Speechelo: a scam or a great deal?

This post: circa 5,1250 words, estimated reading time, excluding video content: 25 minutes.

Intro

Speechelo makes bold claims, does it deliver?

{ Speechelo text to speech conversion }

Firstly, while initially interested, I have not, nor am I likely to use this particular product. This is looking at their marketing, rather than their product.

Secondly, this not a Is this a scam? No, the product is awesome, click my (affiliate) link for a great deal post either. They are a thing, too, which makes me trust the product and it’s publisher even less than I already do. If a multi-marketed product seemingly pops up out of nowhere and is accompanied by an equal number of rave reviews saying this new product is not a scam, then it’s dodgy. As a popular meme says, “Not saying it was aliens, but is was aliens.”

Before I continue in what will be a destructive analysis, I will start with the first honest review I’ve seen, so my article is a bit more balanced. The comment was to Speechelo and the videos made using the ‘standard’ package.

{ Some users, like Mohammed Risha, seems to like the product }

Even a quick search on Youtube will yield scores of streamers reviewing this software. Some are actually informative, but all I’ve seen so far begin with title promising an ‘honest review’ and fast forward through rating (giving it 9/10 and 10/10 for everything) to offer a bold link to the product, one ending in something like /?hop=marty1994. You cannot expect an honest or unbiased review from people that get paid for conversions. Not saying this is an affiliate product, but it’s an affiliate product.
Actually, I am stating outright: this IS an affiliate product, our friend Marty1994, and others like him are evidence of that. Affiliate reviews are some way below estate agents and used car dealers for trustworthiness.

I only screen-grabbed a few, but I saw around half a dozen different people and companies pushing this on the same day on Facebook, so it’s getting hammered at present. Some of them may or may not work for the company, but I’d take anything they say with a pinch of salt, ‘cos there’s a lot of lies, inconsistencies and deliberate misinformation floating about, all of it favouring product sales of the text to speech service. (It’s not a software package, it’s in the cloud, it’s a service).

Not saying it’s a scam, but the ‘standard’ product is – I would say – crippleware that’s designed to tick one of two boxes:
1) Sod it, it was only $37, I might use it, it’s too much hassle to get a refund.
2) Sod it, this doesn’t work, I’ll have to buy the pro version.

I will state, categorically (in case any of Speechelo’s lawyers read this) that their advertising is misleading, at times false, and, were it in print, or on TV in the UK, it would be hauled over the coals and fined for breaking multiple advertising standards.

That said, based on everything I’ve researched in the past two days, if you weed out the bullshit and lies, and get down to what the product can and can’t do, going in with open eyes, it does appear interesting and some of the people using it genuinely appear to like it – with caveats.

So we are clear, I am not bashing the product*, I am bashing their marketing strategy. *(Well apart from the British accent, which is dire!) If this was on Steam (say), I would buy the product at the $37 price to try, and consider trying the pro version. But an affiliate and possible MLM SERVICE, on Clickbank? Never going to happen!

Note, however, that it is possible to avoid Clickbank and pay via another platform, something I would strongly advise. If you ask, there is an option to pay thorough a company called Avongate, which is processed through another company, 2Checkout. Gives the transaction a little more distance credence. Almost, but not quite enough to tempt me!

Just so we are clear, this is not a software package, it is a cloud-based service, arguably crippled for the standard version, and (seemingly) usage capped for the pro version. Then there’s the up-sell add-on products as extras.

{ Speechelo advert on Facebook (1) }
{ Speechelo advert on Facebook (2) }
{ Speechelo advert on Facebook (3) }

There were more, of course. The funniest one was one affiliate getting confused over one of the comments and saying something like, “Oh, you’re one of us (affiliates) too, sorry, I misunderstood.” Wish I’d saved a screen shot of it. 😀



Text to Speech

Text to speech is not new, not even remotely. I recall it being bundled with a Soundblaster card back in the late 1980s, or maybe early 90’s. I’ve almost certainly still got the software on an install disk somewhere. According to one Youtube clip, it was called Dr. Sbaitso, came the ‘Creative Sound Blaster Pro’ card, and was released in early 1992, adding “This was the first text to speech program” (See also SoundBlaster 1.5 manual)


As you can imagine, technology has moved on a lot in the past thirty years. There’s a good article by TechRadar on the “Best text to speech software of 2020: Free, paid and online voice recognition apps and services.” Amazon’s Polly is said to be the best, but still sounds synthetic and robotic to me.

