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Advantages of Digital Over Analogue Transcription or ……
Postal Strike? What Postal Strike?

Digital recordings have many advantages over analogue tape recordings. These advantages impact not only on the quality of the final recording, but also result in reduced transcription time which, in turn, reduces costs. The recent spate of postal strikes has proved the last straw for some analogue transcription clients and has prompted them to make the switch to digital.

For clients who have traditionally recorded all their material on standard audio tapes, mini tapes or micro cassettes, the postal strikes have effectively brought any transcription work to a standstill, with a subsequent impact on their businesses. Even those clients who have switched to minidiscs to produce better quality recordings still rely on the post to deliver the discs to their transcribers. Clients have been forced to place extra burdens on their own in-house staff merely to complete regular work which their outsourced transcription company usually takes care of. Some clients have resorted to expensive courier deliveries simply in order to meet urgent deadlines.

There is one practical way round this impasse for analogue clients until the postal strikes ease. Some clients have been able to rerecord their analogue tapes on to digital sound files (with a bit of hand holding from their transcriber!). By using a sound editing software such as Goldwave, it's fairly easy to rerecord tapes on to the PC as digital sound files. You simply need an inexpensive audio lead to connect the tape recorder headphone socket to the audio 'in' socket of the PC - transcription companies can usually provide a set of step by step instructions to help you through this. However, this will only work if the original tapes are clearly audible. If you try to rerecord a poor quality recording, you will only magnify any background noise or tape hiss, and the subsequent digital rerecording may well be inaudible and impossible to transcribe.

Assuming you've made a successful and clear digital recording of your analogue tapes, the next step is to transmit the digital files over the Internet to your transcriber using a secure FTP service. Digital sound files are very large, so you do need a fast Internet connection to make the transfer. Most transcription companies provide this FTP service at no extra cost to their clients. Sending digital files via an online service can be made on the same day from anywhere in the world, thus avoiding the delays experienced in sending tapes through the post. There are also no return postage costs to add to the final bill - digital files can simply be deleted when transcribed.

One permanent solution to any future postal problems is to 'go digital'. While analogue clients have experienced extra hassle and expense because of the strikes, digital clients have been largely unaffected. The many advantages to digital are discussed in more depth in another article but briefly, digital recorders produce a superior quality recording which doesn't deteriorate over time. There are no recording length restrictions as there are with tapes - digital recordings are as long as you need them to be. Sound files do not 'physically' break or become mangled and it's easy to add additional material in the middle of a recording, for instance, for dictation. There are also fewer physical storage space issues with digital - back up recordings to CD take up less shelf space than tapes.

By eliminating the postal system entirely from the process, postage costs also disappear, along with the risk of losing precious original tapes. With digital recordings, you're simply sending a copy of the digital file, while the original stays on your PC, as with any other document sent via email or online transfer. There's also none of the usual deterioration experienced when copying tapes. The digital copy you send is just as clear as the original. Digital recordings can also be easily edited to cut out sections which don't need to be transcribed. An added bonus of digital recordings is that audio time markers can be inserted to indicate precisely where inaudible or unclear words may be. Tape recorders and playback transcription equipment have different counters so audio time markers for analogue tapes are inaccurate.

Admittedly, digital recordings can't entirely avoid all hiccoughs, such as Internet connection problems. However, there are usually ways round such difficulties. Using a nearby secretarial service or a library Internet facility will still allow you to send the digital audio files to the transcriber. A power failure over a wide area is about the only thing likely to scupper such plans, but then so does a prolonged, nationwide postal strike when trying to send tapes. Another plus point with digital is that, as most recordings are of superb quality, transcription companies can offer a fixed per audio minute price so that clients know in advance what their overall transcription costs will be. Tape quality is too variable to be able to do this, and is usually charged at an hourly rate.

As well as the current difficulties experienced with an interrupted postal service, analogue recordings have numerous other disadvantages. They produce inferior quality recordings which are more subject to tape hiss and background noise interference. All audio tapes have a limited life and if reused too many times can break or become chewed up. They're very restrictive in terms of tape length and parts of the recording may be missed as the tape is turned over. It's also impossible to add additional material to the middle of a recording without erasing something which follows. Even when the post is functioning normally, tapes can take time to reach the transcriber or can be lost in transit and postage costs are additional.

So next time the vagaries of the postal service threaten to interrupt the way you do business, consider a switch to digital recordings and ditch analogue. A transcription company will be able to advise on how to rerecord your audio tapes on to digital files. They'll also be able to discuss the pros and cons of digital versus analogue recordings and open up a new, more efficient and cost effective way of working.

Back to Article Summaries

We specialise in digital transcription services including MP3 digital transcription, WAV digital transcription, WMA digital transcription among many other digital audio file formats. We also provide standard audio cassette tape transcription covering micro cassette or micro tape transcription, plus mini tape or mini cassette transcription which is also known as audio transcription or audio typing services. This can be extended to include minidisc or minidisk transcription services. Extensive experience in conference transcription services allows us to offer transcription of conference proceedings including keynote speaker and plenary session transcription, lecture transcription, seminar and symposia transcribing, Q&A session transcription and transcription of breakout sessions, roadshows, roundtable discussions and workshops. Interview transcription services form a core part of our service and include one-to-one interview transcription, as well as multiple participant interview transcription. We are pleased to offer discounted transcription services for charities, students and universities for their research interviews, particularly qualitative analysis transcription compatible with Nvivo and Atlas Ti. Support for oral history interview transcription projects can include both digital transcription services and audio tape transcription. A niche specialty is our podcast transcription services which also covers webcast transcription. Transcription services for authors, writers and journalists can include anything from digital dictation for article transcription and manuscript typing through to research interview transcription. Also offered is focus group transcription, forum transcribing, market research and vox pop interview transcription as well corporate or group meeting transcription services. Word processing services and digital dictation for correspondence is also included. Teleconferences and telephone interviews can be transcribed from digital and analogue formats. Analogue video tape transcriptions are offered along with digital video transcription services. Different transcription styles are available including Intelligent Verbatim Transcription, Complete Verbatim Transcription, Edited Transcription and customised transcription styles for Oral History projects and Focus Groups.

We are pleased to offer free Advice Pages: Equipment FAQs Overview Transcription Times and free Guidelines for: Conferences Dictation Digital Audio / Minidiscs Focus Groups / Forums Interviews Lectures / Speeches / Presentations Market Research Vox Pops Oral History Interview Projects Podcasts Audio Tapes Teleconferences / Telephone Interviews Digital DVD / Video Tapes Webcasts Workshops Our Home Page provides an overview of the wide range of transcription services we provide.


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