Transcription Equipment

In the past being a transcriber was difficult. The equipment was complicated to use and expensive. 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 poor, tapes would get get jammed or break rather easily, and the computers we used were clunky and slow.

Now from the comfort of your own home you can transcribe. This article lays out all of the equipment a transcriber will need.

1) A Computer

dell computer
Dell Inspiron 24 3000 Series All-In-One (Intel Core i3, 8 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD)

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. I recommend an all in one computer like the Dell Inspiron above.

Macs are more user friendly and easier to setup. If you’re looking for a Mac I’d recommend a nice iMac computer like this one:

Apple iMac MK142LL/A 21.5-Inch Desktop

It’s all in one computer and it will be very easy to setup for transcription. 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

headphones  Bose Wireless Headphones

Get a good pair of headphones. A pair of Bose with noise cancellation, like the one above, is an excellent idea.

Although expensive they 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  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 Universal Transcription System are good additions to your transcription software library.

4) Ergonomic Keyboard

ergonomic keyboard

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business (5KV-00001 )

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
office chair Mid-Back Office Chair

Everybody and every body is different, so you’ll need to find a chair that gives you neck, back & lumbar support. The mid-back office chair is a reasonably priced and very comfortable chair.

6) Foot Pedal

foot pedal Infinity IN-USB-1 USB Computer Transcription Foot Pedal

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 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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