The best text-to-speech software makes your written content more accessible by reading it aloud.
Text-to-voice apps are a great way to bring on-screen words to life - whether you’re focused on boosting productivity and accessibility, creating artificial voice-overs for videos, or just want to hear your own work out-loud. How often, after all, has a typo gone unnoticed until you heard your copy spoken?
Unlike speech-to-text apps and dictation software, TTS apps convert text documents to audio. The process is streamlined, and each is equipped with an unrivalled toolkit. You can even download audio files, if you’re looking for the best text-to-speech software for YouTube videos or similar.
Some office programs, like Microsoft Word and Google Docs, offer basic text-to-speech (or TTS) tools. In the main, they work well - accuracy is good and seems to be consistently improving. But beyond a limited set of extras, such as accent and language, these word processors lack the full suite of functions found in TTS software.
To help you identify the right tool for the written and spoken word, TechRadar Pro tested the best text-to-speech software across the user-experience, performance, output, and pricing.
If you’re working to a tighter budget, explore the best free text-to-speech software.
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The best text-to-speech software of 2023 in full
If you’re looking for a cloud-based speech synthesis application, you should definitely check out NaturalReader. Aimed more at personal use, the solution allows you to convert written text such as Word and PDF documents, ebooks and web pages into human-like speech.
Because the software is underpinned by cloud technology, you’re able to access it from wherever you go via a smartphone, tablet or computer. And just like Capti Voice, you can upload documents from cloud storage lockers such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.
Currently, you can access 56 natural-sounding voices in nine different languages, including American English, British English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch. The software supports PDF, TXT, DOC(X), ODT, PNG, JPG, plus non-DRM EPUB files and much more, along with MP3 audio streams.
There are three different products: online, software, and commercial. Both the online and software products have a free tier.
Read our full NaturalReader review.
Specializing in voice synthesis technology, Murf uses AI to generate realistic voiceovers for a range of uses, from e-learning to corporate presentations.
Murf comes with a comprehensive suite of AI tools that are easy to use and straightforward to locate and access. There's even a Voice Changer feature that allows you to record something before it is transformed into an AI-generated voice- perfect if you don't think you have the right tone or accent for a piece of audio content but would rather not enlist the help of a voice actor. Other features include Voice Editing, Time Syncing, and a Grammar Assistant.
The solution comes with three pricing plans to choose from: Basic, Pro and Enterprise. The latter of these options may be pricey but some with added collaboration and account management features that larger companies may need access to. The Basic plan starts at around $19 / £17 / AU$28 per month but if you set up a yearly plan that will drop to around $13 / £12 / AU$20 per month. You can also try the service out for free for up to 10 minutes, without downloads.
Alexa isn’t the only artificial intelligence tool created by tech giant Amazon as it also offers an intelligent text-to-speech system called Amazon Polly. Employing advanced deep learning techniques, the software turns text into lifelike speech. Developers can use the software to create speech-enabled products and apps.
It sports an API that lets you easily integrate speech synthesis capabilities into ebooks, articles and other media. What’s great is that Polly is so easy to use. To get text converted into speech, you just have to send it through the API, and it’ll send an audio stream straight back to your application.
You can also store audio streams as MP3, Vorbis and PCM file formats, and there’s support for a range of international languages and dialects. These include British English, American English, Australian English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish and Russian.
Polly is available as an API on its own, as well as a feature of the AWS Management Console and command-line interface. In terms of pricing, you’re charged based on the number of text characters you convert into speech. This is charged at approximately $16 / £14 / AU$24 per1 million characters , but there is a free tier for the first year.
In terms of its library of voice options, it's hard to beat Play.ht as one of the best text-to-speech software tools. With almost 600 AI-generated voices available in over 60 languages, it's likely you'll be able to find a voice to suit your needs.
Although the platform isn't the easiest to use, there is a detailed video tutorial to help users if they encounter any difficulties. All the usual features are available, including Voice Generation and Audio Analytics.
In terms of pricing, Play.ht comes with four plans: Personal, Professional, Growth, and Business. These range widely in price, but it depends if you need things like commercial rights and affects the number of words you can generate each month.
There are also plenty of great text-to-speech applications available for mobile devices, and Voice Dream Reader is an excellent example. It can convert documents, web articles and ebooks into natural-sounding speech.
The app comes with 186 built-in voices across 30 languages, including English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and Korean.
You can get the software to read a list of articles while you drive, work or exercise, and there are auto-scrolling, full-screen and distraction-free modes to help you focus. Voice Dream Reader can be used with cloud solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Pocket, Instapaper and Evernote.
Text-to-speech software buying advice
How to choose the best text-to-speech software
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When deciding which text-to-speech software is best for you, it depends on a number of factors and preferences. For example, whether you’re happy to join the ecosystem of big companies like Amazon in exchange for quality assurance, if you prefer realistic voices, and how much budget you’re playing with. It’s worth noting that the paid services we recommend, while reliable, are often subscription services, with software hosted via websites, rather than one-time purchase desktop apps.
Also, remember that the latest versions of Microsoft Word and Google Docs feature basic text-to-speech as standard, as well as most popular browsers. So, if you have access to that software and all you’re looking for is a quick fix, that may suit your needs well enough.
Read more on how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).
What is the best text-to-speech software for YouTube?
If you're looking for the best text-to-speech software for YouTube videos or other social media platforms, you need a tool that lets you extract the audio file once your text document has been processed. Thankfully, that's most of them. So, the real trick is to select a TTS app that features a bountiful choice of natural-sounding voices that match the personality of your channel.
What’s the difference between web TTS services and TTS software?
Web TTS services are hosted on a company or developer website. You’ll only be able to access the service if the service remains available at the whim of a provider or isn’t facing an outage.
TTS software refers to downloadable desktop applications that typically won’t rely on connection to a server, meaning that so long as you preserve the installer, you should be able to use the software long after it stops being provided.
Do I need a text-to-speech subscription?
Subscriptions are by far the most common pricing model for top text-to-speech software. By offering subscription models for, companies and developers benefit from a more sustainable revenue stream than they do from simply offering a one-time purchase model. Subscription models are also attractive to text-to-speech software providers as they tend to be more effective at defeating piracy.
Free software options are very rarely absolutely free. In some cases, individual voices may be priced and sold individually once the application has been installed or an account has been created on the web service.
How can I incorporate text-to-speech as part of my business tech stack?
Some of the text-to-speech software that we’ve chosen come with business plans, offering features such as additional usage allowances and the ability to have a shared workspace for documents. Other than that, services such as Amazon Polly are available as an API for more direct integration with business workflows.
Small businesses may find consumer-level subscription plans for text-to-speech software to be adequate, but it’s worth mentioning that only business plans usually come with the universal right to use any files or audio created for commercial use.
How we test the best text-to-speech software
We test for various use cases, including suitability for use with accessibility issues, such as visual impairment, and for multi-tasking. Both of these require easy access and near instantaneous processing. Where possible, we look for integration across the entirety of an operating system, and for fair usage allowances across free and paid subscription models.
At a minimum, we expect an intuitive interface and intuitive software. We like bells and whistles such as realistic voices, but we also appreciate that there is a place for products that simply get the job done. Here, the question that we ask can be as simple as “does this piece of software do what it's expected to do when asked?”
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