Ryan Law contributed to this article, as did Zapier Senior Writer and Editor, Matthew Guay
Transcription is no longer the sole reserve of journalists or doctors. It's more affordable than ever, ready to unlock the SEO benefit of a podcast or video transcript, turn interviews into powerful quotes and social proof, or even document meetings and conferences.
From services powered by human transcribers to powerful machine learning-powered apps, there’s a wider selection of transcription services than ever before. To help you find the best service for your unique use case, we tested nine of the most popular, inexpensive transcription apps and found the best four—each designed to save you hours of painstaking transcription time.
What Makes a Great Transcription Service?
To find the best transcription services, we focused on three critical criteria: accuracy, speed, and price.
Accuracy is paramount to a transcription app, so we put each service through its paces with a short two-minute audio clip. The clip contained 282 words, two speakers, two different accents, and a few niche brand names and pieces of industry jargon—and to compare the accuracy of each platform, we calculated how many mistakes each made.
Speed is another crucial factor. Given enough time, we could all transcribe audio with close to 100% accuracy, but these services are designed to take the manual labor out of transcription. From the moment we hit "upload" to the second the transcription was finished, the timer was running.
Finally, we come to price. Transcription services are cheaper than ever, and a growing number of computer-powered transcription services have forced prices down further. Years ago, transcribing an hour of audio could easily cost over $120, but today you could hire someone on Fiverr to do this for you from $5 for 10 minutes of audio. All of the services in this list cost $1 or less per minute of transcribing time, beating even that low price.
But how do computer-powered services compare to old-fashioned human transcription, in terms of price, speed, and accuracy? To decide, we tested the biggest names from both camps to see which came out on top.
Honorable Mention: Self-Service Apps and Freelancers
The Best Computer-Powered Transcription Apps
Want a quick, cheap, and fairly accurate transcription? Online transcription apps are generally more affordable than human-powered transcription services. These apps are a solid choice when you need something transcribed fast and the audio doesn't contain a lot of complicated lingo that needs human deciphering.
Best for fast, frictionless transcription
Accuracy: 16 mistakes, 94%
Speed: 1 minute
Pricing: $0.10/minute, free trial (first four uploads) available
Temi touts itself as "speech to text transcription in 5 minutes," and true to its description, the service made short work of our two-minute audio sample. Temi took just 60 seconds to analyse the audio, understand the speech, and email the finished transcription. In addition to having one of the quickest turnarounds of the apps tested, Temi also has the lowest per-minute price. This should be your go-to transcription app if speed and price are your priorities.
Uploading audio to Temi was also the easiest of the bunch: the entire process only took just four clicks from opening the site, taking advantage of Temi’s free trial offer to get started without any payment details or account setup, and receiving the finished transcript.
For the most part, Temi’s accuracy was spot-on, only falling short in a few instances where it missed words or misinterpreted some tricky acronyms (it transcribed "A and D" as "Andy," "indie," and "Emiri" at different stages).
Though it doesn’t have quite the depth of functionality as other transcription services on this list, it more than makes up for it in terms of its speed and price: At just 10 cents per minute, it’s the cheapest transcription service with a high accuracy rate.
Best for transcribing, editing, and collaborating in one place
Accuracy: 14 mistakes, 95%
Speed: 2 minutes
Pricing: $0.25/minute, free trial (first 30 minutes of audio) available
Trint took just two minutes from upload to finished transcription and was the most accurate of the transcription apps tested. Although it costs more than Temi, it also includes more handy features.
Trint provides a host of functionality with tools. You can review your audio alongside your time-stamped transcription, and use handy keyboard hotkeys to rewind, pause, and fast-forward the recording. Once it's finished, you can email the finished transcription to colleagues in a click.
Trint’s intuitive interface supports a broad range of file formats and ways to upload audio, and after poring through the transcript, I found only 14 mistakes—giving it a high 95% accuracy rate.
Great speed and great accuracy at a competitive price: If you're looking for a transcription app that you can use with your team, give Trint a look.
