How Long Does it Take to Transcribe a Recording?

Transcription isn’t  the same as typing – it’s listening, researching, understanding  and then typing.

Needless to say, the process is quite time-consuming. A single hour of recording can take anywhere between 4-9 hours to transcribe.

Since a lot of transcription services charge by the hour, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the factors that affect transcription turnaround time.

1. Accents

The stronger (and uncommon) the accents of the speakers, the longer it takes to transcribe a recording.

2. Number of Speakers

Any recording with more than 3 speakers would take longer to transcribe, especially if the speakers are all talking at the same time.

3. Subject of the Recording

Recordings with technical terminology require research for spellings and therefore take longer to transcribe.

Simple recordings with lots of names of places, personalities, books etc. can also take time for the same reason.

4. Rate of Speech

If the participants on a recording speak really fast and with very few pauses, the recording will definitely take a lot of listening and re-listening. That means extra transcription time.

5. Audio Quality

Outdoor recordings or recordings made without using microphones usually have background noise or ‘echo’. These recordings need several rounds of listening and therefore take longer to transcribe.

6. Typing Speed

Typing at the speed of around 80 wpm, it would take approximately 4-9 minutes to transcribe a 1-minute recording. So an hour of clearly recorded audio/video would takes about 4 hours to transcribe.

7. Experience

Experience plays a big role in transcription time, for e.g., knowledge of a subject (like software or finance) can greatly reduce research time and improve transcription speed.

Familiarity with a speaker’s style and the words they commonly use also helps improve transcription time and accuracy (that’s why people like to stick to their transcription service once they’ve found a good one).

All factors considered, here’s a simple guide to transcription turnaround time for a 1-hour recording:

Simple recording (no background noise, 1-3 speakers): 4 hours.

Complex recording (background noise, more than 3 speakers, strong accents, or technical content): 5-9 hours.

Knowing this is helpful in calculating costs if your transcription service charges by hours worked. But there are some transcription companies that charge by audio-minute (1 audio minute = 1 minute of recording). This means you pay only for the audio length, no matter how long the transcription service takes to transcribe it. That’s usually a better way go because of the transparency it allows.

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