How to Transcribe Voice Recording to Text For Free

by | March 29, 2021

In this post, I’ll show you how to transcribe voice recording to text for free.

I have been creating content using speech. Thus I needed good transcription software; highly efficient and easy to use, to transcribe text from audio files.

It’s a faster way of content creation and a means to mastering my niche.

And I get it; there are many transcriptions services online which employ quality human transcribers to produce work at its best.

But they can be expensive.

And I’m minimalist. If I can get something for free, you’re darn sure I’ll go for it.

So I took a trip into the web in search of transcription software, be it computer applications or mobile apps, and with one plan in mind;

To transcribe an audio file for FREE.

I was armed with a sample audio file, a speaker, and my Samsung phone. I used an audio file from one of Google Digital Learning Courses. You didn’t expect me to use my audio file, did you?

My speech is unclear, has an accent, and is miles from fluency. But I’m working on it.

The audio I used comes from a native English speaker, with pure clarity and fluency; me in a couple of years.

The speaker played the audio files, and my phone transcribed using free apps.

I then placed the produced texts on Copyleaks.com to compare them with the original and determine the match score accuracy.

Because ideally, when seeking transcription services, you want the text produced to be coherent with the audio or similar if not perfect.

That’s how I came up with this guide and list of apps for free audio transcription

Let’s dive in.

Transcribe Audio using Mobile Apps

1. Live Transcribe

Live Transcribe was built to make everyday conversations and sounds from the environment accessible to deaf people.

And it does that with reasonable accuracy. This fantastic app can also detect a knock on the door, a finger snap, a clap, all.

It uses Google’s superior automatic speech recognition and sound detection technology and was a product of collaboration with Gallaudet University.

Use Live Transcribe App to transcribe voice recording to text
Live Transcribe App

I found this app quite fascinating.

  • It’s straightforward. You simply open the app and start talking while it transcribes your speech.
  • Words are displayed large and clear.
  • It even punctuates your text with periods and question marks.
  • The cursor automatically moves to the next line at the end of a sentence.
  • The audio recording feature never stops listening to you unless you click the pause button.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It has an accuracy of 87.4%, according to my matching content test.

Live Transcribe Accuracy
Live Transcribe Accuracy

Most transcription software, premium included, struggle to achieve an 80% accuracy. So to get this level of accuracy for FREE, you’ve struck gold. But your fluency determines how accurate the app can be.

Over 80 languages are supported, including variations of English Language based on country.

Nonetheless, everything has its downside, and Transcribe Live is no exception.

  1. Editing transcribed text on the app is impossible. You only talk, and it spits your words in text form. So if you like transcribing and editing on the go, this app will disappoint you.
  2. There is no way to export your texts from the app. But worry not, because you can simply copy the text and paste it wherever you want. Just touch and hold text, then select Copy or Select transcription. So this isn’t such a big deal
  3. You can save your transcriptions for up to 3 days only. Again this doesn’t matter if you’ll copy the transcription to a text editor.

It’s evident the pros are more than the cons, and from experience, this app is the best and most accurate free transcription software I have come across.

I highly recommend that you give it a try.

2. Google Voice Typing

use Google Voice Typing to transcribe voice recording to text
Google Voice Typing

As the name suggests, Google Voice Typing allows you to type with your voice. It’s available on every Android phone and device with the Chrome browser installed.

You can use it as an alternative to your keyboard typing software if you wish to dictate your content. The app comes preinstalled on most Android devices, making it the most popular transcription software.

I first used this app upon discovering voice blogging as a great content creation strategy. I would prepare my article’s outline and scribble some little details within the sub-topics after extensive research on the topic.

Then I open the app and start dictating as it transcribed my speech.

GVT has good accuracy. It’s a Google product; what else do you expect?

So I put it on the test and guess the accuracy score I got?

Google Voice Typing accuracy
Google Voice Typing accuracy

80.7%

Quite disappointing in my view. I expected a higher score. So I retested it and got almost identical results; 81%

This performance was coherent with my experience using the app to dictate my articles. It gets most of the words right, but the few words it gets wrong can be frustrating.

I would change my tone, deepen my voice, heighten my pitch and try talking like a native English speaker. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t, and it can make you want to pull your hair off.

Fortunately, due to the editing features available and the ability to switch to a regular keyboard at any time, I would quickly correct where it goes wrong.

But this came with a price to pay. Reduced productivity!

The persistent shifts from dictation mode to typing mode and mental changes from ideation to text editing reduces your efficiency, wastes time, and affects your productivity.

