What is a Text to Speech API? With text to speech APIs your computer can talk to you. Sound futuristic? The time to explore TTS APIs is now.

By Hammad Syed in API

May 13, 2024 10 min read
What is a Text to Speech API?

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Have you ever wondered how your computer can magically transform written words into spoken language? With text to speech services which are powered by text to speech APIs, you can listen to any text aloud and easily make your apps speak to you. Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about text to speech (TTS) APIs, including how they work their magic and how to choose the perfect TTS API for your needs.

What is a text to speech API?

Text to speech (TTS) technology has changed the way we interact with computers, enabling them to convert written text into natural-sounding speech. At the heart of this technology lies text to speech APIs. Text to speech APIs are like having a digital storyteller at your fingertips, ready to bring any written text to life with just a few lines of code. With a TTS API, developers can effortlessly integrate speech synthesis capabilities into their applications, enabling the applications to read text aloud to users so they can listen to it rather than read it.

Imagine a world where your computer not only understands your commands but speaks back to you in a voice that’s as natural as human speech. With text to speech APIs, this is possible.

How text to speech APIs work

In this most basic context, a text to speech API converts written text into spoken words.

You type something, and it reads it back to you. But it’s not just as simple as that.

TTS APIs use a combination of advanced technologies, including speech synthesis and machine learning algorithms to create the natural-sounding audio output that users hear.

If you’re wondering what happens behind the scenes to make this all possible, let’s break it down. When you input text into a TTS API, the API analyzes the content, breaks it down into sounds, and applies language rules to make it the synthesized speech generated by artificial intelligence sound like someone’s actually talking instead of a robot.

Types of text to speech APIs

Users have two main options when it comes to text to speech APIs – on-premise text to speech APIs or cloud-based text to speech APIs. What’s the difference?

Well, on-premise text to speech APIs are hosted locally, meaning the software and data reside on the user’s own servers, private cloud, or devices. This provides greater control over security and customization but requires maintenance and hardware resources.

On the other hand, cloud-based text to speech APIs are hosted on remote servers managed by a third-party providers, such as Google Cloud Text-to-Speech, Microsoft Azure Text to Speech, Amazon Polly, or IBM Watson Text to Speech. Users can access these services via the internet, offering scalability, convenience, and often cost-effectiveness. However, users have less control over security and customization compared to on-premise solutions.

Benefits of text to speech APIs

Okay, so why should you care about Text to Speech APIs? They’re like Swiss army knives for developers. Not only do text to speech APIs make your applications more accessible, but they also can streamline content creation or enhance user experiences. Here is just a brief breakdown of the many benefits text to speech APIs offer:

  • Accessibility: Text to speech APIs give your computer or app the ability to talk, which is super helpful for people with visual impairments, learning disabilities, or reading challenges.
  • Multilingual support: Text to speech APIs can chat in all sorts of languages and accents. So, whether you’re speaking English, Spanish, or even Klingon, there’s probably a TTS API for it. This allows you to connect with diverse audiences.
  • Personalization: TTS APIs allow you to tweak how the speech sounds—like making it sound faster, slower, higher-pitched, or lower-pitched. It’s like being your own voice director.
  • Scalability: With cloud-based TTS APIs, you’re not restricted by how much text you want to convert into speech. So, go ahead, turn that novel into an audiobook without worrying about crashing your system.
  • Integration: TTS APIs can be easily integrated into various platforms, including websites, mobile apps, and IoT devices, enabling seamless incorporation of text to speech functionality. Want your app to read articles out loud? Done. Need your smart fridge to tell you the weather forecast? Easy peasy.
  • Natural-sounding speech: Thanks to fancy tech like neural networks, the speech sounds way more human-like. No more robotic monotone—text to speech APIs offer next-level voices.
  • Reduced development time: Instead of building your own speech system from scratch, just plug into a TTS API and voilà! You’ll save a ton of time and headaches.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Forget about pouring money into building and maintaining your own speech system. TTS APIs are the affordable, hassle-free option, eliminating the need for developing and maintaining in-house text to speech systems.
  • Voice branding: TTS APIs enable companies to create custom voices that align with their brand identity, fostering brand recognition and consistency across voice-enabled applications and services.

