Fast, accurate, and affordable—whether you need audio or video transcription, here's how to select the best service for your industry and project type.

audio transcription services

Not long ago, professionals managed most of their transcription in-house. They poured over hours of audio, painstakingly typing out their records. Thankfully, these same industries—including corporations, law enforcement agencies, and legal professionals— now turn to audio transcription services to seamlessly manage their transcription needs instead.

But with so many services to choose from, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one!

Should you use a human transcriptionist, or is speech-to-text okay? Is artificial intelligence transcription as accurate as using a typist? What about privacy and security concerns?

In this article, we will explore these questions and more, including:

  • Factors to consider when choosing your audio transcription service
  • Human transcription services vs. A.I. voice transcription services
  • The best audio transcription services available, including their pros and cons

Choosing an Audio-to-Text Transcription Service

If it were as simple as picking the service with the fastest turnaround times, your job would be easy. A.I. can spit out a “transcript” in minutes—but depending on your industry, that could actually cost you time and money.

So to avoid the headache of trial and error, here are some guiding questions to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of each audio transcription service.

What’s the purpose of your transcription?

The most crucial factor to consider is the purpose of your transcription. A podcast transcription, for example, typically doesn’t require the same attention to detail as, say, a police interview transcription.

If the purpose is of the utmost professional importance, human typists can come in handy. They listen by ear and manually type what they hear.

These professional typists can be trained in specific transcription fields, meaning they’re familiar with industry-specific terminology, formatting, and policy.

For instance, legal and medical transcriptionists need extensive training in proper formatting best practices and abiding by privacy and confidentiality laws.

What’s your budget?

Your budget will also be a deciding factor in how you approach audio transcription. You can expect to pay for transcription using one of the following models:

  • Pay by the word – you will pay for each word transcribed.
  • Pay by the minute – you will be charged a rate per minute.
  • Subscription fee – a predetermined amount of transcription in exchange for a monthly fee.

How much time do you have on your hands?

If you don’t mind setting aside time to edit after each transcription and you’re looking to save a few bucks off the bat, speech-to-text or automated transcription could satisfy your needs. But if you’re professional, affordable human transcription services are worth it if only to save you the hassle of editing and formatting your document.

If you’d prefer to save some time on your end, SpeakWrite offers fully-human transcription services with turnaround times of only a few hours. With SpeakWrite, your transcript will be ready to go as soon as it lands in your inbox—no edits necessary.

How important is accuracy?

Unless you’re using a human transcriptionist, it’s very rare for an audio transcription to be 100% accurate. Between accents, cadences, and intonation, there are countless variations in how humans speak.

So when choosing an audio transcription service, bear in mind that you’ll almost certainly need to budget some time for “cleaning up” your transcription. Generally speaking, the higher the accuracy, the higher the cost. But if you’re short on time, it may be worth spending the money on a perfect (or near-perfect) transcription.

Do you need professional formatting?

If you have specific formatting needs, consider the formatting options offered by the transcription service. You may require a particular format for your transcription, such as time stamps, speaker identification, and more.

Most transcription services offer only “intelligent verbatim” transcriptions; that is, if you need a fully verbatim or edited transcription, you’ll likely need to spring for a human transcriptionist.

Are security and confidentiality important?

If you’re in a field that requires a high level of security and confidentiality, choosing a service that can provide that protection is crucial. Some services will sign NDAs upon request, but it isn’t easy to find services that are HIPPA compliant.

Ensure your audio transcription service has policies in place to protect data, including secure servers, end-to-end encryption, and highly-trained transcriptionists. All of SpeakWrite’s transcriptionists have passed rigorous background checks, and we offer password-protected documents for added security.

Fun Fact: Since 1997, SpeakWrite has never had a breach of security or an issue surrounding confidentiality. (Learn more here)

Human, Automatic, or Hybrid Transcription Services: Which to Choose?

