Transcription Equipment – What You Need


In the past being a transcriber was more difficult. More often than not you would be working with audio cassette tapes, which meant the tapes would be shipped to you and shipped back, or you would pick them up in person, or work in an office. The audio quality was often poor, tapes can get jammed or break rather easily, and computers were also clunky and slow.

Now from the comfort of your own home you can transcribe. These are the tools you need, with one being optional, to be a world class transcriber:

1) A Computer


This is obvious, but you’ll need a computer. A Mac or PC will do, with PCs having a slight edge in transcription software selection. However Macs are more user friendly and easier to setup. I’d recommend a computer with a solid state hard drive (SSD), about 8gb of ram, and a nice video card. A Dell PC meeting these requirements would cost around $800 to $1,200, and Macs are more expensive starting at about $1,000 going up to $2,500, but Macs have a much better resale value.

Whether you want a desktop or laptop is your own personal preference. I have both. I use my laptop when I’m away from home or my office, and my desktop when I’m at the office. The advantage of the desktop is they last longer, you can upgrade them easily, and I can select the keyboard and mouse, and have a dual monitor setup. However with a laptop, if you’re at home you can setup these extra pieces of equipment as well.

2) Headphones


Get a good pair of headphones. A pair of Bose with noise cancellation is an excellent idea.

Although expensive, these headphones are worth the investment. Occasionally I’ll get very difficult audio, even audio where a reporter is using a hidden microphone. The audio on those files can be extremely difficult to hear, and I’ve compared the audio using these headphones to a regular pair of headphones and the clarity difference was pretty amazing. I could hear words and conversations that were completely unintelligible on a regular pair of headphones.

3) Transcription Software

express scribe

The most basic and intuitive software out there is NCH’s Express Scribe. It is cheap, runs very smoothly, and is very easy to use. But it does not support true time code transcription, so if you end up getting regular requests to transcribe video files with time code then software such as FTW Transcriber or Start/Stop’s Powerplay are good additions to your transcription software library.

4) Ergonomic Keyboard


An ergonomic keyboard is very important. It will save you a lot of wrist and forearm pain, which is inevitable for somebody who types a lot everyday. At first I found the ergonomic keyboards a little difficult to use, but you will adjust to the keyboard’s shape within a day or two, at most, and ultimately save yourself a lot of wrist & forearm strain.

The key to avoiding wrist or forearm strain is keeping your wrists and forearm level while typing. If your hands are on an upward or downward plane this will inevitably cause strain in your wrist or forearms.

5) A Comfortable Chair


Every body is different, so you’ll need to find a chair that gives you neck, back & lumbar support. Get a desk where you can adjust the height (a sit/stand desk), you can switch from sitting to standing to help avoid the health risks of sitting too long.

6) Foot Pedal (optional)


I know some transcribers who absolutely refuse to use a foot pedal, but I cannot type without one. What the foot pedal does is it plays, rewinds, and fast forwards the audio or video while you’re typing. This way you don’t have to use your hands to rewind the audio or video while you type. A foot pedal for me is a big timesaver. I do not want to stop typing and grab my mouse and hit the rewind button, or even use a keyboard shortcut, as I don’t want to get my hands out of position while typing.

I use this USB foot pedal by Infinity, it works with every computer and software I have. It’s responsive, versatile, and well priced.


To sum it up you need six pieces of equipment to transcribe, with many people already having a computer, headphones, and a comfortable chair. The 3 additional items are well worth the investment: An ergonomic keyboard, transcription software, and a foot pedal. Also since you are a self-employed transcriber these items are all tax deductible. Including these tax benefits it’s well worth buying a dedicated computer, headphones, and office chair, even if you already own them.

Once you have this equipment you’re ready to get started. Now you need to find transcription work, which can be very difficult particularly in today’s ultra-competitive global environment. I will discuss how to get transcription work in a future article. For now I wish everyone good lucky & happy transcribing!

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