I had to find a better solution to this. It’s better to dictate your ideas without interruption because it allows you to expound ideas fully before moving to the next.

Now, this doesn’t mean GVT won’t work for everyone. In fact, for some, it can be the perfect tool, mostly if you prefer editing your work while typing.

For instance, if you’re a freelancing transcriber, you can play audio on a Speaker and let GVT transcribe through your phone, editing any part with an error. It improves your productivity and allows you to work on more jobs.

Try this out; you’ll thank me later.

Quiz: Have you used Google Voice Typing, and if yes, did you like it? Yes and I liked it, Yes but I didn’t like it, No I haven’t used it.

3. Otter AI

Remember the landing of Thor during the Wakanda War scene, consequently saving the day? Mentioning Otter sure feels like it because this app will blow your mind.

Use Otter transcription App to transcribe voice recording to text
Otter transcription App

Otter is a California-based tech company developing transcription and translation applications using AI and Machine learning. They built this app to record and take notes for you in real-time.

It’s designed for meetings, interviews, lectures, and everyday conversations, making it a powerful transcription tool.

I gave it a test, and I’m surprised it beat all Google Transcription software. But before I can reveal the accuracy, let’s check out the excellent features onboard

  1. It records audio while transcribing, letting you review conversations or speeches and correct wrongly transcribed words. But you won’t be doing much of this courtesy of its accuracy.
  2. A simple interface with a great user experience. To transcribe, open the app and click on the Audio widget at the bottom-right side. When done, click the stop button at the bottom to save your remaining minutes.
  3. Export your transcripts in text form or document form in premium packages.
  4. You can highlight texts such as key points and weak points to review later.
  5. It punctuates, capitalizes, and breaks paragraphs, automatically reducing time spent editing transcriptions.
  6. With a little training, it can identify different speakers and segment their transcriptions appropriately.

There are more features for sharing and collaboration, especially in interviews and lectures, but we are focusing solely on transcription in this guide.

Now, guess what Otter Ai achieved on the accuracy test?

Otter Transcription accuracy
Otter Transcription accuracy

94%. Wow!

Gems are hard to come by, and this must be one. Google ought to buy this company (as they always do) to improve their transcription technology.

But there must be a catch. You can’t get this fantastic service for free forever. Otherwise, the transcription industry will be on its knees.

Otter AI gives you 600 minutes of free transcription per month on sign-up. For most people, 8 hours of effective transcription is enough.

Since transcription services pay at least $1.5 per minute, you can get $750 to $900 worth of work done fast and easy. It’s called working smart rather than hard.

Meanwhile, if you want to upgrade, you can get 6000 minutes of transcription at $12.99 for one month or 8.33 per month if billed annually. That’s money you’ll recover with a 10-minute transcription job.

4. Voice Notes and SpeechTexter.

I’ll list these two apps together for two reasons. First, they are almost similar in look and functionality; one almost looks like a repurposed and better version of the other.

Secondly, they have similar cons.

Speech Texter provides speech recognition services for daily use by students, teachers, business people, writers, and bloggers. Voice Notes enables anybody to take notes wherever they go and use categories, color schemes, and reminders to make them meaningful.

At least Speech Texter added some more features to qualify as a worthy transcription app.

But, how did they score in the transcription accuracy test?

Voice Notes transcription accuracy
Voice Notes transcription accuracy

Voice Notes Scored 55.8%

SpeechTexter Accuracy
SpeechTexter Accuracy

Speech Texter managed 44.9%

And here is why!

With any transcription software, one must use the internet. The software uses cloud access to process speech and transcribes it. So it has to be well developed and fast in speech recognition and processing.

If not, it takes more time to transcribe speech which is the case in Voice Notes and Speech Texter.

They cannot record audio and transcribe simultaneously, pausing after every sentence to process and transcribe.

Besides being time-consuming, it can be annoying, especially the beeping sounds when it stops and restarts.

It means you cannot transcribe recorded audio which is why their accuracy score was so low. The audio continues to play while the software goes into processing, thus missing out on several words after every sentence.

Worse, ads are dancing around at the bottom, contributing to the lagging.

Suppose you take notes while on the go, then these two apps can work for you. But honestly, the advanced Google Voice Typing app can do much better than either of these without pestering you with ads or lagging.

Other apps I found quite similar to the above include

  • Speech notes
  • Voice To Text

Due to similar issues when transcribing, these two apps are bound to have a similar accuracy performance as the former duo.

