From turnaround time and accuracy to formatting and overall quality in transcription services—here's what we found.
If you’re looking for a simple, time-saving, cost-effective way to transcribe audio and video files to text, there are several transcription services to choose from. But not all transcription services are created equally.
So to help you decide which one is right for you, we put three of the most popular transcription companies to the test in a speech-to-text service showdown. In this article, we’ll compare Rev vs. TranscribeMe vs. SpeakWrite to see how they stack up in terms of pricing, turnaround time, accuracy, and more.
How We Compared Rev, Transcribe Me, & SpeakWrite Transcription Services
Before we dive into our findings, here’s a quick overview of the criteria we used to compare and contrast these three transcription services.
We decided to submit five different kinds of audio transcription jobs to each company representing a variety of standard scenarios.
These audio files included:
- A legal letter
- Case notes (we submitted two of these)
- An interrogatory file
- A legal document
- A multi-speaker file
Using the results of these case studies, we explored five different categories that tend to matter most to clients: turnaround time, pricing, quality, formatting, and ease of use.
We measured turnaround time from when we submitted our job to when the company returned the transcribed file. Files represented various lengths and included one or multiple speakers.
Pricing factors included the total price for each job. Some transcription services charge by the minute, while others charge by the word. Additionally, some services charge extra for premium features such as:
- Verbatim transcription
- Faster delivery time
- Poor quality audio
- HIPAA compliance and confidentiality
- Specialized formatting
Ideally, you shouldn’t have to go back to edit and revise typos in your transcript. As such, we measured quality as the accuracy of words captured compared with the original audio submitted.
Depending on which transcription service you choose, quality can be affected by factors like:
- Number of speakers
- Presence of accents
- Quality of the recording
- Noise interference
- A.I. transcription vs. human typist
Some scenarios require unique formatting needs, so we measured this one based on whether the format looked appropriate for the document type.
Ease of Use
Issues like accessible customer service, file submission and delivery, and the availability of timestamps when needed helped us measure ease of use.
With these qualitative and quantitative data points in mind, be sure to read the rest of this review from top to bottom so you can ultimately make the best decision for your business—we promise it will be worth it in the end!
Overview: What to Know About the Transcription Services We Compared
Although each company offers a similar service, some unique elements are worth noting. So here’s a bit of background for each company in our comparison study.
Rev offers both artificial intelligence (A.I.) and human transcription to perform speech-to-text conversions. However, we suspect that even when users opt for the human transcription option, they use A.I. and then pass the finished product through a crowd-sourced human review process.
TranscribeMe uses a blend of A.I. and human transcription. They offer three transcription packages, including a lower accuracy “First Draft” package, an improved accuracy “Standard” package, and a “Verbatim” package. We chose the Standard package for each case study discussed in this guide.
SpeakWrite uses 100% human transcription with no A.I. use. Users can opt for general transcription, multi-speaker, legal, and Spanish transcription services. In addition, you can upload audio file submissions in a variety of convenient ways, including the SpeakWrite app, phone, computer, or email.
A Feature By Feature Comparison of 3 Transcription Services
The first metric we looked at was turnaround time. To do this, we averaged the total time it took for each company to transcribe our audio files.
Rev advertises human transcription services for a turnaround time of fewer than 12 hours. The average time for all five of our case study transcription files was extremely speedy (less than one hour), except that one file required manual intervention due to complex audio (none of the other services experienced this issue).
Unfortunately, this resulted in a twelve-hour turnaround since the approval email came late at night, and we ultimately had to pay a higher rate than initially quoted. However, when averaging out the time for each service, we decided to leave this outlier out of our averages, making Rev the winner regarding delivery speed.
TranscribeMe, which advertised a 1-3 business day turnaround time, turned all five document types around in less than three hours for an average of one hour and twelve minutes.
SpeakWrite advertises a three-hour turnaround time and averaged a delivery time of one hour and thirty-nine minutes for our study. Even the “difficult” audio file was delivered in under an hour (faster than the other services)—a testament to the advantage of all-human translation.
Next, we looked at pricing. We submitted the same five audio file types to each company and compared the total cost of each transcription job. Ultimately, pricing was pretty similar across the board, with a couple of exceptions.
