Top 5 Ways to Transcribe Audio to Text [Automatic & Free] (2023)

“Is there an efficient way to transcribe audio to text? What are the best free options?”

If you’ve ever pondered this question, you’re not alone. The need to transcribe audio to text arises in various circumstances, whether you’re a student diligently noting down points from an online lecture, a journalist documenting an interview, or a professional transcribing minutes from a pivotal meeting.

Text transcription of audio content not only enhances accessibility for people with hearing impairments but also amplifies the reach of your content.

But how does one navigate the complex world of audio transcription? With an array of options available, each with its pros and cons, it can be challenging to identify the perfect fit for your needs.

So, this comprehensive guide will explore five ways to transcribe audio to text, covering both automatic and manual methods. Let’s dive in!

Two Main Ways to Transcribe Audio to Text

Transcription can be an art or a science, depending on your route. You can take the ‘artistic’ manual method, where you do it yourself, or the ‘scientific’ automatic method, where you use software. Let’s peel back the layers of these two methods.

Automatic transcription software

Picture this: A virtual assistant listens to your audio file and diligently jots down everything into a neat text format - that’s what automatic transcription software does.

It utilizes voice recognition technology, a fancy term for teaching machines to interpret human speech and therefore automatically generate text transcripts of video and audio files.

On the bright side, automatic transcription software is a time-saver. It can transcribe audio to text much quicker than any human could, and the best part is it doesn’t get tired or bored. It’s also relatively cost-effective, making it an ideal option for those on a tight budget or a tighter schedule.

But on the flip side, this method might not always be the most accurate. Accents, dialects, and background noise can trip the software, leading to transcription errors. Also, it might struggle to understand the context or interpret idioms, which could affect the overall quality of the transcript.

Manual transcription

Now let’s turn the spotlight to the traditional method - manual transcription. This involves a human (either you or a hired professional) listening to the audio and typing the text.

The most significant advantage of manual transcription is its accuracy. A transcriber can understand context, interpret different accents, and even make educated guesses when the audio is unclear.

However, manual transcription has its drawbacks. It’s time-consuming and mentally exhausting, particularly for long audio files: it takes about 4 hours to transcribe hour-long audio. It also tends to be costlier, especially if hiring a professional transcriber.

If you're unsure which method to choose - automatic or manual transcription - don't worry. By the end of this article, you will have all the necessary information to make the right choice.

Convert Audio to Text: A Step-by-Step Guide

Transcribing audio files might seem challenging, but it becomes a breeze once you grasp the methods at your disposal. To ease you into the process, here is a detailed guide that walks you through the specifics of different transcription methods tailored to your unique needs.

Way 1: Transcribe Audio Files with Airgram [Automatic & Free]

Imagine having an AI-powered tool that effortlessly converts your audio files into accurate written text.

Airgram is that tool, a web app offering a seamless transcription experience that goes beyond your expectations. Whether it's an important interview, a business meeting recording, or a podcast, Airgram will convert it into editable and searchable text. Besides, it supports multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

And the steps are really simple. All you need to do is upload the file and Airgram will do the rest for you.

Step 1: Upload your audio file

Log into Airgram and click ‘Import File’ in the top right corner. Then, confirm the transcription language and upload the audio file directly.Top 5 Ways to Transcribe Audio to Text [Automatic & Free] (1)

Airgram is quite flexible—it supports many file formats like wav, mp3, m4a, mp4, and mov, and can accommodate files up to 1GB.

Step 2: Start transcription

Once the audio is imported successfully, Airgram will automatically start transcribing with timestamps. According to the test, it takes one minute to transcribe a 150MB file.

Step 3: Review and edit your transcript

After the transcription, you can easily edit your transcript by moving your cursor to the desired location and making changes. To quickly find specific words, use the Ctrl+F command to search and replace them.

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Step 4: Export the text transcript

Click the three-dots menu in the upper corner and select Export. Then choose whether to include timestamps and where to save the transcript, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Notion, or Hubspot.

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Here is an example of downloading the transcript to MS Word:

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Benefits of transcribing audio files with Airgram

  1. Automatic Transcription: Airgram offers automatic audio transcription with high accuracy, saving you significant time and effort.

  2. Advanced Features: Airgram offers powerful search, editing, collaboration, and sharing features tailored to your audio transcription needs.