Convert Audio file to Text.

So, you’re a writer or blogger, and you’ve just recorded an audio file and want to transcribe it. Or rather, you’re a transcriber who wants to play smart on the next transcription job.

You don’t have a speaker to play the audio and transcribe it using any of the apps above. Instead, you wish to upload it somewhere and have it magically transformed into text.

And most importantly, for FREE.

How do you go about it?

This section will show you where to upload your audio files and transcribe them automatically without having to play them, as in the earlier section.

1. Otter AI

Again Otter AI comes to the rescue. Besides active transcription, Otter can also transform audio files to text automatically.

You can upload audio files in MP3, AAC, WAV, M4A, WMA, MP4, AVI, MOV, WMV, MPG formats to Otter for transcription.

To transcribe audio with Otter

1. Visit Otter.Ai and sign up.

2. On the Dashboard, click on Import

Step 1 otter transcribing
Import Audio File

3. Select Audio file from your computer and Upload

Step 2 otter transcribing
Browse File

4. Once the loader uploads the file, click on “Done.”

Step 3 otter transcribing
Wait for Processing

5. Reload page after a few minutes to check the processed transcript. If Transcription is processing, wait, and if it’s Ready, Click to open.

Step 4 otter transcription
Open Ready File

6. To customize your transcript, click on Edit.

Step 5 otter transcription
Edit Transcript

7. Then click on the three dots at the top right side and select export as text.

Step 6 otter transcription
Export Transcript

8. Activate or deactivate the checkboxes depending on your preferences and click on continue to download .txt file.

Step 7 otter transcription
Set Preferences

I used this process to transcribe the sample audio and check its accuracy.

Interestingly, it took half the audio duration to transcribe and even managed to score higher compared to the earlier test.

otter transcription accuracy
Otter’s accuracy

95.8%

And its punctuation was perfect.

However, it didn’t separate the text into paragraphs and lines as earlier. But that doesn’t matter as long as the accuracy of transcription is close to perfect.

You can always do some quick editing using the powerful and easy-to-use features provided on the Otter interface.

Otter also transcribes video files in AVI MOV (QuickTime), MPEG, MP4, WMV formats. So freelancers who do captioning jobs can benefit from this tool.

Here’s a good illustration on uploading files on Otter

Sadly, you can only transcribe three audio files using this tool for free. For more files, you’ll have to upgrade to a premium package.

2. Vocalmatic

Another place to transcribe audio files for free is Vocalmatic. But you only get 30 minutes of free transcription services.

The platform is pretty easy to use and offers a great user experience, especially for those who prefer simple interfaces.

It accepts audio files in MP3, M4A, FLAC, WAV, WEBM, and MP4 formats, video files in MOV, MP4, WEBM, and OGG formats, and even takes in Phone Calls (instrumental for transcribing IPhone Voice Notes)

To transcribe an audio file with Vocalmatic

1. Visit Vocalmatic, create an account and Log in

Vocalmatic transcribe
Vocalmatic Login

2. After complete sign-up, visit Dashboard.

3. Select file type

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 1
Select File Type

4. Upload your file

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 2
Upload File

5. Select Language

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 3
Select Language

6. Choose output format between Default and SRT (Great for creating Subtitles)

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 4
Choose Export Format

7. Submit for Transcription and wait for an email notification

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 5
Submit

8. Open the processed transcript under Transcriptions and edit it.

Vocalmatic transcribe Step 6
Edit Transcript

When you upload the audio file, Vocalmatic notifies you that your file has been uploaded and will be transcribed then posted on your Dashboard when done. That as at 12.47 am.

It took 5 minutes before the audio was fully transcribed and uploaded on the Dashboard.

Honestly, it didn’t feel automated. I’d instead rather have a loader on the Dashboard to signify the transcription process and a ‘Complete’ notification when done.

Anyway, enough with my preferences. How did Vocalmatic perform?

Vocalmatic transcription accuracy
Vocalmatic transcription accuracy

74.4 %

Nice try, but still disappointing.

In case you’ve exhausted all the free uploads offered in Otter, then Vocalmatic can work for you for the next 30 minutes of transcription.

However, be prepared to edit almost 25% of the text produced. And that’s if the audio was clear and fluent.

For inarticulate audio with an accent, you’ll probably do most of the heavy lifting.

3. Sonix AI

Sonix offers automatic transcription services. You simply upload your audio file, and it does the magic for you.

It comes with a 30-minute free transcription package on sign up which you can use to test its efficiency. Its interface looks a little backdated but contains the essential transcription and editing features, just like Otter.

