How to Transcribe Bad Quality Audio and Represent Inaudible in Transcripts?

How to Transcribe Bad Quality Audio and Represent Inaudible in Transcripts?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Ever since the world has gone digital, transcription services have become one of the busiest industries.

Everyone, from students to professionals, is using professional Transcription services.

It’s a simple process of recording your video call, and then sharing it with a professional transcription services company who can transcribe it for you.

But what happens if the recordings aren’t of good quality? How can you transcribe a bad-quality dictation?

What is considered a bad-quality dictation? And what can you do when you receive a poor-quality recording? As a professional, you can’t simply return it, so what are we supposed to do in this situation? 

What is a Bad-Quality Recording?

A bad-quality recording could contain any of the following:

  • Unnecessary background noise
  • Overlapping conversations
  • Muffled voices
  • Different volumes
  • Lagged conversations
  • All of the above in one recording

A poor-quality audio recording may contain too many inaudible parts to get a usable transcript.

How Do Poor-Quality Recordings Affect Transcription?

Transcription is a complicated procedure, and this is why there are professionals for this task.

Also, any recording with substandard quality audio can make the transcription work harder than usual as transcriptionists might struggle to hear what is being said and transcribe it accurately.

This could even lead to difficulty in creating a good-quality transcription as critical parts of the recordings could be missed out in those inaudible voices. 

Ideally, recordings should be done in a quiet place to ensure clear audio. However, this doesn’t happen often, or people end up putting the microphone at the wrong place, which leads to inaudible voices. 

Also Read: Digital Tools for Transcribing Audio Interviews

What to Do When You Receive a Poor-Quality Recording?

Here are a few methods to help you understand an unsatisfactory quality recording better and transcribe it precisely in case you ever receive one.

  • Use good quality earphones or headset: Good quality headsets are a savior. They help you hear sounds much more clearly, which makes it easier to transcribe accurately. Get yourself a pair of good-quality headsets or earphones to make your life as a transcriptionist easier.
  • Slow down or speed up the recording: Modifying the audio speed can help you understand the words clearly in some cases. Slowing down the speed often enhances the clarity of words.
  • Use a sound editor to enhance audio: Sound editors can delete background noises entirely and can help to understand the sounds much better.
  • Use software to clean up the audio: A cleanup software or app works similarly to a sound recorder that can help remove the background noises.

What to Do with Inaudible Words?

In case a few words or sentences are hard to comprehend, you can try to understand the context of that particular part of the recording.

However, it is not advisable to guess because a professional transcriptionist’s job is to give an accurate transcript of the recording and not indulge in guesswork.

When you cannot understand the audio at all, instead of guessing, you can mention [inaudible] or [unintelligible] in the transcriptions to indicate that part of the recording wasn’t clear to transcribe.  You could use symbols like ‘-’ or ‘....’ or write [several inaudible words] to indicate unclear sounds.

You can even choose to add timestamps, which would make it much easier for anyone to figure out which part of the recording you are talking about.

Moreover, you can put that part of the recording and timestamp in brackets in the format “[inaudible at 00:16:52]” to indicate a portion of the inaudible recording.

What Do You Do If the Audio is Still Poor-Quality?

If you have tried all the solutions listed above and still cannot make sense of the recording, you should communicate it clearly to your client.

It’s good to let the client know what is causing difficulties in the transcription process and how much extra time will be required. Of course, the extra time would mean additional charges.

Discuss this with your client as well. Inform your client that the audio file quality affects the quality of the transcript, as well as the cost and effort needed to transcribe.

To avoid poor-quality recording, you can give some sound recording advice to your client.

For example, sit in a quiet place with microphones close enough to everyone, which will ensure that the audio file is recorded correctly.

These tips can help save a lot of time and effort for both your client and you. For more information on transcriptions of bad-quality recordings and excellent professional audio transcription services, contact us today.

Also Read: The Pros and Cons of Google Voice's Voicemail Transcription

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.