Rev advertises a rate of $1.50 per minute to start, but these prices jumped when it came to audio requiring extra attention from human typists. If your audio needs a human touch, you’ll receive an email asking you to approve the job at a higher rate.
TranscribeMe rates differ based on the turnaround time you require. For example, you can request a turnaround of one business day for a rate of $2.50 per minute or 2-3 business days for a rate of $1.25 per minute.
If you’re willing to wait the extra couple of days, then TranscribeMe is your cheapest option. However, if you need your transcription ASAP, you’ll pay twice as much as the other services.
SpeakWrite approaches pricing uniquely, offering rates by the word rather than the minute. In most cases, this benefits the user immensely—particularly in situations where there is a lot of silence, stammering, or other verbal tics padding out the length of an audio recording.
Single speaker audio transcription is available at 1.50 cents per word for single speaker audio, tying SpeakWrite with Rev for pricing (assuming the audio isn’t considered difficult on Rev’s part).
Quality is undeniably the most critical metric when choosing a transcription service. After all—there’s no point in paying for a transcript riddled with errors, especially when you intend to use the transcriptions for professional purposes.
We looked at the accuracy of each company’s transcriptions by comparing the resulting text to the original audio files—here’s what we found.
Although it may be speedy, Rev doesn’t offer much in the way of quality due to the inability of A.I. to interpret typist instructions or edit for context. First, instructions meant for the typist were unnecessarily included at the beginning and end.
Several grammatical and usage errors, including proper noun capitalization errors, slang usage mistakes, and misspellings were also present across the board. Finally, Rev added several quotations on sections that didn’t represent direct quotes, creating the potential for misleading information and confusion.
Multi-speaker recordings returned mostly clean—Rev removed utterances such as “uhs” and “ums,” but partial sentences and false starts remained in the transcript. Overall, Rev would require quite a bit of editing on the user’s part before you could use the transcript in a professional context.
Since TranscribeMe also leans into the power of A.I. transcription, there were similar issues regarding the transcription quality. For example, instructions meant for the typist were unnecessarily typed into the document, including requests to strike sentences, leaving the user to perform a number of edits.
In addition, when speakers corrected their wording, TranscribeMe typed the mistakes and corrections verbatim into the document—yet another element that needs editing before you could use the transcription in a professional context.
Verbatim spellings, slang, and typos (including misspellings of a large city) were also present across the documents. Several typos (such as “ear” instead of “err” or “judiciary” instead of “judicial”) could have been easily avoided with a human touch.
When it came to multi-speaker transcription, TranscribeMe did offer a clean verbatim transcript that removes “uhs,” “ums,” and false starts. However, users can expect to perform some amount of editing before using a TranscribeMe transcript in a professional setting.
Hands down, SpeakWrite’s human-powered transcription services resulted in the highest quality transcript of all three companies. Grammatical accuracy was on point, direct quotes were consistently accurate, and spelling and capitalization were handled correctly, making SpeakWrite’s human transcription services the clear winner for quality in this comparison study.
Multi-speaker conversational exchanges were also captured flawlessly, with notes marking inaudible words as needed. The resulting transcripts for any job require no editing on the user’s part, and the documents were ready for immediate use in any professional context.
Next, we looked at formatting to see if the transcriptions were easy to read and appropriate for the type of document they were meant to represent. This category proved to be a clear differentiator for the companies in our study—here’s why.
Rev, which primarily uses A.I. to transcribe documents, resulted in the most formatting errors. There were several instances where line breaks were entirely omitted or created without reason, making the text difficult to read.
Instructions such as “all caps” or user-directed instructions were transcribed literally rather than used as intended by the speaker. Formatting instructions for font preference were not followed, including directives for creating bold and italic transcriptions.
TranscribeMe also proved to struggle with formatting directives. First, we noticed several unnecessary timestamps for documents that don’t require them (e.g. a legal letter), in addition to unnecessary new paragraph starts that would have to be hand edited by the user.
It also proved impossible to dictate any formatting instructions, including bullet points and headings—a task that would inevitably be left to the user to complete.
If formatting is an essential factor in your transcription job, SpeakWrite is the only way to go. We received neat and tidy transcriptions with consistent spacing, new paragraph indications, citations, and capitalization. Specialized formats, such as a pleading, were easy to read and included all necessary information.
Headings, bullets, and other formatting details were successfully included when dictated by the speaker, and the resulting documents would be acceptable by any court or opposing party.
