How to improve audio quality to increase the accuracy of your transcription

Transcription quality and accuracy is directly linked to the quality of the audio file being transcribed. When a transcription A.I. has difficulty hearing the words being said, you are likely to get a lower-quality result.

So, to get the highest quality and most accuracy, your audio quality needs to be top-notch.

But, how do you accomplish this?

Well, our team at Focus on Listening has a few tips for you.

Here’s how you can improve your audio quality for transcriptions:

The Microphone Itself

The first and single most important aspect of a high quality audio file is the microphone used to record it.

Now, this does not mean that you need to go out and invest thousands into high quality gear.

But, knowing the equipment you do have and how it works is going to be a huge step.

In general, your most commonly used options for microphone in today’s office and school environments are going to be:

  • A voice recorder (dictaphone).

    Dictaphone

  • A cell phone.

    iPhone

  • A laptop.

    Laptop

  • A table microphone.

    Jabra

  • A lavalier (lapel microphone).

    Lavelier

Which Microphone to Use?

Now, the obvious answer is ‘the best you can afford’.

The highest quality microphone is going to have the best audio.

But, this can be a tricky area to dive into so let’s stick with what you are likely to have.

In general, voice recorders, table microphones and lavalier mics are going to be your best bet.

These are dedicated microphones that will help to grab sound in a much crisper quality.

Lavaliers are perfect for grabbing single speakers, and table mics/voice recorders are great for grabbing multiple speakers.

When it comes to mobile devices and laptops, it’s best to stick with cell phones over laptops.

Laptops generally do not have very high quality microphones.

However, keep in mind that if using a cellphone you should keep it in hand and as close to the talking speaker as possible.

Now these are not the only options on the market, but they are the most commonly used.

So, understanding what type of positioning these microphones prefer is going to help you maximize the potential that you have for the mic itself.

The ideal position is determined by the ‘polar pattern’ of the microphone.

The ‘polar pattern’ is the direction that the microphone picks up sound.

These fall into 3 different categories:

Omni-directional:

These microphones can pick up sound from 365°.

Omnidirectional microphone

Figure-Eight:

These microphones pick up audio on two separate sides, with thin spots in the middle, like an hourglass or ‘figure-eight’ pattern.

Figure 8 microphone

Cardioid:

These microphones are heavily one-directional, but with slight pockets of sound extending behind them.

Imagine like a heart pattern with the indentation where the mic would be sitting.

Cardioid Microphone

So, knowing the ‘polar pattern’ of your mic is going to be a huge advantage when it comes to getting the best quality out of the mic that you have.

If you do not have access to a high quality table top mic or voice recorder, try purchasing a smartphone mic for a much lower price.

We like the Rode VideoMic and the Blue microphones. 

Me-C (as a great smartphone mic option), or the Rode SmartLav+ (as a great smartphone lavalier option).

The Environment

So, once you have your microphone sorted, you can then begin to take into consideration the environment where you are conducting your business.

If you are wishing to transcribe an interview or a meeting, you should make every effort to host this event in the quietest room possible.

As we hinted at in our intro, background noise can ruin an audio quality faster than you might imagine.

This is because noises will appear sharper on the audio file than they do in real life.

Even the clicking of a pen can appear to cover up much of the speech in the moment.

In addition to choosing a quiet environment, you should inform everyone involved that this audio is going to be recorded and transcribed.

This will discourage them from making unnecessary noises and work towards keeping the environment as quiet as possible.

Cutting down on excess noise is a major step towards improving transcription quality–especially with A.I. transcription services that might have a harder time discerning noise from speech.

The Process

Before you begin your meeting or interview, you should always establish some ground rules in order to keep the audio quality crisp.

Aside from keeping the environment quiet, this will process break down into three additional best practices to follow:

  1. Keep the microphone at a proper distance from the speaking individual.

    Ideally this is about 4 – 6 inches from the mouth.

    However, if that is not possible, you should try to keep the microphone dead centered in front of the speaker on a table equidistant from everyone involved.

  2. Do not interrupt each other when talking.

    Interrupting each other will confuse the transcriber–whether they are a human or an A.I.

    Not only is interrupting rude and not productive, it makes getting a high-quality transcription nearly impossible.

    Ensure that everyone knows this, and everyone takes their turn!

  3. Introduce yourselves if possible.

    This will give an A.I the chance to familiarize itself with the different voices early on.

    This can help to eliminate any confusion over who is speaking if there are one or more parties with similar tone and accents.

Overall

Improving the audio quality of your audio file is a pretty simple process.

It all boils down to the mic itself being utilized to its highest potential and establishing good practices during the recording process.

If you can keep these things in mind, you will have an excellent audio quality for very high-accuracy transcription every time. 🏆