Descript Review: From Transcription to Overdubbing

Descript eliminates a lot of obstacles between the average person and podcasting. Is it right for you?

Descript review at a glance:

  • Descript, like all podcast maker apps, offers a simple way to get started podcasting.
  • Recording and editing are non-destructive.
  • Transcription happens at the recording stage, and it's fairly accurate for English speaking users.
  • Overdub, the synthesized voice feature, is unsettlingly accurate.
  • Descript emphasizes a recording's text, using a word-processing-style editing interface.

Descript is a podcast maker app that has made a big splash recently. This product has really beautiful ads on TV and YouTube. But, it’s not the first nor the only one. We have a roundup of Best Podcast Making Apps that can show you what to expect, generally, from this kind of tool.

Descript's transcription and Overdub features make it different from other podcast making apps. Overdub (a stable of pre-recorded voices) can help people who physically can’t speak, but still want to make a podcast. In this Descript review, we'll go over the pros and cons to find out if this app is right for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, we here at The Podcast Host have created a podcast maker app as well, Alitu. However, this doesn't mean that we ignore other podcast maker apps. We're always open to learning more about them, and want to give Descript a fair review.

When we talk about podcast maker apps, we don’t mean a detailed podcast editing software (i.e., Audacity or Logic). If you’re interested in that, we have a roundup of Best Podcasting Software. These are tools that you would use to customize all aspects of the audio experience. In their advertising, Descript prides itself on being easier to understand than Pro Tools, but it's an apples-or-oranges difference.

Getting Started: 

Descript has a free trial for 7 days. This lets you use all of the higher-level features, such as Overdub, and making custom audiograms. You simply sign up, download and install the software, and start recording. The software opens with a tutorial, which you definitely want to try. Your recording environment looks like a combination of Google Docs and a white Garageband. This blank canvas will make more sense if you follow the tutorial that Descript offers right away.

Recording With Descript

All your recordings in Descript are like those nifty Russian nesting dolls. You create a Project, and inside it, your Descript recordings are called Compositions. You can import sound effects and music into the Project and it sits in your project's Media Library.

The good thing about this is that if you make a mistake while editing, it's okay: your original version is backed up in the library. You won't do permanent damage to your sound files.

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When I tested the system for this Descript review, I noticed it doesn’t label your mics on the screen (in the case of Zoom or Alitu, the audio settings show the name of which mic you use). I switch between my Sennheiser USB headset and my Blue Yeti mic for different purposes, so I found this confusing. If you have only one mic connected to your computer, this won't be a problem. Descript saves automatically.

Descript mic selection

Transcription

Descript transcribes your dialogue as you record. It's only available in English. It’s unclear if there’s support for specific dialects. 

The transcription accuracy is pretty good, provided you speak very clearly and record in a quiet room. For this Descript review, I tested this with my brother, who has a speech impediment. The transcription of my dialogue was about 80-90% accurate, and his was about 40-50% accurate. You can adjust your transcription accuracy for an additional fee. Here's more on why transcription is important for podcasters, and their audience.

Editing With Descript

Descript lets you edit your sound files using a word-processing-style document system. Along with this, you can see the waveforms and tracks at the bottom of the screen. You can edit the sound file in the same way you’d cut out bits in any other digital audio workstation. Descript has a feature called Filler Words Pro, which automates eliminating “ums” or “uhs.”

Editing in Descript is non-destructive. The original unedited files are all backed up in the composition's Media Library. You will have to switch back and forth between editing media and editing text. There's a drop-down switch for this in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

In the green-highlighted example below, I made the sound of a cat meowing, and said, ” Meow, said Old Tom in answer.” The audio doesn't need to be corrected, but the test does, so you use the Correct Text feature, which also highlights the audio on the track. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Descript editing text

You can use Descript for multi-track recording and editing. The tutorial shows you the first steps of how to do this. After that, you'll need to refer to Descript's library of instructional videos. The primary focus of Descript is to edit using a word-processing focus. It makes you concentrate on the podcast’s text.

To add music, sound effects, and all of the elements which provide ambience, Descript has video tutorials. You can import your own music and sound effects.

Automate Tasks

Zapier is integrated with Descript. Sign up for Zapier, and it will automatically send your files to Dropbox, Google Drive, Slack, and so on.  You can use it to transcribe any file you add to a specified folder on Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.  

Overdub and Descript

Overdub is the feature that makes Descript seem like sorcery. You can copy and paste a text document into the editor, select an Overdub stock voice, and voilà, instant dialogue. 

