Transcribing Podcasts with Microsoft Speech API


I enjoy listening to podcasts in a wide range of topics that include but are not limited to politics, software development, history, comedy and true crime. While some of the more entertainment related podcasts are best enjoyed through audio, those that are related to software development or other type of hands-on topics would benefit greatly from having a transcript. Having a transcript allows me to go back after having listened to an interesting discussion and look directly at the content I am interested in without having to listen to the podcast again. This however is not always feasible given that it costs both time and money to produce a transcript. Fortunately, there are tools out there such as Google Cloud Speech and Microsoft Speech API which allow users to convert speech to text. For this writeup, I will be focusing on the Microsoft Speech API. Because podcasts tend to be long-form, I will be using the C# client library because it allows for long audio (greater than 15 seconds) to be transcribed. The purpose of this exercise is to create a console application that takes audio segments, converts them to text and stores the results in a text file with the goal of evaluating how well the Microsoft Speech API works. The source code for the console application can be found on GitHub


Install/Enable Windows Subsystem for Linux

  1. Open Powershell as Administrator and input
Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux
  1. Restart your computer
  2. Open the Microsoft Store and install Ubuntu Linux distribution
  3. Once installed, click Launch
  4. Create your LINUX user account (Keep in mind that this is not the same as your Windows account therefore it can be different).

Install ffmpeg

Once Ubuntu is installed on your computer and you have created your LINUX user account, it's time to install ffmpeg. This will allow us to convert our file from mp3 which is usually the format podcasts are in to wav which is the format accepted by the Microsoft Speech API

sudo apt install -y ffmpeg

Get Bing Speech API Key

In order to use the Microsoft Speech API, an API key is required. This can be obtained using the following steps.

  1. Navigate to the Azure Cognitive Services page.
  2. Select the Speech tab
  3. Click Get API Key and follow the instructions
  4. Once you have an API key, make sure to store it somewhere like a text file in your computer for future use.

File Prep

Before transcribing the files, they need to be converted to wav format if they are not already in it. In order to ease processing, they should be split into segments as opposed to having the API process an entire multi megabyte file. To do all this, inside the Ubuntu shell, first navigate to your Documents folder and create a new directory for the project.

cd /mnt/c/Users/<USERNAME>/Documents
mkdir testspeechapi

USERNAME is your Windows user name. This can be found by typing the following command into the Windows CMD prompt


Download Audio Files

One of the podcasts I listen to is Talk Python To Me by Michael Kennedy. For the purpose of this exercise, aside from having great content, all of the episodes are transcribed and a link is provided to the mp3 file.

The file I will be using is from episode #149, but it can easily be any of the episodes.

In the Ubuntu shell, download the file into the testspeechapi directory that was recently created using wget.

wget -O originalinput.mp3

Download Transcripts

The transcripts can be found in GitHub at this link. The original transcript will allow me to compare it to the output of the Microsoft Speech API and evaluate the accuracy.

We can download this file into the testspeechapi directory just like the audio file

wget -O originaltranscript.txt

Convert MP3 to WAV

Now that we have both the original audio file and transcript, it's time to convert the format from mp3 to wav. To do this, we can use ffmpeg. In the Ubuntu shell, enter the following command.

ffmpeg -i originalinput.mp3 -f wav originalinput.wav

Create Audio Segments

Once we have the proper format, it's time to make the files more manageable for processing. This can be done by splitting them up into equal segments using ffmpeg. In this case I'll be splitting it up into sixty second segments and storing them into a directory called input with the name filexxxx.wav. The %04d indicates that there will be 4 digits in the file name. Inside the Ubuntu shell and testspeechapi directory enter the following commands.

mkdir input
ffmpeg -i originalinput.wav -f segment -segment_time 60 -c copy input/file%04d.wav

Building The Console Application

To get started building the console application, we can leverage the Cognitive-Speech-STT-ServiceLibrary sample program.

Download The Sample Program

The first step will be to clone the sample program from GitHub onto your computer. In the Windows CMD prompt navigate to the testspeechapi folder and enter the following command.

git clone

Once the project is on your computer, open the directory and launch the SpeechClient.sln solution in the sample directory

When the solution launches, open the Program.cs file and begin making modifications.

