There are a vast number of transcription services on the market, and they fall into two camps: human transcription services and automatic transcription services.
Which one you should choose depends on your specific needs and circumstances, in particular the budget you've got to work with, the timeline you're committed to, and how accurate you need the transcription to be.
In this guide we'll talk you through the key differences between human and automatic transcription services, and help you to decide which option is best for you.
Human transcription services employ real-life humans to transcribe your audio and video files. They'll listen to your recording and manually type out everything that's said. Since humans have a greater capacity for understanding the nuances of speech, they're able to provide highly accurate transcriptions.
If you need the guarantee that your transcription is as accurate as can be -- like if you're dealing with legal or medical matters -- then a human transcription service is the right choice. A human service will be able to pick up on every single detail from the recording, including pauses, laughter, and even tone.
The human ear finds it easier to make out nuances in spoken language, so if there are several different people speaking in your audio file, a human will be able to tell who's saying what. If there's a lot of interruption, background noise, or talking over one another, then a human service will be able to deal with these intricacies too.
The turnaround time for human transcription services is much slower than with their automated counterparts. That's because it takes even professional transcribers approximately four hours to transcribe an hour of audio. On top of that, these services often have long wait times, so you'll have to join the queue and wait until they have availability to deal with your request.
Since these services employ real people, and real people need to be paid, the cost of these services is much higher. The average price is 75 cents to $1.50 per minute, which works out as $45-$90 per hour of audio transcription.
Automatic transcription, also known as machine transcription, uses automatic speech recognition (ASR) software to transcribe your audio and video files. ASR uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to listen to your audio and convert it into text.
Since it's a machine doing all the hard work, rather than humans, automated transcriptions are much faster and more affordable.
If you need your transcription right away, automatic transcriptions are the best choice. Upload your audio or video file to Transcribe and you'll get detailed notes of your recording in a matter of minutes. There's no quicker way to get a transcription! You can then export it to your chosen file format and share it with colleagues, clients, and classmates.
If you're working with a smaller budget -- perhaps you're a student or you have a tight marketing budget -- then automatic transcription will keep costs down. At Transcribe, our PRO services costs just $10 a month for 5 hours of transcription time, which works out as just $2 per hour.
If you're planning on reviewing the transcription and condensing it into study notes or meeting notes, transforming it into marketing material, or pulling out quotes for an article, then a rough draft that isn't 100% verbatim should work perfectly for you. Once you've got your transcript, you can search, skim-read, edit, and reformat it to your heart's content.
ASR is getting more and more intelligent, and therefore more and more accurate, but there are still limitations that mean it isn't as accurate as the human ear. For example, it might not understand slang or strong accents. It might also be less accurate if your recording features multiple speakers or if there's a lot of background noise.
The best service for you will depend on your budget, your timeframe, and how accurate you need the transcription to be.
If you're dealing with legal or medical matters, and having a transcription that is 100% accurate is vital, then human transcription services are the right choice for you.
If you want a transcription instantly, you want to keep costs down, and you want a transcript that you can review and amend yourself, then automatic transcription services are without a doubt the best option.
Automatic transcription services are particularly popular with podcasters, journalists, academics, students, and marketing professionals, plus businesses who want to use transcriptions to create meeting notes.
Find out more about our automatic transcription services and how they could benefit you, no matter your profession.
Written By Katie Garrett
From doing it yourself to using Word, Google Docs or, best of all, the Transcribe App or online editor, learn how to transcribe audio with our helpful guide.