Human-Powered Transcription Apps
Although computers these days do a great job of transcribing speech to text, if you need the utmost accuracy or have complicated audio to transcribe, transcription services powered by people are the way to go. They're the most accurate, and these services are both fast and competitively priced.
Best for near-perfect transcriptions.
Accuracy: 5 mistakes, 98%
Speed: 17 minutes
At $1 per minute and with a turnaround of less than 20 minutes, Rev is among the best values in transcription services. The service is easy to use, fast, and extremely accurate—it's the service we use here at Zapier for transcribing interviews.
In stark contrast to the machine-powered transcription services, Rev’s human transcriber (thanks Gemma!) nailed every single brand name, acronym, and piece of industry jargon. There were no missing phrases, and the only problem was a brief patch of apparently inaudible sound—culminating in an impressive 98% accuracy rate for Rev. Though the service took markedly longer than the machine services, I was only waiting for 17 minutes, pretty crazy when you consider the logistics required to pair my project up to a transcriber.
The editing and review features were basic but functional, but with such a high accuracy rate, it didn’t matter as there was little I needed to change. These figures aren’t unusual for Rev: they tout a 99% accuracy rate, and guarantee that audio excerpts less than 30 minutes will be transcribed within 12 hours.
Best for accurate transcription when time isn’t a worry
Accuracy: 6 mistakes, 98%
Speed: 36 hours
Like Rev, Scribie’s human transcriber managed to pick out and correctly identify every acronym and brand name. In fact, the only errors I came across were a couple word omissions, and nothing that changed the meaning of the conversation.
With Scribie’s budget pricing coming in at just $0.60 per minute, their 98% accuracy rate was also accompanied by the lowest cost of any transcription service in this category.
The tradeoff is turnaround time. Scribie’s cheapest tier is their "5 day turnaround," and although the finished transcription was delivered well within that timeframe, it still took 36-hours from upload to delivered file. If timing isn't an issue for you, Scribie is an affordable and accurate transcription service option.
Honorable Mention: Self-Service Apps & Freelancers
The real benefit of a transcription service is freeing up your time. But if you’re willing to be more hands-on, you can think about DIY-transcription or hiring and managing freelancers.
DIY-transcription is simply doing the hard work of transcribing audio yourself. Apps like Transcribe and oTranscribe were developed with this in mind. They pair audio players with simple text editors to easily transcribe as you listen. For example, after uploading your video, you can click play and then start typing the content yourself as you listen along, with hotkeys that offer crucial functionality (such as pausing and rewinding) at your fingertips to make the process as fast as possible. YouTube, similarly, allows you to enter closed captioning text when you edit an uploaded video.
There are also a wealth of transcription professionals available at freelancing sites like Mechanical Turk, Upwork, and Fivver. Select the transcriber, and send them the audio file to have them transcribe it for you. Note, though, that transcription quality can vary depending on the quality of the audio file you send and the transcriber's skills. I tried to have an interview with a programmer transcribed via Fivver, for example, and in the end had to scrap the project, because the transcriber wasn't able to make out the abbreviations and acronyms in the conversation.
Overall, the transcription services powered by people scored higher in the accuracy stake while costing a bit more. But, crucially, there’s a smaller gulf in quality that I was expecting. The machine-powered services were faster without exception, and offered their services at a fraction of the price.
If accuracy and minimal editing are prerequisites for your transcriptions, you’ll be best served by the human touch. If you’re looking to turn recorded audio into text in the quickest, cheapest way possible (and you don’t mind the occasional slip-up), it’s worth trying a computer-driven service.
One thing’s for sure: both approaches are better than laboring over your own transcriptions.
Want to save more typing time? Here are more resources to help you get more out of audio and type less:
Looking for unique ways to use transcription? This story has some inspiration for you: How Soylent Uses Zapier to Automatically Transcribe Phone Calls and Build a Database of Legal Advice.
Instead of recording audio and getting it transcribed, you could let your computer do it all at once. Check out our Beginner's Guide to Dictation Software: The Best Apps for Voice to Text Productivity to find the best ways to dictate text.
Or, speed up your typing with our Type Less: How Text Expansion Apps Help You Write Long Phrases With Fewer Keystrokes guide.