded easily, transcribing this audio to text files is sometimes needed for these recordings to be valuable. 

What is Audio Transcription?

To put it simply, audio transcription deals with the process to transcribe audio files into valuable and readable text files, also known as transcripts. 

Audio files that are transcribed for anyone’s use can come from many sources: recording of a conference or a speech, interviews for use in academic research, the memo notes of journalists or writers, your philosophy lecture that afternoon, and many others, even videos. 

Audio transcriptions can come in different types: dictation, interviews, conference, or focus group. These types are distinguishable by the number of persons speaking on the audio recordings. 

The transcription job will qualify as a dictation if only one person speaks on the audio recording, like a monologue. An example of this is a lawyer’s recordings regarding a case or a recording of a professor’s lecture. 

If two persons are talking on the audio recording or having a conversation or a discourse, audio recordings of this nature are known as interviews. Examples are interviews for academic research or police interrogations. 

The last be called a conference, focus group, or workshop, which is the hardest of all transcription jobs, even for a professional transcriber. 

Such audio recordings will concern conversations with three or more speakers. Transcription jobs done for these audio recordings will need labels in the end transcript to signify who is speaking at a given time. 

People who transcribe audio files to text are called transcriptionists or transcribers, and these two terms can be used interchangeably. Transcriber is also primarily used in British English, while Americans are more partial to the term transcriptionist. 

What is a Transcriber? 

Some might think that transcribers are a recent profession brought about by the invention of different recording devices, but that is not the case. Transcribers used to take down notes using shorthand language to make transcribing conversations on paper easier. 

Still, since this process involves a lot of knowledge for the transcriber regarding shorthand codes and not to mention the fact that it is highly time-consuming, this process is now only being utilized by some people. 

Because of modern technology, like the emergence of PC and mobile devices, transcribing is more straightforward. Email also made it possible for clients to send transcription work to transcribers online, and the emergence of cloud storage made it possible for artificial intelligence to transcribe audio files to text with a simple click of a finger on the many transcription software on the internet. 

Today, professional transcriptionists utilized their superb listening skill with the convenience generated by the many transcription software available. They download the audio file sent by the client and have it initially transcribed by transcription software. 

To check for any inconsistencies in the output, the transcriber will meticulously listen to the audio again as he edits and proofread the AI-generated text transcript. 

Transcribe Audio Files: How long will it take to transcribe 1 hour of audio recording?

There is no fixed answer to this question since it will depend on many factors. Although, more or less, it will take a professional transcriptionist up to four hours to transcribe an hour of audio recording, or that is one hour for every fifteen minutes to transcribe audio files to text. 

However, this time is not fixed and will depend on where you will be outsourcing the transcription job. 

There are two transcription services that you can consider to do the transcribing for you: automated or manual transcription; sometimes, it can be both. 

Manual transcription will entail a professional transcriber, freelance or in a company, to do the job. On the other hand, automation is the service where machines are utilized. It uses a highly-advanced artificial intelligence that generates transcription from your audio files. 

Because it uses AI technology, automation will be the fastest transcription service. Many of these automated transcription services will only take minutes to transcribe, while a human transcriber will require at least 5 hours to complete transcribing an hour of audio. 

This is because human transcriptions are the most accurate. If conditions are not favorable for the audio recording, it can take a human transcriptionist up to 10 hours to deliver a transcribed audio of an hour. 

Some of the conditions that can affect the turnaround time for most transcription works are: 

·        poor audio recording quality that will require a transcriber to strain their ears to understand what is being said in the audio

·        background noises which will affect efficiency, and it will take longer to transcribe audio files

·        audio recording with multiple speakers like a conference or a forum

·        complicated audio recording topic that will require research for high-accuracy transcription

·        incoherent or hard to understand accents from speakers in the audio recording

Another advantage of machine-generated transcription is that it will cost relatively less, but it comes with one crucial limitation. 

Since AI still has a harder time understanding slang, colloquial terms, and sometimes accents, which makes it harder to translate. Unless the AI-generated transcript is edited, this gives you a lower quality output than human-generated transcription. 

Combining the fast transcription ability of machine service and the editing, listening, and proofreading capacities of a human transcriber for post-transcription work is the most efficient way to reap the benefits of both transcription options. 

Who will need audio to text transcriptions? 

Almost every business in all industries will need audio transcription services. It might be on a case to case basis or for their whole process. Here is a rundown on some of them and where they use the transcripts. 

Video Production and Editing

One of the most viewed and shared mediums of content on the internet is videos. People concerned with this medium, from YouTube content creators to advertising agencies to producers of films and television shows, require subtitles on their videos to make their content accessible for everyone wherever they are with hearing disabilities or not. 

Transcriptions in this realm are concerned with ensuring 100% accuracy on subtitles and closed captions for film, video, documentary, and others. This is an essential element since it will contribute to the accessibility of their project. 

This is a big undertaking for the producers, so they sometimes outsource these tasks to different companies that provide transcription for film mediums. 

Since these bigger transcription companies have more budgets to buy and use additional transcription software for their works, they ensure a fast turnaround time compared to freelance professional transcribers. 

By providing a transcript on the bottom portion of each video medium, viewers become more engaged with the video, which can add the benefits of more business for the video creator and more access to the people who need the transcript through subtitles to give the entire message of the video content. 

