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Best text-to-speech software of 2022

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
A person using an iPad.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

The best text-to-speech apps make it simple and easy to reading documents aloud, on either your desktop, tablet, or phone.

While traditionally this has been in the realm of professional dictation and transcription services (opens in new tab), these days text-to-speech has become far more common and an ordinary feature of everyday life.

The use of audio for commands has especially become popular for use with assistants such as Alexa and Siri, which also allow for speech-to-text (opens in new tab) to be used, among other tools. It's also becoming much more common for audio to be used to convert text-to-speech for a number of reasons.

The traditional one is for helping people with additional needs. However, as with audio assistants, users commonly find that audio can be much easier to work with. This is the case where multitasking is required, with audio allowing the user to also direct their attention on some other physical task.

This is especially highlighted by the rise of audiobooks, which allow the user to drive, walk, or otherwise engage in a physical activity that would preclude using a text-version as impractical.

Therefore it's no wonder that text-to-speech and other voice software is becoming more commonly used, allowing the user to engage in other activities at the same time, whether it be walking, gardening, household chores, or similar. 

Text-to-speech software is also popular in business environments, with people utilizing it to boost productivity (opens in new tab), especially when it comes to speech-to-text software.

Here we feature the best speech-to-text software, and additionally feature a number of free apps you can also consider using.

Or, jump to: Best free text-to-speech apps.

We've also featured the best Bluetooth headsets.


(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Polly

Best text-to-speech for developers

Reasons to buy

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Affordable 
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Easy-to-use 
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Supports multiple file types 
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Multiple language options

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 (opens in new tab). 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. 

(Image credit: Murf)

2. Murf

Best for super-realistic voices

Reasons to buy

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Simple and easy to navigate dashboard
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Over 120 realistic AI voices in 20 languages

Reasons to avoid

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Video editing could be more comprehensive

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, which costs $13 a month, Pro for $26 a month, and Enterprise, which starts from $83 a month. The latter of these options may be pricey but some with added collaboration and account management features that larger companies may need access to.

(Image credit: Play.ht)

3. Play.ht

Best AI voice generator for podcaster

Reasons to buy

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Large voiceover library
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Export audio in various formats

Reasons to avoid

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Non-English voices are of inconsistent quality

In terms of its library of voice options, it's hard to beat Play.ht. 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 from $14.25 a month to $149.25. A big difference, but it depends if you need things like commercial rights and affects the number of words you can generate each month. 

(Image credit: NaturalReader)

4. NaturalReader

Best cloud-based text-to-speech

Reasons to buy

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Supports a range of files 
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Wide file support
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Multilingual 

If you’re looking for a cloud-based speech synthesis application, you should definitely check out NaturalReader (opens in new tab). 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.

(Image credit: Voice Dream)

5. Voice Dream Reader

Best mobile-optimized option

Reasons to buy

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36 built-in voices 
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Multilingual   
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Integration with cloud platforms 

There are also plenty of great text-to-speech applications available for mobile devices, and Voice Dream Reader (opens in new tab) 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. 


Best free text-to-speech apps:

Free text-to-speech software can be enormously helpful for anyone who's visually impaired, or has a condition like dyslexia that makes reading on screens tricky. It can also help overcome language barriers for people who read a language but don't speak it, or are in the process of learning.

Text-to-speech software is also ideal if you want to listen to a document while doing something else, if you find it easier to retain information you've heard, or if you want to sense-check something you've written.

Here's our pick of the best free text-to-speech software for reading either individual paragraphs or whole documents aloud.

For ripping audio from videos, check out our guide to the best YouTube to MP3 conversion software.

(Image credit: Balabolka)

1. Balabolka

Free text-to-speech with customizable voices

Reasons to buy

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Excellent file format support
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Lots of voices to choose from
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Can create audio files
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Bookmarking tools

There are a couple of ways to use the Balabolka (opens in new tab) free text-to-speech software: you can either copy and paste text into the program, or you can open a number of supported file formats (including DOC, PDF, and HTML) in the program directly. In terms of output, you can use SAPI 4 complete with eight different voices to choose from, SAPI 5 with two, or the Microsoft Speech Platform. Whichever route you choose, you can adjust the speech, pitch and volume of playback to create a custom voice.