Use cases of text to speech APIs

Since TTS APIs offer so many benefits, they can also be used in so many use cases. In fact, the possibilities are limitless. Here are some of the top ways text to speech APIs can help people in their daily lives:

  • Accessibility: For those who can’t see or read well or at all, TTS APIs helps by reading out loud what’s written on a computer, phone, or other digital device. This way, they can still “read” emails, websites, and books.
  • Education: Text to speech APIs also help students learn better. TTS APIs can be integrated into e-learning applications that read textbooks and lessons out loud, making learning easier for those who struggle with reading or have trouble focusing. Text to speech functionality can even aid in language learning, pronunciation practice, and reading comprehension.
  • Customer service: TTS can be used in interactive voice response (IVR) systems so companies can automate customer support and have lifelike voices guiding users through menus and providing information. The more lifelike and helpful the voices are, the better the customer satisfaction.
  • Navigation systems: Have you ever used GPS for directions? TTS APIs are integrated into GPS devices so you can receive turn-by-turn instructions or location information read aloud while you’re driving or walking.
  • Multimedia content: TTS isn’t just for reading boring stuff! It can be used to create AI voice overs for multimedia content such as videos, audiobooks, and podcasts too. So, you can listen to your favorite stories or learn new things easily while you’re on the go.
  • Smart home devices: Have you seen those cool devices like Alexa or Siri? They understand what you say and talk back to you. How? Through TTS APIs of course. Text to speech APIs are what power the voices of all virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to respond to your queries, provide updates, and perform tasks via voice commands.
  • Automated alerts and notifications: Sometimes, TTS is used in alarms and alerts to warn people about dangerous situations or important updates. TTS can deliver alerts, reminders, and notifications in applications, systems, and devices, enhancing user engagement and productivity.

What to look for in a text to speech API

Now, there are so many TTS APIs available so you may be wondering how to choose. Well, there are certain features to look for so you can select the best text to speech API solution for your needs. When selecting a TTS API, there are several key factors to consider:

  1. Natural-sounding voices: Find a TTS API that gives you text to speech voices that sound like a human voice. You want it to sound like a person talking, not a robot.
  2. SSML support: Choose a TTS API that supports Speech Synthesis Markup Language. This will allow you to edit the generated speech to meet your exact needs.
  3. Unique voices: Maybe you want to create your own special voice, like Siri or Alexa but with your own voice. Look for a TTS API that offers a voice generator option where you can create your unique voice models.
  4. File formats: Make sure the TTS API supports different formats like WAV, OGG, or MP3. This way, you can use it on all kinds of devices without any issues
  5. Platform compatibility: Check if the TTS tool works with the device or system you’re using, whether it’s Windows, Android, iOS, or even just a web browser like Chrome.
  6. Easy-to-use interface: If you’re a developer, you’ll want a TTS API that’s easy to use with a command line to make integrating it into your projects and workflow smooth sailing.
  7. Support: Look for APIs with comprehensive docs, tutorials, and responsive support channels, such as through GitHub, to assist with integration and troubleshooting. That way, if you run into any problems, you won’t be left scratching your head.

How to set up PlayHT’s text to speech API

If you’re looking to dive into the best text to speech API, PlayHT has made it easier than ever to get started and offers robust functionality for developers. Simply follow the steps to set up PlayHT’s text to speech API and give your applications a voice:

  1. Sign up for an account on the Play.HT website and obtain API authentication credentials.
  2. Refer to the comprehensive documentation and tutorials provided by PlayHT to learn about the API’s features and capabilities.
  3. Install any necessary dependencies and SDKs for your development environment, such as Python SDK for integration with Python applications.
  4. Use the provided endpoints to synthesize text into audio files in real-time, leveraging PlayHT’s advanced speech synthesis technology.
  5. Experiment with different voice models, languages, and speech parameters to customize the audio output according to your requirements.

Play.HT – The best text to speech API

So, why should you choose Play.HT? Well, PlayHT is the premier choice for text to speech API solutions. It offers both on-premise and cloud-based text to speech API options to meet your needs, one of the lowest latencies on the market, over 800 unique voices, a vast community voice library with 20,000 additional high-quality options, and support for 142 languages and accents. This includes languages like SpanishFrenchJapaneseGermanArabicHindiTagalog, BengaliUrduKoreanRussianItalian, Polish and more. PlayHT also supports different accents like BritishAmericanIndianIrish , Australian, and Canadian.

Additionally, PlayHT features voice cloning capabilities allowing you to easily create custom voice models and a flexible pricing structure that includes a free tier for developers to get started and affordable options for businesses of all sizes.

Try PlayHT for free today and see how it can level up your text to speech experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is speech recognition different than text to speech?

Speech recognition, also referred to as transcription, involves converting spoken words into written text, whereas text to speech entails synthesizing written text into spoken words.

Is text to speech API free?

PlayHT offers a free version of its text to speech API.

Who should use a TTS API?

Anyone looking to integrate spoken language capabilities into their applications, such as developers of interactive software, virtual assistants, or accessibility tools, can benefit from using a text to speech API.

What you can expect from the best text to speech APIs?

The best text to speech APIs, such as PlayHT, typically offer high-quality voice synthesis, extensive language and accent support, customizable voice models, real-time synthesis capabilities, and flexible pricing plans to meet diverse user needs.

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Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed holds a Bachelor of Engineering - BE, Electrical, Electronics and Communications and is one of the leading voices in the AI voice revolution. He is the co-founder and CEO of PlayHT, now known as PlayAI.

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