Transcribing an Hour of Audio: How Long Does it Really Take?

Transcribing an Hour of Audio: How Long Does it Really Take?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


If you are a client looking for transcription services, you probably want your files transcribed and the text content submitted to you in the least time possible. Therefore, it is important to have a realistic time frame on how long it takes to transcribe an audio file.

So, how long does it take to transcribe one hour of audio?

The short answer to this question is; it depends.

Generally, the industry standard for transcribing one hour of audio is four hours. That means you should expect any audio that is less than 15 minutes to be transcribed within an hour.

Some experienced transcriptionists can transcribe files much faster. It’s not unheard for experienced transcriptionists to transcribe 20 to 30 minutes of audio in one hour. However, these fast times are an exception rather than the norm.

If the audio quality is poor, the transcriptionist will have to work longer to finish the job. This can extend the standard time of finishing a one hour audio to five or six hours.

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7 Factors that Affect Audio Transcription Time

The time it will take to transcribe an hour of audio can range from 2 hours up to even 10 hours, depending on the following:

  • Quality of the audio file
  • Special transcription requirements, such as true verbatim transcripts and timestamps
  • Whether there are background noises
  • Whether the speakers have heavy regional accents
  • Number of speakers in the conversation
  • Amount of research required for the transcription (e.g., names of places, specialized terminology, places, etc.)
  • Speaker coherence (e.g., do the speakers start speaking after thinking through? Do they talk over each other? Do they speak slowly or quickly?)

Generally, the more the factors that play into your audio file, the longer the transcription will take.

Most professional transcription companies consider these factors when pricing their services. Files that are not clear or whose speakers have strong accents will take longer to be transcribed. As a result, they may cost more to transcribe.

Get One Hour of Audio Transcribed Fast

If you have an audio file that you need to transcribe, it would be better to hire a professional transcription company to do the work for you. Transcribing audio is not a fun job, especially if you have a business to run or other errands to do. Professional transcriptionists can get the work done faster and more accurately, thereby saving you both time and money.

Coming to files, if you anticipate you would need to get a conversation you want to record transcribed, it’s best to prepare it well. This means ensuring you record the audio in a quiet environment and using a good microphone.

Try to avoid situations that can make your audio difficult to transcribe. For example, avoid recording an interview outside whether there is likely to be a lot of noise. This will not only ensure you have clear recordings, but having clear audios will save you money with transcription companies. Apart from this, you may need to consider spending more on post-production processes that will polish the audio or reduce ambient background noise, resulting better clarity.

Established transcription companies may employ hundreds of in-house and freelance transcribers. Therefore, if you have an hour of audio that you need to be transcribed fast, you can get it back in less than an hour when you outsource the work to the firms. The transcription companies may slice your file into segments and pass them on to different transcribers to ensure you get the file within a reasonable time.

So, how long does it take to transcribe an hour of audio? It depends.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.