Speechelo claim 100% (then, on the same, page 98%) of people couldn’t tell their software was not real. The English guy they claim is undetectable is cringe-worthy and clearly robotic, but I don’t know who they got to listen to it. That said, the Spanish voice sounded authentic to me – but, from comments, native Spanish speakers clearly thought otherwise and wanted their money back. If the Spanish conversion sounded as awful to them as the British one did to me, and others, I do not blame them!

{ Speechelo refund request }

The site (15.ai) has been down for maintenance for at least a month but you get get AI to use characters like SpongeBob Squarepants to read your text out for you: Spongebob Can Now Narrate Your Writing.

Suffice to say the technology will only continue to improve, getting faster, cheaper, and more authentic, but it’s still not quite there yet.



Speechelo ‘Facts’ verses ‘truth’

I have no particular issue with Speechelo, as I said, were it on a different platform, or marketed in a more honest fashion I would not be writing this, or if I was, it would be a review. But when I see in an advert in my stream, trying to get me to part with my money, and offering a FACT (their emphasis), and I know with 100% certainty that it’s a bare-faced lie, then it crosses a line. If a person I am 99% sure is an affiliate (1% an employee), places paid adverts on Facebook, one seemingly directed at people like me, to get commission sales from me, then says something I know to be false, it’s a problem.

I did politely point out the mistake (*cough*, all her mistakes!) to her, and slightly gave her the benefit of the doubt, but regardless, whether she (and all the others doing the same!) were ‘misinformed’, lazy, or outright lying is a moot point. These were easy to research; if they choose not to present the truth, were too lazy to even read the page they were paying to advertise, well, they are complicit in the deception.

For instance, in the example below, an interested party asked a question regarding usage caps. The affiliate marketer answered that it was 700 words at a time for the ‘standard’ version ($37 with a ‘founder’ offer, normally $97, or $100(!)), or unlimited with the pro version (which is $47 a quarter as a special offer).

For the first part, yes, that is correct, the rest, not so much:

Here’s the comment:

{ Speechelo advertiser misinformation }

And here’s what the official site says:

{ Speechelo usage capped. Basic limited to 700, pro to 2,800 words }

It’s basically one landing page for the standard version, and one landing page for the pro version, takes a few minutes at most to read. If that is too much trouble, then they shouldn’t be trying to push the product. Unless they are aware, and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to get the sales, in which case you know the offer is shady as.

But it goes further than this as there are several reports of undisclosed capping by the company. For instance, in this on Speechelo-related Facebook community page, a person comments that:

I have the pro version, and am trying to do an audio book. But according to speechelo you cannit exceed 500000 characters in a month. This happened to me and now I am locked out of doing voice overs for the next 29 days. I’m upset because nowhere does it state this in their advert or in their TOS. So if you are willing to spend a few months doing it, the voices are excellent.

Few things to take from this, positive and negative.

+ve: The lady in question says “the voices are excellent”

-ve: There is an undisclosed cap of 500,000 CHARACTERS.* Bear in mind you are paying monthly for this service.

*If you assume an average of 16 words per 100 characters (typically 6.1 characters per word), that’s about 80,000 words. Enough for a dissertation, or a shorter novel. Being told there is no cap, and then being banned for usage ‘abuse’, well, that’s just wrong.

{ Speechelo abuse detected }

You cannot say there is no limit – and then ban an advance-paying subscriber for exceeding an undisclosed limit. As I say, Shady as! They would never get away with sharp practises like that in the UK. They are more than a few reports of this same behaviour, it is not a ‘mistake’ or a ‘one-off’, it is usage monitoring and automated flags and bans.

If you look at Amazon’s prices for their Polly service, which, at the basic level, is technically comparable to Speechelo, they charge per usage and give solid examples of the output. For instance, a million characters (apparently twice the monthly cap of Speechelo) is just $4 for the standard output, or $16 for the neural output. Converting a 224 page book would be $2.40, or $9.60. Amazon, whose prices are a fraction of that of Speechelo, are long-established and upfront. Whether you like Amazon as a company is irrelevant to the task, and to the disparity in trust.