Generally speaking, there are three types of transcription to choose from: human, automatic, or hybrid. Each has its features and benefits, and depending on your needs and budget, one might be preferable to the other.

The most significant difference, of course, is pricing; however, saving money means spending time. So let’s explore these three options so you can determine which best fits your needs.

Human Transcription

As its name implies, human transcription refers to audio transcription performed by a human rather than speech recognition software. While it’s the most expensive of the options, it’s by far the most hassle-free.

If you need a transcript for legal or insurance purposes, a professional human transcription is the way to go. There are tons of benefits when it comes to human transcription:

  • Properly formatted according to your specifications
  • Excellent accuracy; carefully reviewed for errors
  • Capable of transcribing unique accents
  • Capable of differentiating between speakers
  • Professional transcriptionists can perform entirely verbatim or edited transcription.

Hybrid Transcription

Hybrid transcription services use speech recognition software but employ humans to edit and format the transcript. As a result, hybrid transcription is a good option for budget-conscious professionals who don’t have time to perform the time-consuming edits associated with automatic transcription.

Here are a few benefits of hybrid transcription:

  • Fast transcription turnaround times
  • Better accuracy than automatic transcription
  • Cost-effective

Automatic Transcription

Automatic transcription, or A.I. transcription, uses speech recognition technology to instantly create a transcript of your audio. It’s a quick and affordable option that’s suitable for non-official purposes and budget-conscious professionals with a bit of spare time for editing.

However, A.I. transcription software has limitations—accents can lead to inaccurate transcriptions, while audio featuring multiple speakers will not be formatted correctly. Here are the benefits of automatic transcription:

  • Near-instant transcription
  • Most affordable option
  • Good for unofficial purposes 

Best Audio Transcription Services

Now that you understand the difference between human, hybrid, and automatic transcription, let’s look at a few leading audio transcription services so you can choose which is best for your project.

Bear in mind that each of these services is quite well-regarded within the industry, so choosing a transcription service really comes down to how much time and money you’re willing to budget for transcription.

SpeakWrite

Speakwrite offers best-in-class, fully-human transcription by trained transcriptionists—that means no A.I., ever. Here are the benefits of SpeakWrite:

  • Expertly-formatted transcription tailored to your exact specifications.
  • Transcriptionists are trained in best practices regarding confidentiality, including HIPAA laws.
  • Excellent accuracy, even if your audio features multiple speakers or speakers with unique accents.
  • Save time on editing with fully-finished transcriptions in as little as three hours
  • More expensive than other options
  • Longer turnaround times than A.I. or hybrid options

Rev

Rev is a good option for hybrid transcription if your budget doesn’t allow for a fully-human option. They offer a few different service tiers to suit different needs and budgets. Rev offers human quality assurance; however, the transcription is performed chiefly by A.I. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of Rev:

  • Human quality assurance
  • Good level of accuracy
  • Turnaround times in 24 hours or less
  • Not a good option if your transcription requires extensive formatting
  • More expensive than A.I., especially if your transcription requires human intervention

TranscribeMe

TranscribeMe is another hybrid transcription service. Like Rev, the transcription is mostly performed by A.I. before being submitted to human transcriptionists for manual review. Here’s what you can expect from TranscribeMe:

  • Human quality assurance
  • More affordable than fully-human transcription services
  • More accurate than Rev
  • Turnaround times in 1-3 business days
  • Not a good option if you need extensive formatting
  • More expensive than AI-generated transcription

Otter.ai

Otter is a fully-automated transcription service powered by A.I. Unlike many A.I. transcription services, Otter can distinguish and tag human voices. Here’s what you need to know about Otter:

 Plus, if you keep your transcription minutes under 300, you can use Otter.ai for free. After that, you’ll have to upgrade to a subscription.

