A Digital Audio File Primer

There are many advantages to using a digital recorder instead of dictating over the telephone. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. By saving the dictation on your computer, you have a copy if you ever want to hear the original audio recording.
  2. By carrying a digital recorder, you can dictate whenever you want, even when a telephone is not handy.
  3. There is no need to remember a telephone number and your dictation codes.
  4. You can set up digital files to have multiple work types (e.g., consult, progress note, etc.) to allow the transcription company to transcribe into various templates.
  5. You can flag a dictation as needing to be transcribed as a priority job.
  6. You can use both in-house transcription and an outsourced transcription company – with digital files it’s easy to send a transcription company your overflow or backlog dictations.
  7. You may be able to negotiate a better price with your transcription service as they won’t have the cost of a telephone dictation line.

What You Need To Know About Digital Recorders And Files

  1. The make and model of your digital recorder
  2. The file format that it records in (e.g., .wav, .ds2, .m4a, etc.)
  3. How to operate it effectively (e.g., rewind, overwrite, etc.)
  4. How to load the digital files to your computer (or your administrators)
  5. Know what folder your digital files are in
  6. How to upload the digital files to your transcription company. With 2Ascribe, clients upload digital files through our secure client portal, WEBscribe.

 Typical Digital Audio File Formats


NCH Software

A variable codec format designed for dictation. It has dictation header information and can be encrypted (as may be required by medical confidentiality laws). A proprietary format of NCH Software.



DSS files are an Olympus proprietary format. It is a fairly old and poor codec. GSM or MP3 are preferred where the recorder allows. It allows additional data to be held in the file header.



A newer version of Olympus .dss format.



An audio-only MPEG-4 file, used by Apple for unprotected music downloaded from their iTunes Music Store. Audio within the m4a file is typically encoded with AAC, although lossless ALAC may also be used.



A MPEG Layer III Audio. It is the most common sound file format used today.



Standard audio file container format used mainly in Windows PCs. Commonly used for storing uncompressed (PCM), CD-quality sound files, which means that they can be large—around 10 MB per minute. Wav files can also contain data encoded with a variety of (lossy) codecs to reduce the file size (for example the GSM or MP3 formats). Wav files use a RIFF structure.



Windows Media Audio format, created by Microsoft. Designed with Digital Rights Management (DRM) abilities for copy protection.


Best Practices For Digital Files

  1. Know (and record) where your digital files are located on your computer (what folder). If you know the file extension, you can search for digital files by using the search feature on your computer with *.xxx, where xxx is the file extension (e.g. .wav, .ds2, etc.)
  2. If you change digital recorders or have more than one, make sure your transcription company knows this so they can program their servers to load the new or additional file type. Failure to do this means that digital files with a new or different extension may not get loaded and transcribed in a timely fashion.

If you have questions about which digital recorder to select, or about choosing to use a digital recorder, you can contact your transcription service provider for more information.

2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada. Having introduced WEBscribe, a client interface portal for document management, 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers. As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists, and office staff, as well as of general interest. Additional articles may be found at www.2Ascribe.com.

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