Text-to-speech (TTS) is an essential technology for the emerging Internet of Voice. It allows smart speakers, voicebots, and interactive voice ads to speak. Without TTS, voice computing wouldn’t exist as we know it today.
But let’s face it: TTS is also just fun. If you’re making a silly voicemail message or adding a voice-over to a home video, you don’t need to pay professional TTS experts for the service—and there are plenty of free TTS converters available.
When you start to monetize your creations—if you’re adding TTS to ad-supported content, or creating e-learning material, or building a virtual assistant for your business, for example—these free solutions fall short. At some point, you’ll need to upgrade to a professional TTS service. Here’s what you need to know to choose between a free TTS converter and a more robust solution like ReadSpeaker AI.
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3 Free TTS Converter Services for Casual Use
A TTS converter is just what it sounds like: software that converts text into audible speech. (We usually just call it a “TTS engine” or “TTS tool.”) Some services allow you to download a text-to-speech MP3, while others provide playback through your browser. If you want to see how it works, try one of these free TTS providers, or check out our list of free TTS online tools for more options.
VoiceMaker provides TTS in more than 45 languages and dialects, including eight free voices in American English. (Don’t confuse it with Voicechanger.io’s Voice Maker tool, which layers effects onto existing voice recordings.) Text-to-speech downloads are available from this site, or you can listen to TTS in your browser. To access higher-quality audio, additional TTS voices, and more than 250 characters of spoken text, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version: Basic is $5 per month and Premium is $8.
TextToSpeech.io includes a browser-based TTS converter with no character limit, although if you want to download a text-to-speech MP3, you’re limited to 100 characters. It offers two American English voices, male and female, and supports more than 40 languages. If you’re just getting started with TTS, this is a good place to try it out. To unlock premium voices and features, or to get more characters into MP3 downloads, you can create an account and/or sign up for a paid version (no pricing was posted publicly as we publish).
3. Free TTS
Looking for a text-to-speech free download? Try Free TTS. This TTS converter doesn’t offer browser-based playback, focusing instead on MP3 conversions and downloads. The free version lets you convert up to 5,000 characters of text to MP3, with 13 American English voices and over 35 other languages and dialects. For more access, upgrade to a paid version; the basic is $6 per month for 1 million characters, which have to be used within a 24-hour period. The premium version gives you 2 million characters across a full month, and costs $19 per month. A professional subscription gives you a year to use 10 million characters, for a monthly $99 fee.
These are all great options for personal projects and experimentation. For professional projects, however, you’ll need something that’s more robust—and offers more legal protection.
Why is professional TTS essential for commercial Users?
First, how do you know if your project counts as “commercial?”
Just ask one question: Does the offering make you money? If the answer is yes, it’s commercial, and requires a similarly commercial approach to synthesizing speech. That could be adding TTS to a voice-controlled device, building a voicebot, or even adding voice overs to YouTube videos, if they’re ad-supported.
Here’s why commercial users can’t rely on free TTS—and why they should depend on a proven TTS provider like ReadSpeaker AI, which has been at the forefront of the industry for more than two decades.
1. Professional TTS protects against legal problems.
Most free TTS converters don’t grant commercial licenses. Even if they do, you can’t be sure they have permission from everyone in the voice’s custody chain—a line of stakeholders that stretches all the way back to the recording booth. You see, TTS voices aren’t just lines of code; they all start with a voice actor, whose speech recordings are used to create the synthetic TTS voice that reads your text aloud.
Voice actors have contracts that give them certain rights over how their voices are used, and those rights can create serious liabilities for TTS users, even years down the line. For a high-profile example, just look at TikTok. When the social media app rolled out its TTS feature, it quickly went viral—until Bev Standing, the voice actor from whom the TTS voice was sourced, sued for unlicensed use of her voice. TikTok settled with Standing for an undisclosed amount in 2021.
ReadSpeaker AI grants commercial licenses and creates all its voices in-house. That allows us to control permissions from the voice actor through to the end user, with documentation at every step of the way.
2. Paid TTS companies provide higher-quality audio.
Professional TTS voices sound better. At ReadSpeaker AI, we create advanced TTS voices with proprietary deep neural networks, and our team of speech scientists focus on the pronunciation accuracy of every voice before rollout. The result is natural, lifelike machine speech that leads to a measurably better user experience.
But the quality of the TTS voice itself isn’t the only consideration in great-sounding synthetic speech. There’s also the quality of the sound signal itself. ReadSpeaker AI’s TTS engines allow users to control bit rate and frequency, balancing sound fidelity with bandwidth requirements for each specific use case. That’s an option that’s rarely available from free online TTS converters.
3. Free TTS services are more prone to mispronunciation.
Language is full of tricky pronunciation problems, particularly for computers. How can a TTS engine differentiate between “lead,” as in to lead the way, and “lead,” as in a lead pipe? ReadSpeaker AI’s TTS engines examine the context of the word, looking at the surrounding language and testing it against a database of common usages. That allows the software to choose the accurate pronunciation in most circumstances. Free TTS converters are unlikely to include an advanced feature like this.
Then there are proper names, industry jargon, new acronyms, and more. ReadSpeaker AI’s speech scientists continually update a central pronunciation dictionary to keep our products’ speech accurate. Users themselves can create their own TTS pronunciation dictionaries, spelling correct pronunciation phonetically in a simple process with a complicated name: orthographic transcription. That allows commercial users to avoid embarrassments like voicebots that mispronounce their own company names, key industry terms, and more.
Commercial TTS From ReadSpeaker AI
If you’re concerned about any of these issues, a free TTS converter probably isn’t for you. But there’s another reason companies should choose an established TTS leader like ReadSpeaker AI: to preserve your brand in voice channels. A custom TTS voice creates a consistent customer experience across channels, strengthening relationships over time.
A unique TTS voice also differentiates your brand from other companies. Lots of brands use Amazon’s Alexa voice on their smart speaker apps; that makes users think of Amazon, not the brand. Free TTS voices—and most paid ones—may speak for any number of users, including, perhaps, your competitors. An original branded TTS voice sets you apart. Think of it as a sonic logo.