As a transcriptionist I have the opportunity to see many different file types cross my desk. I have also had the ability to really research the programs, free or not, that work best for me in converting the audio and playing the audio files.
First and foremost, ExpressScribe by www.NCH.com.au is a wonderful free player that works wonderfully with or without foot pedals. You can adjust the audio and playback to make the job of transcribing the audio so much easier.
The upside to this audio player software program by NCH is that they also have a converter, Switch, one version is free and an upgrade for a nominal fee. The free version is usually enough for the individual transcriptionist who may have file types that they would prefer to convert to mp3 or wav files.
Another great program for conversion of audio is X2X Audio converter which is also free – http://www.x2xsoft.com/productlist/audio.html. This does additional file types and I have found it to actually be a bit faster in the conversion process.
In addition, when tapes are received and you would like to convert them to MP3 files, I absolutely love the polderbit sound recorder and editor, which is not free, but for anyone who works with tapes or even records to MP3/wav it is well worth the nominal fee for the program. http://www.polderbits.com/recorder_uk.htm. You will of course still need a tape player/record player/cd player and a male to male audio extension cord to go from the player to the sound card of your computer, but for me, this program is priceless. It is not free, but allows the ability to clean up the audio while being recorded, which is an invaluable tool when handling tapes.
DVD’s are an animal all their own. In order to extrapolate the audio from these creatures I use the iSofter program. It is easy to use, is a bit slow, and there are some quirks to it sometimes, but the tech support is always right on. Again, this program is not free, but well worth the cost. http://dvdtoall.isofter.com/index.htm
Some other programs I use on a not so frequent basis, but are useful just the same
http://www.avs4you.com – AIFF files to mp3
www.PCDictate.com – to convert the newer DS2 files to mp3.
Now I agree, many of these do much of the same conversions, but each have a little special difference as well. As someone who receives multiple files in multiple formats, I found having several makes my day go a bit easier. When one doesn’t handle what I need, I have a backup.
Having the ability to handle all forms of audio, allows my clients to just worry about developing the audio, and not what format works for transcription. That, in turn, allows me to assist them in saving time and money when I handle their audio for transcription and develop the quality reports they demand.
There are admittedly hundreds of programs to choose from, however for me, these are the ones I have trusted over the years.
So, if you find yourself in need of a player or converter, check them out. You may find you like them too.