In addition to reading words aloud, this free text-to-speech software can also save narrations as audio files in a range of formats including MP3 and WAV. For lengthy documents, you can create bookmarks to make it easy to jump back to a specific location and there are excellent tools on hand to help you to customize the pronunciation of words to your liking.

With all these features to make life easier when reading text on a screen isn't an option, Balabolka is best free text-to-speech software around.

(Image credit: NaturalReader)

2. Natural Reader Online Reader

Free text-to-speech software with web browser

Reasons to buy

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Built-in OCR
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Choice of interfaces
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Built-in browser
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Dyslexic-friendly font

The NaturalReader Online Reader (opens in new tab) is a free text-to-speech tool that can be used in a couple of ways. The first option is to load documents into its library and have them read aloud from there. This is a neat way to manage multiple files, and the number of supported file types is impressive, including ebook formats. There's also OCR, which enables you to load up a photo or scan of text, and have it read to you.

The second option takes the form of a floating toolbar. In this mode, you can highlight text in any application and use the toolbar controls to start and customize text-to-speech. This means you can very easily use the feature in your web browser, word processor and a range of other programs. There's also a built-in browser to convert web content to speech more easily.

(Image credit: Panopreter)

3. Panopreter Basic

Easy text-to-speech conversion, with WAV and MP3 output

Reasons to buy

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Quick and simple to use
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Exports in WAV and MP3 formats
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Good range of input formats

Reasons to avoid

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For Windows only

As the name suggests, Panopreter Basic (opens in new tab) delivers free text-to-speech conversion without frills. It accepts plain and rich text files, web pages and Microsoft Word documents as input, and exports the resulting sound in both WAV and MP3 format (the two files are saved in the same location, with the same name).

The default settings work well for quick tasks, but spend a little time exploring Panopreter Basic's Settings menu and you'll find options to change the language, destination of saved audio files, and set custom interface colors. The software can even play a piece of music once it's finished reading – a nice touch you won't find in other free text-to-speech software.

If you need something more advanced, a premium version of Panopreter is available to buy, which offers several additional features including toolbars for Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer, the ability to highlight the section of text currently being read, and extra voices.

(Image credit: WordTalk)

4. WordTalk

An extension that adds text-to-speech to your word processor

Reasons to buy

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Integrates with Microsoft Word
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Customizable voices
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Speaking dictionary

Reasons to avoid

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A little unattractive

Developed by the University of Edinburgh, WordTalk (opens in new tab) is a toolbar add-on for Word that brings customizable text-to-speech to Microsoft Word. It works with all editions of Word and is accessible via the toolbar or ribbon, depending on which version you're using.

The toolbar itself is certainly not the most attractive you'll ever see, appearing to have been designed by a child. Nor are all of the buttons' functions very clear, but thankfully there's a help file on hand to help.

There's no getting away from the fact that WordTalk is fairly basic, but it does support SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 voices, and these can be tweaked to your liking. The ability to just read aloud individual words, sentences or paragraphs is a particularly nice touch. You also have the option of saving narrations, and there are a number of keyboard shortcuts that allow for quick and easy access to frequently used options.

(Image credit: Zabaware)

5. Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader

A great choice for converting text from websites to speech

Reasons to buy

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Converts text from the clipboard
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Good file format support

Reasons to avoid

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Voices are quite expensive
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Windows only

Despite its basic looks, Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader (opens in new tab) has more to offer than you might first think. You can open numerous file formats directly in the program, or just copy and paste text.

Alternatively, as long as you have the program running and the relevant option enables, Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader can read aloud any text you copy to the clipboard – great if you want to convert words from websites to speech – as well as dialog boxes that pop up. Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader can also convert text files to WAV format.

Unfortunately, the selection of voices is limited, and the only settings you can customize are volume and speed unless you burrow deep into settings to fiddle with pronunciations. Additional voices are available for a fee which can seem a little steep compared to others on this list.

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Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!