In my opinion, it offers great competition to Otter, even smoking it in the Accuracy test.

To Transcribe Audio files with Sonix

1. Visit Sonix AI

2. Click on Try Sonix AI for Free

3. Create an account and open the Dashboard.

4. Upload your Audio file. Only WAV, MP3, MPA, MOV, AVI, and MP4 file formats allowed.

sonix transcribe step 1
Upload Audio File

5. Select Language

sonix transcribe step 2
Select Language

6. Click on “Start Transcribing”

7. Turn on the checkboxes depending on your Audio quality and click on Transcribe Now

sonix transcribe step 3
Check Boxes

8. Wait for some minutes, then check your transcript on the Dashboard

9. Open and Edit text before exporting.

sonix transcribe step 4
Edit Transcript

Looking at the Sonix editing interface, even a complete armature can easily maneuver and get things done.

Most features and tools are at the top bar, above the editing text area, which looks like a simplistic MS-Word interface. Nothing fancy about it. Yet it works perfectly.

You can play the audio as the text is highlighted throughout the speech. If you see an error, pause and edit that part, just like in Otter.

It punctuates your work perfectly, but you’ll have to divide your work into paragraphs depending on your instructions (for a transcriber) or preference (for writer or blogger).

You can then export the transcript in text, subtitles, or other formats supported by popular audio and video programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut.

That’s a great bonus considering Otter allows you to export your transcript in TXT only for free.

And guess what, it scored 96% on the accuracy-test!

Sonix Transcribing Accuracy
Sonix Transcribing Accuracy

Do you feel torn apart between Otter and Sonix as I do?

If you want to grab a premium package, Sonix charges $10 per hour for the Pay-As-You-Go package, while its subscription services start at $5 + $22 per user per month.

As compared to Otter, which offers an almost identical quality of work, Sonix is quite out of reach for most.

Free Manual Transcription Tools

If you prefer transcribing audios and videos manually, you probably use the household text editor, Ms. Word, to type while listening to the speech through VLC.

Most people are familiar with these applications, and they’re free. Yet, better tools for transcribing, which ensure the most productivity, exist.

That’s why you need Transcribing Software, for easy flow of your work and great features you never thought you’d need.

And since we want to do everything for free, I’ll list fermium products only.

1. OTranscribe

OTranscribe is an open-source web application that helps you transcribe audio without much of a hustle. Its interface is straightforward, with the necessary tools such as audio player and text editor well placed.

To transcribe, add your audio file, click on Playback and Start transcribing. The Audio player is placed at the top, leaving an entire page to type.

OTranscribe
OTranscribe

It also supports YouTube videos which are displayed side by side to the text edit area.

Pro Tip. When transcribing YouTube videos, you can extract the Transcript from YouTube and edit while listening. Just click on the more button below the video and select transcript from the menu.

For those who want to focus on transcribing audios without any distraction, OTranscribe is all you need. No downloading is required. No hustle.

2. Express Scribe.

Express Scribe is a standard tool for professional transcribers. It’s packed with many great features instrumental for transcription and must be installed on a Mac or PC.

Express scribe
Express scribe

These features include video play, file management, variable speed playback, multi-channel control, and foot pedal controls that give your feet full control of playback and let your fingers focus on typing.

If you’re a regular transcriber, this app is a necessity.

3. Inqscribe

InqScribe is another popular application in the transcription industry and a great alternative to Express Scribe. It provides a simple interface where users can transcribe audio on one window.

You can also create shortcuts and customize them to your needs, create snippets for frequently used words or phrases, and insert time codes anywhere on the transcript.

It accepts audio and video files of standard formats and can also pick up media from URLs.

My Recommedations

There are many reasons why you would require free transcription services.

Maybe a transcription job is past due time, or its deadline is approaching soon, and you need to submit something at least.

Or you’ve discovered voice typing and would love to produce quality content fast and at no cost.

Or you want to transcribe a lecture you recorded and keep the notes for future reference.

Whatever reason you have, the tools listed above can be of help. I’ve tried my best to find free tools, at least for your first few minutes of transcription needed.

But depending on your use case, you might have to sacrifice time or money in exchange for productivity.

  • For Professional Transcribers, I recommend Otter and Express Scribe
  • For Note-taking: Google Voice Typing
  • For Content creation by Dictation: Live Transcribe
  • For occasional audio transcription Otter.
  • For Manual Transcription: OTranscribe.

So which tool did you find most useful?

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