Text to speech technology is invaluable for people with learning disabilities like dyslexia or other conditions like ADHD, but it’s also great for anyone interested in speed reading and boosting productivity.
TTS, or text to speech software, relies on artificial intelligence (AI), speech synthesis, and machine learning to produce natural-sounding voices that can read aloud various text files, from web pages to e-books—and the results are incredibly realistic. While listening to emails or work documents, users can treat themselves to an audiobook– or podcast-like experience.
Here, we’re taking an in-depth look into speech synthesis and TTS solutions and discuss some robust TTS apps you can try today.
What is text to speech?
Text to speech programs are a type of assistive technology that converts printed or digital text into an audio format. For this reason, TTS apps are commonly known as “read-aloud” tools or text to voice apps.
But how exactly does text to speech work?
Most TTS solutions are compatible with different digital devices, from computers to tablets and smartphones. The software recognizes multiple text files and can read aloud Microsoft Word documents, web pages, Amazon Kindle e-books, essays, social media posts, and more.
TTS apps produce audio files using computer-generated voices sourced from real human voices, and users can typically adjust the reading speed or switch to a different language without difficulty. The narration quality varies depending on your app, but some advanced programs offer high-quality options that resemble realistic human voices.
These realistic text to speech voices have already started to revolutionize several industries. Some of the most common use cases for TTS include:
Finance and banking—Check the stock market and your finances using voice commands.
E-learning—Transform PDFs, e-books, and other static content into playable audio and interactive tutorials.
Tourism—Cater to customers who speak different languages without employing countless translators.
Telecommunications—IVR (interactive voice response) systems engage clients and improve their customer experience.
Automotive manufacturing—Embedding TTS solutions into navigation and GPS systems helps drivers arrive at their destinations without looking at their devices.
None of the above would be possible without speech synthesis, the artificial production of lifelike speech output by mobile apps or computers.
How does speech synthesis work?
Hardware and software products that convert imported or written text into an audio format are called speech synthesizers. Some call them AI voice generators, but that’s not an accurate description.
Voice generators allow users to create custom voices using video clips and audio recordings, while most synthesizers have a built-in library of computer-generated voices. So, the primary function of synthesizers is reading aloud, not voice cloning.
If you’ve wondered how your GPS can generate audio directions, the answer is speech synthesis. But what does that mean? The process involves the following three stages:
Text to words
Written text often has several meanings, and this first phase aims to eliminate ambiguity. It identifies the most appropriate meaning while crossing off other possibilities, and it allows apps and computers to make fewer mistakes when generating audio output.
Words to phonemes
Although the English language has only 26 letters, it has approximately 40 phonemes. The pronunciation of phonemes largely depends on their placement in a word, and the synthesizer requires this information to produce accurate and lifelike narration.
Phonemes to sounds
After recognizing the phonemes, the synthesizer can use recordings of human voices to create speech output. Another method is using sound frequencies to generate natural-sounding voices. Some TTS tools use software that mimics human speech, replicating its tone and pitch.
Examples of TTS software
Although sophisticated, TTS apps have become available to nearly anyone with a computer or mobile device. These programs are easy-to-use, offer realistic voices, and have several pricing plans.
Let’s look at a few options you can check out today:
Amazon Polly helps businesses develop speech-enabled products that support real-time audio streaming. The service uses advanced AI mechanisms and deep learning, delivering a smooth and customizable user experience.
Its speech output supports SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) tags, and you can redistribute it in popular formats like OGG and MP3. It’s a reliable way to add speech to websites, videos, and RSS feeds and reaches a broader audience.
NaturalReader is an impressive text to speech app that can create audio output from nearly all text formats. Although the free subscription is good for personal use, the program’s paid plans unlock natural-sounding voices and more advanced features.
Should you choose one of the paid tiers, you can expect clear narration, ideal for generating voiceovers for YouTube videos, paid ads, or webinars. Moreover, the service uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to process screenshots and printed PDFs you want to read or edit.
It can read aloud various text formats, including TXT, Google Docs, and HTML. The NaturalReader program is available as an iOS app for iPhones and iPads, an Android app, and a Google Chrome extension.
Murf.AI is a TTS program that converts written content into audio files. In addition to its rich collection of high-quality voices, it provides users with more advanced functionalities like voice cloning.
It supports over 20 languages, has a built-in grammar assistant, and offers voiceover sync features. As such, it’s suitable for educators making e-learning materials and content creators who produce podcasts, voiceovers, and ads.
However, one significant drawback is that the free plan only allows you to test the voice generator for 10 minutes. After this time elapses, the app will prompt you to upgrade to a paid subscription.
This user-friendly text to speech tool is highly customizable, and users can tweak the reading pace to match their preferences. Whether you want to listen to a textbook, e-book, or Word document, the program’s speech synthesis will deliver studio-quality results.
If you’re interested in making your blog or website more accessible, Speechify’s API will ensure all visitors receive lifelike narration. The software can recognize and read content in over 20 languages, including English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and German.
Try Speechify—The best text to speech software with natural-sounding speech
Speechify works well with all major operating systems and web browsers. You can also download the audio output as an MP3 or WAV file and listen on the go. Whether learning a foreign language or trying to hone your reading skills, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better TTS companion than Speechify.
What is the best text to speech voice?
While many apps claim to have the best TTS voices, few deliver on that promise. However, programs like NaturalReader and Speechify offer human-like narration, and the latter even has a collection of celebrity voices.
What is the best text to speech conversion software?
Natural Reader, Amazon Polly, and Speechify are some of the best TTS converters on the market.
What are the benefits of using text to speech?
TTS tools make written and digital content more accessible to users with learning disabilities and visual impairments. Moreover, it helps companies tap into a larger customer pool.