To go a step further, here’s where Overdub is unusually innovative. You can create a pre-recorded voice based on your own voice and speech patterns.

This has some great applications. For example: 

If I want to change a word or a sentence in something I recorded yesterday, but don’t have time to re-record it, I can just change the words. My Overdub voice will make it sound like me, saying the new words I typed in. 

I can copy and paste old blog posts or things I’ve written into Descript. Then, I can select my pre-recorded voice to make audio files.  

Lindsay testing Descript with her Overdub voice.

Descript is very careful to note that users can only make an Overdub voice of their very own voice. You have to provide voice information, so you have to read a few pages of text. This can be anywhere from ten to ninety minutes: they recommend ten to thirty. 

For this Descript review, I read the recommended ten. The Overdub voice voice that came out sounded enough like my own voice to whack me with the Uncanny Valley stick and make me run screaming from the room. 

Spot the difference between the two Lindsays. I deliberately left in mouth noises and traffic from outside the open window.

If you want your Overdub voice to have emotion or attitude, you can record different styles. You record the sentence you want to be “happy” in a “happy” voice. Then, Overdub will use that information for other sentences you designate as “happy” in the future.

Non-Verbal Assets

For some reason, I thought if they had a library of voices, they might also have music, sound effects, etc.  I was wrong. It's good to source your own music and sound effects, however. That way, you know that you're giving appropriate credit and avoiding copyright issues.

Publishing Your Podcast

Within Descript, you can publish your sound files to Twitter, Buzzsprout or Headliner.  You can select the file format and bitrate. You can select whether you want to export it as audio-only, text-only, video-only, an audiogram, and so on.

What if you use a media host other than Buzzsprout? In this case, you have to export them, and upload them to the media host of your choice. They said that they are looking to partner with media hosts, but that hasn't happened just yet.

Pricing Structure 

If you purchase an annual plan, you save 20%.

Free: This version lets you record, edit, and mix one project. You can make up to 20 screen recordings, and you get one transcription that's up to three hours long.

Creator: For $12 a month, you get everything in the Free version. You also get unlimited screen recordings, 10 hours of transcription per month,  timeline export, and export using original assets. This means you can use and share your sound files outside of Descript.

Pro: For $24 a month, you get everything in Creator, plus Overdub & Filler Words Pro, Audiograms Pro, Publish Pro, batch file export, and 30 hours of transcription per month.

Enterprise: The price isn't advertised; you can contact them for pricing based on your company's needs. You get everything in the other pricing structures, and a dedicated account representative, higher usage limits, advanced sharing controls, a Master Service Agreement, Security Review, invoicing, and live onboarding and training.

Transcription accuracy can be improved for an additional fee of $2 per minute.

podcaster has a new idea

Descript Review: Summary

Descript, like any other product or service, has its pros and cons. It certainly makes podcast recording and editing accessible.

If you host with Buzzsprout then integration with the platform will help streamline your workflow. However, if you host with any other hosting service, you'll still have a few hoops to jump through when publishing your episodes.

Descript made me focus on the text on the screen, not the sound of the recording. The Overdub feature can be a useful asset. If I'd recorded the full 90-minute training document, I could have made the Overdub voice sound more natural. I could train it to sound like my voice in different emotional states. But, by the time I put all this effort into it, I may as well record the script myself. 

If you’re mainly concerned about the text of your podcast, what's spoken and transcribed, this is a good tool. Working on this Descript review shows me it's a great tool for doctors, lawyers, journalists, or people who need a lot of dialogue recorded and transcribed quickly. It’s good for people who need to take text and make it into something people can listen to, quickly. The voices are pretty good. But, naturally, they’re not quite the same as a living human voice. And that, crucially, is the power of podcasting.

More Podcast Make App Options

As mentioned at the beginning of this Descript review for full disclosure, we also run our own podcast make app in the form of Alitu. Alitu automates the technical parts of podcast creation, and gives you simple but powerful drag and drop tools to do the rest.

Alitu: the podcast maker

There are also a few other great podcast maker apps on the market, too. You'll get a look through them by clicking the link to our dedicated roundup.

One things for sure, it's never been easier to create a podcast with all the innovative and simplified tech options out there. So whether you opt for Descript, Alitu, or one of the others, it's likely you'll free up more time to spend on creating great content for your listeners.

Need More Help?

The more you know about how to make a podcast, the more unique and interesting your podcast can be. In The Podcast Host Academy, we have courses, videos, downloadable resources, and more, to help you understand what makes a podcast compelling and unforgettable. Plus, our weekly Live Q&A sessions can help you with any aspect of podcasting you need to understand better.