Reading Files

To read files, we can create a function that will return the list of files in the specified directory.

private static string[] GetFiles(string directory)
    string[] files = Directory.GetFiles(directory);
    return files;

Process Files

Once we have the list of files, we can then process each file individually using the Run method. To do so, we need to make a slight modification to our Main method so that it iterates over each file and calls the Run method on it. To store the responses from the API, we'll also need a StringBuilder object which is declared at the top of our Program.cs file.

finalResponse = new StringBuilder();
string[] files = GetFiles(args[0]);
foreach(var file in files)
    Console.WriteLine("File {0} processed",file);

Transcribe Audio

The Run method can be left intact. However, the Run method uses the OnRecognitionResult method to handle the result of API responses. In the OnRecognitionResult method, we can remove almost everything that is originally there and replace it. The response from the API returns various results of potential phrases as well as a confidence value. Generally, most of the phrases are alike and the first value is good enough for our purposes. The code for this part will take the response from the API, append it to a StringBuilder object and return when completed.

public Task OnRecognitionResult(RecognitionResult args)

    var response = args;

    if(response.Phrases != null)

    return CompletedTask;

Output Transcribed Speech

When all the audio files have been processed, we can save the final output to a text file in the testspeechapi directory. This can be done with the SaveOutput function to which we pass in a file name and the StringBuilder object that captured responses from the API.

private static void SaveOutput(string filename,StringBuilder content)
    StreamWriter writer = new StreamWriter(filename);

SaveOutput can then be called from our Main method like so.

string username = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("USERNAME", EnvironmentVariableTarget.Process);
SaveOutput(String.Format(@"C:\\Users\\{0}\\Documents\\testspeechapi\\apitranscript.txt",username), finalResponse);

The final Main method should look similar to the code below

public static void Main(string[] args)
    // Send a speech recognition request for the audio.
    finalResponse = new StringBuilder();

    string[] files = GetFiles(args[0]);

    var p = new Program();

    foreach (var file in files)
	p.Run(file, "en-us", LongDictationUrl, args[1]).Wait();
	Console.WriteLine("File {0} processed", file);

    string username = Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable("USERNAME", EnvironmentVariableTarget.Process);

    SaveOutput(String.Format(@"C:\\Users\\{0}\\Documents\\testspeechapi\\apitranscript.txt",username), finalResponse);


The program will save the output of the StringBuilder object finalResponse to the file apitranscript.txt.

Prior to running the program it needs to be built. In Visual Studio change the Solutions Configurations option from Debug to Release and build the application.

To run the program, navigate to the C:\Users\%USERNAME%\Documents\testspeechapi\Cognitive-Speech-STT-ServiceLibrary\sample\SpeechClientSample\bin\Release directory in the Windows CMD prompt and enter the following command and pass in the input directory where all the audio segments are stored and your API Key.

SpeechClientSample.exe C:\\Users\\%USERNAME%\\Documents\\testspeechapi\\input <YOUR-API-KEY>

This process may take a while due to the number of files being processed, so be patient.

Sample Output


Are you considering getting into web programming? Choosing a web framework like Pyramid, Flask, or Django can be daunting. It would be great to see them all build out the same application and compare the results side-by-side. That's why when I heard what Nicholas Hunt-Walker was up to, I had to have him on the podcast. He and I chat about four web frameworks compared. He built a data-driven web app with Flask, Tornado, Pyramid, and Django and then put it all together in a presentation. We're going to dive into that right now. This is Talk Python To Me, Episode 149, recorded January 30th, 2018. Welcome to Talk Python to Me, a weekly podcast on Python, the language, the libraries, the ecosystem, and the personalities. This is your host, Michael Kennedy, follow me on Twitter where I'm @mkennedy. Keep up with the show and listen to past episodes at, and follow the show on Twitter via @talkpython. Nick, welcome to Talk Python.

API Response

Are you considering getting into web programming cheese in the web framework like plaster. Django can be daunting. It would be great to see them. Although that the same application and compare the results side by side. That's Why? When I heard. But Nicholas Hunt. Walker was up to, I had him on the podcast. He night chat about 4 web frameworks, compared he built a data driven web app with last tornado. Peermade Angangueo and then put it all together in a presentation. We have dive into that right now. This is talk by the to me, I was 149 recorded January 30th 2018. Welcome to talk python to me a weekly podcast on Python Language the library ecosystem in the personalities. Did you host Michael Kennedy? Follow me on Twitter where I'm at in Kennedy keep up with the show in the past episodes at talk python. Damn info, the show on Twitter via at Popeyes on. Nick Welcome to talk by phone.


In this writeup, I converted an mp3 podcast file to wav format and split it into sixty second segments using ffmpeg. The segments were then processed by a console application which uses the Microsoft Speech API to convert speech to text and the results were saved to a text file. When compared to the original transcript, the result produced by the API is inconsistent and at times incomprehensible. This does not mean that overall the API is unusable or inaccurate as many things could have contributed to the inaccuracy. However, the results were not as good as I would have hoped for.


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