When transcribing interviews, I highly recommend using decent headphones. These truly make all the difference in the quality of the transcript you can produce and the speed at which you can do it. I prefer the type that goes over the ear and have some noise-cancelling properties. The headphones pictured are the style I have been using for the past three years. While wearing these headphones, I am still able to hear the doorbell. I am also aware if somebody speaks to me from another room. Cheekily, I have been known to conveniently 'not hear' somebody talking to me when I am transcribing. Sometimes I prefer not to interrupt the flow, especially when I'm producing verbatim transcripts. Being able to concentrate on the task at hand is the same reason that 90% of the time, I do not have my mobile phone in my office with me. It is a distraction I do not need. I keep it in another room and allow myself to look at it several times a day. I find this vastly helps with productivity. I recommend it.
When I first started my transcription business, I used the headphones that came with the foot pedal and software I purchased. These were decent, but the sound quality of the headphones I currently use is vastly better. If I have difficulty hearing a recording, I can be confident it is due to the recording quality. The positioning of the speaking person in proximity to the recording device microphone dramatically impacts on recording quality. I often receive recordings with background noise, and these headphones certainly help me produce the best quality transcript possible in those situations. I do, however, prefer recordings without background noise if possible. Many years ago, when I worked for the police, I worked on a surveillance project for three months. These audio recordings had excessive white noise, and it took its toll on my ears. Extreme white noise recordings are something I now try to avoid. Loud background noise, such as those interviews that take place in public places, do not make pleasurable listening. It takes much longer to transcribe as you are perpetually rewinding the recording to pick everything up, even with super-duper headphones it is not a joy. The time factor is the reason professional transcription companies charge more for these types of interviews. Of course, I do accept projects with background noise. If I listen to the recording and the background sound is excessive, I will evaluate whether it is worth it for my client to have the interview transcribed. If I do not think I will produce a suitable transcript from it, I generally give it a miss.
Of course, a decent set of headphones comes at a price. The ones I use cost me £55. They are the second pair I have had to purchase in the past three years. The first ones had an annoyingly long cord that kept getting run over by my office chair. Wheeling over the headphone cable happened so many times that it was a miracle that they lasted as long as they did. One day, they finally had enough of my abuse, and the sound quality dropped dramatically. I immediately found myself ordering the same set of headphones once more. The sound quality was so brilliant that I could not contemplate ever going back to a lesser model. Happily, when they arrived, the cord was much shorter. I guess other transcriptionists had the same issues! It is now not possible for me to run over the cable, which is a massive bonus. With luck, they will last me for years.
I don't suggest that if you are transcribing one or two interviews that you go out and purchase expensive headphones. However, if you are transcribing many recorded interviews, it is certainly something to consider. I would also highly recommend getting a foot pedal. I don't know how anybody produces a timely transcript without one. It must take them such a long time and be extremely frustrating. At a minimum, you would expect a professional transcriptionist to be using a foot pedal to transcribe interviews. Again, if you are doing a one-off project, obviously this is not an investment you would make. Of course, the best bet is to have a professional transcribe your interviews for you. Not exactly a shocking conclusion, considering the author offers a transcription service! Please see my reasonable rates if this is a service you require.
I wish you all the best with your transcribing, whether you decide to go on your own or hire a professional. As a final comment, I am currently taking a proofreading and editing course. I have now completed 40% of the course workload. Proofreading and editing is a service I will be offering in the new year.
Best wishes and happy interviewing,