Academic and Research

Transcription is essential in academia and research, especially for people adapting qualitative analysis to reach their findings. 

Qualitative research is concerned with finding and collecting answers to questions by way of collecting data from interviews, focus groups, forums, lectures, etc. These data will usually involve large amounts of video or audio files that would require transcription for content analysis. 

Transcriptions for academic and research purposes will be more detailed and will need a higher level of accuracy versus general transcription jobs. 

Since researchers will need data to analyze with transcripts, most of them will employ the works of professional transcriptionists to transcribe audio files collected to speed up the process, which can give them more time to dedicate to analyzing the finished interview transcripts. 

Most of the transcription works done for academia are verbatim or intelligent verbatim. 

Intelligent verbatim will require the skills and expertise of a seasoned transcriptionist since the full transcript will be edited, including grammatical errors and ensuring that each thought and sentence in the audio is tied together. 

The gold standard for academic research is transcription done by humans, but it is the choice of some professional transcriptionists to do the draft first using transcription software.

Media and Journalism

Aside from ensuring that all news and information shared with the public by journalists and the media is as accurate as possible, transcription plays a significant role in many undertakings in journalism and media. 

Like transcription for academic and research use, a transcript for journalism and media transcribe audio files or video contents to text for further editing and analysis. 

This is needed not just for the accuracy of information to confirm but also to ensure that the publication or the station in which the report is being reported is not violating any regulation. 

In journalism, gone are the times when pen and paper are utilized, and recorders are there to guarantee that they are not missing out on any potent information crucial to their reporting. 

Have you seen any conference by a politician lately? You might have seen people clutching phones or mics on the camera, and they used these recordings for their news. 

These audio files are then transcribed and organized by a journalist in their writings to be read by the public, might it be in the newspapers or various online news outlets. 

Market Research 

Another essential application of transcription concerns converting audio interviews to files related to market research and user experience across all realms of advertisement and customer service. Market research is critical for gathering information whether a corporation is looking to release a new product or is asking for feedback on existing ones. 

Transcription in this realm is concerned with audio data gathered in market research. Just like all the transcription applications, it transcribes audio files to text for easy analysis and deconstruction. 

For these types of work, it is usually the duo of artificial intelligence and the editing and proofreading capacity of professional transcriptionists that do the work of transcription for market researchers. 

Transcription is essential for market searchers for three points. The first is transcribing makes quoting easier in the research. There will be no need to filter through audio when researchers can search a keyword and be redirected to the information on the transcript. 

Second, it ensures accuracy in data collection. The transcript can denote who the speakers are by labeling each interviewee in a particular demographic if stated on the audio recordings. 

Last, transcription of audio data leaves a small margin of error that sometimes stems from a wrong interpretation of an interviewee or a respondent’s answer or statement. 

The easily scannable documents can be checked and rechecked easily instead of constantly repeating and only hearing the audio recording. 

How To Transcribe Audio Files to Text: Choosing to Transcribe Audio Files Yourself

The Set Up to Transcribe Audio Files

If you decide to transcribe audio files to text yourself, it is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. Still, practices can be done to make it more efficient so that transcribing the audio files will be a success. 

You should first have easy access to the word processor software and the player where the audio recording would be played. 

It is better to have these two windows open side to side or on different devices since you will be rewinding and pausing the audio file frequently and switching from one tab to the other is inefficient, not to mention that you can lose your file with this practice by accident. 

Decide on Shorthand

Since you know what the audio recording is about, you will know what words, phrases, names, or concepts will repeatedly play during the recording. 

For repetitive words and ideas, try using shorthand to aid the first draft of your transcript for faster transcribing. You can easily add a legend or a footnote to signify the words or phrases if these files will be disseminated

Listen and Write

This is the most time-consuming yet easiest part of doing human transcription, listening, and writing what you hear. 


Editing will entail one more round of listening while reading and editing the text files you have written. Fix errors and add words you might miss. 

Export File 

Since you use a word processor to aid the transcription, you can easily save the word file to Docx or PDF format for easier dissemination. 

Using Third-Party Applications and Services to Transcribe Audio Files

Most third-party transcription software will have the same interface, and if you do not want to do the transcribing yourself, you can easily go for the many services on the internet by paying a fee. 

Uploading Audio Files

The first thing you will need to do on most transcription services is pasting a URL or uploading an audio file of your audio or video recording. This might be a phone conversation, podcast, or recording you want to transcribe. 

Choosing Transcription Options

Choosing your custom transcription requirements will depend on the software that you prefer. However, most of them will have options like rushed orders that can give you a faster result for an added fee. 

You can ask for timestamping to make for easier audio navigation for checking. There is also a verbatim option that will give you an in toto output with pauses and verbal mannerisms like mm-hmm’s or um’s of a speaker. 

Downloading Text File

Most of the transcription software will do the transcribing. You can have the option to have their human transcribers also do the post-transcription work or the work yourself by only asking for the draft of the audio transcript. Many of them will email the file, which you can download quickly. 

Final Thoughts

Transcription is used across all works and industries, and as we look forward and move to the future AI-generated transcriptions will be more accurate than ever. However, nothing will still beat the accuracy and quality human transcribers can offer each transcript. At the same time, combining the benefits of both can make for something even better that will also help the professional transcriptionists to transcribe audio files themselves.