Human and Machine Transcription: Advantages and Disadvantages

Human and Machine Transcription Advantages and Disadvantages

Man versus machine is an age-old question. However, humans are capable of extraordinary feats of cognitive intelligence that machines may not otherwise have. But on the other hand, the human mind can’t possibly compete with the speed and efficiency of technology. Several transcription companies have tried to incorporate machine transcription which may or may not work in their favor. In this blog we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of human and machine transcription services and how to decide on which one best suit your needs

Machine transcription

Machine Transcription

Just as the sub heading depicts, this kind of transcription service is provided by machines. With just a few clicks, certain transcription machines have been programmed to transcribe audio and video content into written texts. As exciting and advantageous as this sounds, it does have its own disadvantages as discussed below. 


  • Increase productivity.

Increasing productivity is a dream for almost every company, and individual running a business and in particular transcription companies. Machine transcription helps to streamline the way you work as it increases your productivity. You can save time and money with automated transcription tools. Just a couple of clicks and uploads of your intended audio to be transcribed to a machine transcription service provider at a cost next to nothing and viola you have a transcript.

  • Cheaper

Automated transcripts are so cheap that it would cost you almost nothing to a few cents for an hour long transcript. Otter, Scribie Temi, TranscribeMe, and Trint, are a few that offer automated transcription services at prices as low as 25¢/min. (these prices may vary but that’s as low as it can get).

  • Fast turnaround time

If speed is what you desire more than accuracy then automated transcription is the way to go for you. There are a number of transcription companies that offer automated transcription services within minutes, so long as very specific conditions are not a part of what you require this is a huge advantage.


  • Mishears

Software-generated transcripts are very prone to mishears which may in turn generate for you an almost useless transcript. It is difficult for a transcribing software to accurately provide text versions of audio when the speakers have regional accents and when they talk too fast.

  • Multiple Speakers

Some machine automated transcription services may claim to have the ability to discern different speakers but 99% of the time that’s not always the case. This becomes more apparent if there are more than two speakers in the audio file.

  • Time consuming.

Not every recording can happen in a vacuum. The real world can invade your audio, causing background noises or volume issues which results in a poor transcript. The mishearing, the wrongly spelt places and names of people leads to excessive editing and reviewing of transcripts to obtain a favorable end result.

Human Transcription

Human Transcription

This type of transcription is done by real people who listen to audio files and convert them into typed out documents. There are a couple of advantages and disadvantages to this kind of transcription method as well.


  • Higher accuracy.

Humans can easily identify different accents and homophones. Humans are continually exposed to varying accents and dialects and a wide range of vocabulary through interaction, traveling or even watching their favorite shows on TV. This exposure paired with human transcriptionists’ natural ability to adapt, give humans the advantage – no matter the speaker’s accent.

  • Speaker identification

Identifying multiple speakers in an audio file even when the speakers sound alike is an almost easier task for a transcriber compared to a machine. 

  • Background noise

Humans’ natural ability to filter through background noise is the biggest advantage humans have over machine transcription services.  Of course, presenting the clearest quality audio file is always the best practice and it’s every transcriber’s dream but it is not always the case sadly, however, humans can filter through background noise and still deliver an accurate transcript.


  • More expensive

Hiring a transcriber is not cheap. Compared to machine transcription services it is quite expensive. Generally, you can expect to pay 75 cents to $1.50 per audio minute for transcription services compared to the 25 cents previously mentioned.

  • Slower

While machine transcription services have a fast turnaround, human transcription services take time. The average person can transcribe one audio hour in about 4 hours which is way slower than how fast machines can produce a transcript of equal length.

Under human transcription you can also transcribe the audio data yourself.



Since you are going through your own data as a researcher while transcribing, it helps you understand your raw data better. Constant typing audio file after audio file gives you a clearer picture of the core of your data.


For researchers who have less work like under an hour of audio files or even less it would be cheaper to transcribe your audio files yourself rather than hiring out to a transcription company. Or if you are a novice and can transcribe like a pro, this probably would be the best way to go.



Analyzing your data is not what you should be doing. You should wait for the transcription to end to analyze it. You don’t want to merge the analysis and the transcription together. Because you probably have 50 interviews, and it may happen that your mind gets fixed on one fact in interview one, but then you have 49 other interviews to do. So it’s really hard to retain an open mind when you have 49 other interviews. This leads to bias’s in your analysis if you analyze the data yourself.

Takes Time

Transcribing is a process and time consuming. Transcribing bulk work is really tasking but to a novice this may take a shorter period of time.  If you happen to have 100 audio hours of work, it may take you close to 100 days to transcribe all of them, which is time consuming. So hiring out your audio files to be transcribed maybe the best way to go to save on time.

When you want to determine what transcription method you will use, there are a few questions you can pose to yourself.

How fast do I need the transcript?

How fast do I need the transcript

If you need the transcripts like yesterday and are not concerned about the accuracy part then machine transcription would be the way to go, however, you will need to look over the transcript once it’s done, as it’s likely to contain a few errors, including misheard or unintelligible words.  Humans will be much slower than machine-based transcription software, but they’re more accurate.

Will You Need to Regularly Transcribe Your Audios?

Will You Need to Regularly Transcribe Your Audios

If you are a company or a university looking to transcribe multiple long hour documents over an extended period of time, it would be reasonable to seek oral history transcription services with human transcribers. It would be unimaginable to have a machine transcribe your multiple long hour audio files and have a bunch of errors that you’d need to correct thereafter. 

Some transcription service companies allow customers to create accounts, where you can check your order status, view and rate old transcripts and leave standing notes for transcribers at the company and even better ask for a redo if the transcript doesn’t meet your standards. These features make it easier and more efficient.

Do You have a Specific format for Your Transcripts?

Do You have a Specific format for Your Transcripts

When it comes to formatting and speaker specific identification or any other additions to the transcript, human transcriptionists can implement your specifications as they’re transcribing your audio so that would be the best possible way to go. However, newer machine transcription software can actually format your transcripts to your specifications, but you may need to do a bit of tweaking before you receive the product you want.

How Accurate Do You Need Your Transcripts?

How Accurate Do You Need Your Transcripts

Automated transcription services are getting better with time. Machines have difficulty delivering 90% accuracy. Fortunately, human transcriptionists can provide an almost 99% accurate transcript.  Even if a portion of the video is unintelligible or difficult to hear, a human can determine what may have been said based on context clues, cadence, tone, speech patterns, or body language.

Both methods have their uses, and there are a number of factors to look at before hiring professional transcription services whether human or machine for all your transcription needs. It is believed that hybrid solutions are typically the best option. A hybrid of AI speech recognition paired with human transcription services to ensure the details are intact would be also another way to handle transcription.

That’s it for this part of the series, I do hope it was helpful. Contact us for any questions, comments or suggestions and remember, always be kind, try to stay positive and learn to unwind

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