  • Up to 300 minutes of complimentary transcription
  • Affordable per-minute price
  • Instant transcription
  • Error rates as high as 20%
  • Concerns about security and data privacy

Sonix

Sonix offers “lightning-fast” transcription for speakers of many different languages. While pricier than other transcription services, you’ll still need to budget some time for editing and formatting. Here are the pros and cons of Sonix:

  • Capable of transcribing audio in other languages
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Instant transcription
  • Higher error rates than hybrid or A.I. transcription
  • More expensive than other automated audio transcription services

Choosing the Right Audio Transcription Service

By now, you’re well equipped to make an informed decision about which audio transcription service is best for your needs. Remember to budget more time for edits if you choose the economical route and more money if you need extensive formatting, HIPAA compliance, and a high level of accuracy.

No matter which service you use, you can be grateful that in 2023, you don’t need to transcribe the audio yourself!

Audio Transcription Services FAQs

Can I transcribe the audio myself?

Yes, you can. However, it’s likely to be more time-consuming than using a transcription service and could potentially be prone to errors. Nevertheless, if you’re up for the challenge, here’s an easy guide to help you write your own transcript in 5 steps.

Is it possible to transcribe video to text?

Yes! Many transcription services offer video transcription in addition to audio transcription, including SpeakWrite.

How much does it cost to transcribe audio?

The cost of audio transcription can vary greatly depending on the length of your recording, the dialects it contains, and the level of accuracy you require. SpeakWrite offers single-speaker audio transcription for just 1.5 cents per word with a three-hour turnaround time.

What are audio transcription services?

Audio transcription services convert audio recordings into text. This is typically done by either humans or automated A.I. software. Many transcription services offer both human and A.I. transcription options, depending on your needs and budget.

Can you convert MP3 to text?

Yes, many audio transcription services can convert MP3 files to text.

Are there any free audio transcription services?

Yes, SpeakWrite offers a Free Trial that includes a $10 credit upon signup. Many transcription services offer free trial periods or discounts for first-time users.

Do I need special software to transcribe audio?

No, you don’t need special software to transcribe audio. Most transcription services provide web-based interfaces or accessible applications that can be accessed directly from your browser. You’ll just need a reliable internet connection to start transcribing.

Ready for a Free Trial?

If you think a human transcription service is best suited to your needs, Speakwrite can help. Our professional transcription services offer accurate, beautifully formatted transcriptions in as few as three hours. It’s a straightforward process that removes the headache from transcription so you can optimize your workflow.

Our transcriptionists are trained in formatting and will listen carefully to your directions, including instructions for spelling, formatting, and content. Get started with a free trial today and see how exceptional audio transcription services can save you time and money.

How to Mail Your Recorded Tapes


Many clients have recorded mini or standard cassette tapes to submit to us for transcription, but would rather not use their staff and resources to input these tapes into our system. In these instances, you can have these recorded cassettes delivered to us, and we will upload them into our system for transcription for you. To use this method of submission, you must have an existing SpeakWrite account. Send recorded tapes via overnight courier or USPS to the following address:

SpeakWrite Tape Processing Center
6300 Bridgepoint Pkwy
Building 1, Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78730

(800) 828-3889
Attn: Production Manager

With each delivery, you must print out a Recorded Tape Transmittal Sheet and enclose it with the tapes to be transcribed. Your package must include properly addressed and pre-paid packaging and label for the return of your tapes, using a service that provides for delivery tracking. If this is not included, we will return your tapes to you and charge your account a $10.00 delivery fee. Immediately upon our receipt of your tapes, we will input them into the SpeakWrite system for transcription. You will receive the transcription of the taped material via the email address on your account, just as any other SpeakWrite job. Your tapes will be returned to you via the delivery method you designate 48 hours after the completion of your transcript. All work transcribed will be charged at the standard, per word rate. There is no additional charge for handling or inputting the tapes. Be sure to erase all previously recorded tapes completely before recording any new dictation in order to avoid having old work transcribed by mistake or jeopardizing the quality of the newly recorded material.