  3. Data Safety: Airgram is SOC 2 and GDPR compliant, ensuring your data is safe and secure.

  4. Free Trail: You don’t need to pay a penny for an attempt to transcribe audio files with Airgram.

Way 2: Transcribe Audio to Text using Word

Another efficient method to transcribe audio content is using Microsoft Word’s Transcribe feature.

Before you begin, ensure that you have a Microsoft 365 premium subscription, and a well-functioning microphone, either built-in or external, for clear audio input. Reducing background noise is an excellent practice to improve transcription accuracy.

Step 1: Access the Transcribe feature

Make sure you’re signed into Microsoft 365. Then open a blank Word document and click the 'Home’ tab. From the menu, click on the drop-down arrow next to the ‘Dictate’ button, and select ‘Transcribe.’

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Step 2: Upload the audio file

A dialog box will appear with two options: ‘Upload audio’ and ‘Start recording.’

Choose ‘Upload Audio’ for pre-recorded audio files and upload your file. Microsoft supports various audio file types, including MP4, WAV, MP3, and M4A. The system will begin transcribing the file automatically.

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Step 3: Review your transcript

Once the transcription is complete, it will appear in the Transcribe pane. You can review and edit the text as needed. Each session includes a timestamp, speaker name, and transcribed text. If Microsoft detects multiple speakers, it separates the text accordingly.

Step 4: Save the transcript

When you are satisfied with the results, save the transcription to OneDrive for future reference and use.

Using Word for audio-to-text transcription provides the flexibility of a familiar word-processing environment while leveraging the power of automated transcription. It is a practical option for users who prefer the functionality and convenience offered by Microsoft Word.

However, it's important to note that Word's transcription feature may have limitations, especially when dealing with complex audio files or challenging accents. In such cases, manual editing and review may be necessary to ensure accuracy.

Note: The availability of the Transcribe feature may vary depending on your Microsoft 365 subscription plan.

Way 3: Transcribe Audio Using Google Docs

Yes, you heard it right! Google Docs, your go-to platform for online document creation and editing, also provides a feature known as Voice Typing. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Launch Google Docs and open a new document where you’d like the transcription to appear.

Step 2: Head to the ‘Tools’ tab in the top menu and select ‘Voice typing.’ A small box with a microphone icon will pop up, floating over your document.

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Step 3: Now, select the language that matches your audio and click the microphone icon in the Voice Typing box to start transcribing. Ensure the computer’s microphone can capture your audio.

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Step 4: At any point, if you need to pause the transcription for editing, click the microphone icon again. The icon turns black, indicating a pause in the transcription process. Click it once more when you’re ready to resume. You’ll have your audio transcription in your Google Docs document in no time. It’s as easy as that!

Google Docs' Voice Typing feature provides a convenient and user-friendly solution for audio transcription. While it may not have the advanced capabilities of automated software or the precision of human transcription services, Google Docs offers a practical option for quick and straightforward transcriptions. Remember, it also has limitations, such as the need for clear audio and potential errors in complex files.

Way 4: Self-Transcribing Audio to Text

Taking a more traditional route, another way to transcribe audio to text is to do it manually. It might sound like an enormous task, but it could be your best bet for specific situations.

Equipment needed: You need a device for playing the audio file - your computer, smartphone, or a dedicated audio player. You’ll also need word processing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Step 1: Set up your workspace

Create a comfortable, distraction-free environment. Have your audio device and writing tool ready. If you’re using a computer, having a reliable set of headphones can enhance the audio quality and help you focus.

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Step 2: Play the audio

Begin playing your audio file. It’s best to start slowly, especially if the speaker talks quickly. Most media players allow you to adjust the playback speed.

Step 3: Start transcribing

As the audio plays, start writing down what you hear. Don’t worry about getting every word correct the first time; aim to capture the overall content. You can pause at any time for accuracy.

Step 4: Review and edit

Once you’ve transcribed the entire audio, go back and listen again while reading your transcript. This is your chance to correct errors and fill in missed parts.

Self-transcribing audio to text is a meticulous process that requires patience, attention to detail, and good listening skills. While it may not offer modern transcription software's convenience and advanced features, it allows for a hands-on approach, ensuring precision and confidentiality. This method is suitable when you prefer complete control over the transcription process and value the accuracy achieved through manual effort.

