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Recording Tips for Transcription

Many people don’t realize how much their recording methods and practices can affect the cost and accuracy of the final transcripts. Read the following article and tips on how to best record for transcription purposes.

Increase accuracy and lower the cost of transcription services

There are a number of things that people don’t often consider when making recordings that they will later have transcribed or translated. These oversights can lead to both more expensive and less accurate transcripts.

Better quality recordings result in more accurate transcripts and reduced turnaround time. If speech is difficult to understand, the transcriptionist will have to spend more time deciphering it. Thus it’s easy to understand that the total cost of transcription services will be higher with companies that charge per labor hour. However, other companies that charge by the audio minute, word, line, or page will usually have different categories of audio based on the decipherability of the speech. These categories are generally labeled type 1, type 2, and so-on. The poorer the quality of audio – the higher the price.

The sound quality of a recording will greatly affect the accuracy and completeness of a transcript. With a quality recording, the transcriptionist won’t have to spend as much time analyzing it and employing different strategies to decipher it. This means the transcriptionist can finish the job much quicker.

For difficult audio, some transcription companies utilize forensic audio enhancement equipment. Don’t let this lead you to think that it doesn’t really matter how good or bad the audio is that you submit for transcription. While audio enhancement techniques can sometimes lead to dramatic results, more often it will only improve the “listenability” of the dialog. Distractions such as electronic buzzing, tape hiss, and the humming of A/C units can be eliminated or reduced, but don’t count on audio enhancement methods to turn unintelligible speech into intelligible speech. In addition, forensic audio enhancement services can be quite expensive.

After audio enhancement services clients sometimes hope to have the transcription done in-house by a receptionist or a word processor. However, if the recording is poor enough to require audio enhancement, one should expect that a trained forensic transcriptionist, forensic audio examiner, or linguist would be required for the transcription process even after enhancement.

The following tips will help produce quality recordings that can be easily understood and transcribed resulting in improved accuracy, reduced turnaround time, and reduced cost for transcription services.

1)        First, purchase a quality recorder. A cheaper one may seem more economical but if it leads to poorer quality recordings, transcription costs will go up. It won’t take too long for the extra transcription costs to turn that more expensive recorder into a great bargain.

2)        Use an external microphone. Built-in microphones are generally cheap and of poor quality. They are designed to be used by one person speaking directly into the mic. If used in situations where speakers are a few feet or more from the mic, a noticeable drop in quality will result. These microphones will also pick up the noise of the recorder itself, making it more difficult to hear the speaker.

3)        Use multiple microphones when possible and make sure the microphones are as close to the speakers as possible.

4)        If using analog equipment, use a standard cassette rather than a mini or microcassette. The sound quality from standard cassette recorders is much better.

5)        Also, with analog equipment, make sure to use the fastest recording speed. Slower speeds allow for longer recordings but at the cost of sound quality.

6)        When using analog tapes – always send the transcriptionist the original recording. Copies are always of lesser quality.

7)        If using digital recording equipment, use the higher quality recording option. The options may be listed as SP (short play) and LP (long play). LP is the poorer quality option. It allows for longer recordings but at the cost of sound quality.

8)        Conduct a sound check. Speak at the same distance from the microphone and at the same volume as will be done during the actual recording process. Make adjustments as needed.

9)        Record in a quiet place and minimize background noises. Background noises such as children, ringing phones, traffic, machinery and motors can all make a recording quite difficult to understand. Even if these things don’t seem to be an issue at the time of the recording – they can be a real problem for your recorder. Humans can selectively filter out unwanted sounds such as traffic or a distant radio. However, a microphone is unable to do this and will hear all of it.

10)    Make sure the participants in the recording avoid talking at the same time. Overlapping speech takes extra time to accurately transcribe – if even possible. They should also be advised to speak clearly and at a reasonable speed.

11)    If your recorder has a voice activation feature, turn it off. Voice activation can be a problem with softer and more distant speakers. In additionPsychology Articles, the beginnings of statements are cut off due to the time it takes the recorder to activate.

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TransDual Forensics offers digital and analog transcription services. Our areas of expertise include general transcription, forensic, law enforcement and criminal justice transcription. Visit our website for information about our Spanish transcription services.

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