However, it’s worth noting that timestamps are not available for SpeakWrite jobs, so these were absent from the final transcriptions.
Ease of Use
Finally, we looked at ease of use. We considered factors like customer service, file submission and delivery, ability to manage complex audio, time stamps, and ability to check on the status of the job.
Rev seems to have the most difficulty with imperfect audio files. If your audio gives their A.I. trouble and you’re in a rush, you may be out of luck. For example, we received an email asking to approve an increased fee in the middle of the night and received our transcribed file twelve hours later.
Even with the aid of a human typist, Rev missed direct instructions for formatting and corrections, and we noted several typos. Finally, if you’re looking for HIPAA compliance or confidentiality, you have to contact their sales department and pay an additional fee.
Uploading larger files to TranscribeMe took notably longer than the other services. In addition, TranscribeMe ignored typist directions, and formatting changes were not made as requested, leaving some paragraphs nearly unusable and in need of significant editing. Timestamps are available, although they were included in unnecessary file types.
Submitting files to SpeakWrite is a breeze, and the company promises human transcription with 99% accuracy. The transcriptions were high-quality, correctly formatted, and delivered on time.
Customer service is easily accessible, and users can quickly get in touch with a human representative. HIPAA compliance and confidentiality are available without an additional fee.
Verdict: So, Which Transcription Site Is Best For Your Business?
Your choice should ultimately boil down to your goal for the transcription job. We considered three common goals for transcription services:
- Getting the job done fast
- Getting the job done accurately
- Getting the job done at the lowest price
Here’s how our top three transcription sites fared.
If Your Goal Is Quality and Usability
Although TranscribeMe and Rev did a fairly good job overall, the mistakes we noted significantly impacted the final document’s accuracy.
For example, Rev included quotes around inappropriate sections of text, which could confuse the reader. TranscribeMe also got some phrases wrong, such as when they misunderstood the word “disclose” for “quote.”
In addition, both companies included the formatting instructions as part of the transcript rather than following them to format the document. This error would require heavy editing before it would be ready for professional use.
Despite these issues, TranscribeMe and Rev are still decent options for transcription services if you plan to use them in a personal, creative, or otherwise non-professional context.
Therefore, the clear winner for the quality category is SpeakWrite. The transcriptions were accurate, properly formatted, and had no significant quality errors. Therefore, if you’re using transcription services for legal or business documentation, SpeakWrite is the best option.
If Your Goal is Immediate Turnaround
On average, Rev’s jobs were the fastest, with a turnaround time of 25 minutes. However, one job was more difficult to transcribe due to the audio quality and required approval for a higher rate. This email came in later at night and wasn’t approved until the following day, so the turnaround time for that job was considerably longer.
TranscribeMe’s jobs had an average turnaround time of one hour and twelve minutes, while SpeakWrite’s jobs averaged one hour and thirty-nine minutes. Therefore, when considering the average turnaround time for all jobs, Rev was the quickest option overall.
If You’re Price Conscious
For the most part, all of the jobs were very close in terms of the price range. Rev prices their transcription by the minute, but if your audio requires additional attention, they will send you an email informing you that it will cost more and asking you to approve the job at a higher rate.
Transcribe Me offers different rates for different turnaround times, with one business day transcription services costing $2.50 per minute and 2-3 business day transcription services costing $1.25 per minute. SpeakWrite prices their transcription by the word instead of by the minute. An analysis of individual jobs reveals that TranscribeMe is technically the cheapest option on average, but not by much.
Therefore, if you’re price-conscious, willing to wait longer, and willing to sacrifice a little bit of quality, TranscribeMe is the best option. However, if you need a high-quality transcription service with a quick turnaround, SpeakWrite is a better value at a comparable price.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the right transcription service is vital for any proceedings or businesses that rely on audio recordings. All three companies we reviewed—Rev, TranscribeMe, and SpeakWrite—are reputable services that can get the job done; it’s just a matter of selecting a company that can meet your unique goals.
SpeakWrite is a 100% human transcription service that can take care of all your transcription needs in a timely, accurate, and affordable manner. You can rest assured that we’ll complete your transcription quickly and accurately—and our competitive pricing makes us an affordable option for any budget.
Learn more about how SpeakWrite’s human transcription services can save you time and money today.