Way 5: Using a Human Transcription Service

Sometimes, when precision is paramount and the stakes are high, you might want to trust a trained professional over a machine. That’s where human transcription services come into play. These are professional services that employ expert transcribers to convert audio to text.

Step 1: Find a reputable service

Do your research to find a reliable and highly-rated transcription service. Look for reviews and testimonials to gauge the quality of their work. Some well-known services include Rev, Scribie, and TranscribeMe.

Step 2: Submit your audio file

Once you’ve chosen a service, you must submit your audio file and specific requirements. This is typically done through the service’s website or via email. Ensure your file is in a format that they accept.

Step 3: Wait for the transcription

Now wait for the person to complete the transcription. The turnaround time can vary widely based on the service you choose and the length of your audio file. Most services offer an estimated turnaround time of 12 to 48 hours for a one-hour-long audio file. Remember, quality work takes time, so be prepared to wait if you have a lengthy or complex audio file.

Step 4: Review the transcript

Once you receive the transcript, please review it to ensure it meets your expectations. Most services offer a satisfaction guarantee and will make necessary corrections.

Using a human transcription service can take the pressure off when you need a flawless transcript. It’s an excellent option when dealing with complex audio files that software might struggle with, such as multiple speakers or heavy accents. However, this top-tier service comes with a price and a longer wait, so it’s appropriate when accuracy is more critical than speed or cost.

How to Choose the Right Transcription Method?

Choosing a suitable transcription method is not a one-size-fits-all decision. A technique that works perfectly for one person may not work for another. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the ideal transcription method for your needs:

1. Quality of Audio

The quality of your audio plays a significant role in determining the most suitable transcription method. Clear audio with minimal background noise and distinct voices can be transcribed quickly by an automated transcription tool for free. However, poor audio quality with a lot of background noise or overlapping voices might require the precision of a human transcriber.

2. Turnaround Time

How quickly do you need the transcription? If you’re in a rush, automated transcription methods like Airgram can provide transcription in minutes. However, remember that these will need further editing for accuracy.

On the other hand, self-transcription or a human transcription service can take hours or even days, but the result will likely be more accurate.

3. Cost

Transcription can be free, as in the case of Google Docs, or it can come at a cost. Human transcription services usually charge 0.50$ -2$ per audio minute depending on the service provider and deliver a very high level of accuracy. Unfortunately, this may not be cost-effective for large projects. Meanwhile, automated transcription services are usually more affordable or even free, but they may require additional time for corrections

4. Accuracy

Consider using a human transcription service if your transcription needs to be highly accurate, especially for legal or medical purposes. These services often guarantee over 99% accuracy. On the other hand, if you’re transcribing for personal use and minor inaccuracies are acceptable, automated transcription tools might suffice.

Audio Transcription FAQs

1. Can I transcribe audio to text for free?

Yes, there are several free transcription tools available online. One such option is Airgram, which allows you to transcribe audio to text without cost. However, remember that the accuracy of free transcription tools may be lower than paid services, so you may need to do some additional editing.

2. How long does it take to transcribe an audio file?

The time it takes to transcribe an audio file depends on several factors, including the transcription method, audio quality, and the length of the audio file.

Automated tools can transcribe audio quickly, usually within minutes. However, manual transcription methods, such as self-transcription or using a human transcription service, can take significantly longer, ranging from hours to days, depending on the length and complexity of the audio.

3. How do I convert audio to text online?

You can use a transcription tool like Notta to convert audio to text online. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit Notta’s website and sign up for a free account.

  2. Upload your audio file to the platform.

  3. Notta will automatically transcribe the audio to text using its AI algorithms.

  4. Review and edit the transcription as necessary for accuracy and formatting.

  5. Save or export the transcription in your desired format.


The ability to transcribe audio to text automatically can bring numerous benefits. Whether it’s enhancing accessibility, improving learning experiences, or streamlining workflow in various professional fields, high-quality transcription is significant.

We’ve explored various methods to accomplish this task, from leveraging cutting-edge technology like AI transcription software to traditional methods like self-transcription or hiring human transcription services. Each method has pros and cons; the best choice ultimately depends on your needs, priorities, and resources.

Remember, the perfect transcription tool doesn’t exist—it’s about finding the right tool that meets your specific needs. So, experiment with these methods until you find the best one. Happy transcribing!


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