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Among the most broadly useful everyday applications of artificial intelligence is audio transcription powered by ever-improving neural networks.
AI transcription gained new utility during the pandemic, as videoconference meetings could be easily recorded and transcripts shared with colleagues who couldn’t join. As hybrid work has emerged as a long-term trend, automated transcription has grown with it: The tools are dramatically better than just three years ago, the cost lower, and the utility proven. As companies have attempted to reduce the number of people in meetings and number of meetings overall, AI transcripts eliminate FOMOOM: fear of missing out on meetings.
We tested several commercially available AI-based transcription tools and found Fireflies, Rev Max, and Sonix all provide highly accurate transcription.The degree of accuracy offered by these three exceeds the level needed for routine business purposes. They’re cheap and easy enough to use that they’re a legitimate option for generating searchable transcripts of everyday audio like your team’s meetings and brainstorming sessions. They also remove the cognitive load and expense of having a dedicated notes-taker or post-event summarizer. For those who need verbatim transcripts for business, legal, journalistic, and other purposes, our three picks offer a quality high enough to require just a small amount of effort to move from nearly accurate to an exact record. Read more about our process and picks at charterworks.com.
Tied for best in class with Fireflies on pure transcription, Sonix focuses on producing speaker-accurate records of meetings. However, being the best costs more, with Sonix charging for every minute used at one of two rates depending on plan.
- Extremely high accuracy.
- Correct spelling of many proper names without dictionary.
- Almost perfect recognition of distinct speakers.
- Fixed hourly cost makes it quite expensive for heavy monthly use.
- Suggests substantial videoconference integrations but lacks documentation.
- Audio player didn’t work in Safari, only Chrome.
With excellent transcription and speaker recognition, Rev.com’s automated service is only a degree or two below its peers. For those spending endless hours in Zoom, however, the unlimited transcription for Zoom meetings can be a substantial price advantage over Sonix. (If you need Rev’s quality for under two hours a month, use Temi: it’s identical in every way except a flat $0.25/minute for use.)
- Very high accuracy.
- Excellent speaker recognition.
- Integration with Zoom for live captions or post-meeting processing.
- Somewhat expensive per minute above 20 hours per month for non-Zoom uses.
- Some audio features failed in Safari, worked in Chrome.
The best save Sonix for transcription, super speaker identification, and even an almost-worthwhile AI meeting summary put Fireflies at almost the tip-top of the list for quality. The service also includes unlimited meeting transcription and 8,000 minutes of uploaded transcription in its $18/month tier.
- Extremely high accuracy.
- Superb differentiation of speakers.
- Substantially less expensive than all other services for significant monthly usage of a mix of uploaded and meeting transcription.
- Barely a con, Fireflies’ proper name recognition was slightly worse than peers.
- Requires Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar integration to even set up an account, with no seeming way to bypass.
Read the full review at charterworks.com, including an explanation of our process, additional features, how we chose what to review, and a pricing deep dive.
Glenn Fleishman has reported on technology since the 1990s as a freelancer variously for the New York Times, the Economist, Wired, Fast Company, and many others. He’s a senior editor at Macworld. From 2019 to 2022, he created 100 Tiny Type Museums.