 

Let’s consider more fabrications

But first, a word from our sponsors…

Only kidding, there is no advertising on this page, or any other pages on my site. Not that I object to them, as such, but they can really clutter and uglify my site – for little reward (especially Adsense!). Even on the rare occasions I allow advertising here, my strict rules keep it clean and balanced (see footer). No, the word is ‘systemic’. A systemic problem is one that riddles an entity, be it a person, a culture, or a company, it is typically a top-down corruption that spreads to every part of the system. Consider a country with a corrupt dictator. If the ‘leader’ is corrupt, his officials will be and so on down the ranks.

Now consider this, from the landing page of the Speechlo ‘founder offer’:

{ Videos without a good voiceover will not convert }

It infers that unless you buy their product, you will NEVER get sales or traffic. Until yesterday I’d never heard of Speechelo, but I happen to know that Youtube is 15 year old, that Google has owned it for 14 years, I know my own site – this site – is older than Google, and that I have used Googles products and services also since they started. As a result, I know with 100% certainty that I have had traffic here from my Youtube page. I am not a streamer, I do not talk, I do not (at present) use voice-overs or text to speech, and I have very few videos uploaded.

Yet I get traffic here, from Youtube.

Anyone that has to lie to push a product has questions to answer and cannot be trusted.

That statement is NOT a fact, it is made up, it is a complete fabrication, a falsehood, a LIE. It is not ‘marketing speak’, it is a bare-faced lie. If they had suggested that they, for instance, “could lead to more conversions”, or similar, that would be fine. Instead, here*, they chose to lie, presumably to scare people into ‘needing’ their product. Such manipulation would fail all normal advertising regulations (e.g. ASA). *(Noting that in other places they do word it more appropriately, but they lead with a page-filling entry first, so my comment stands. I really, REALLY do not agree with the shady legalise caveats about reading the small print.



Inconsistencies do not inspire trust

Besides being a garish, hard-sell landing page, there are too many errors and inconsistencies to trust their product or company. The grammar is all over the place, and the prose inconsistent (OK, yes, I’m ‘that person’). There are web design failings (fair enough, only developers will notice them, but they can still cost sales).

One was the lack of a favicon, a thing of mine, but it matters, even if most people don’t known what one is, their web developers should. It’s a minutes work, it makes a difference, to appearance, to marketing, to search engines. That it is missing is crazy, to me. I was mildly but not completely surprised that their vendor’s site is the same. They boast about how much money you will make, if only you buy their wonderful product, but can’t afford a proof-reader, or a web designer that properly understands web development. I currently have about 30 sites open, only two lack a favicon, Speechelo’s, and one from a developer (/sigh). They matter.

More troubling, there are also rather a lot of people saying they have paid and can’t get access. It’s a long-established company, but a new service (seemingly a month old), so, being kind, you might put it down to teething problems, about – again – it points to an issue with preparedness.

{ Speechelo teething problems: order not processed, cannot a access service }

At this point (below) I am almost lost for words. In reply to a potential customer, interested in French, they turned him away, informing him they they did not support French AI. Their own home page has a sample of their French male, and their Pro landing page states that they have four further French voices. They have a standard and a pro version, if they have a premium neural networked option, they are hiding it well. I’d have been banging the proverbial drums about it if I was in charge.

{ Speechelo reps appear not to know their own product }

Another, is less obvious, but it’s this:

{ OTO in an advert }

OTO.
You have any idea what it means? I didn’t; it took me a minute to find it on Google. It’s a niche marketing term meaning ‘One-time offer.’ Obvious, perhaps, if you are an affiliate marketer, meaningless to the rest of us. All I could think of was Otis (Luthor’s incompetent henchman in Superman 2). Use of clique terms like that is a major no-no. But there is a saving caveat, which states that if you must use an acronym (or a technical term), explain it the first time it is used, so as not to interrupt the flow of the page. In web design you have an additional option, the abbr tag, thus: OTOs.

Takes seconds to do, is more professional, but they were in too much of a rush to get the page out to bother. It matters, it shows attitude, professionalism – or lack thereof.

Also, which is troubling, their link (from Facebook) goes to an insecure http page, instead of a padlocked httpS. Now, giving them the benefit of the doubt, this could be Facebook’s fault as in their text entries they give the correct link, but regardless, they are not checking, and if they are checking, they are not bothering to do anything about it. Again, troubling. It’s just lazy and speaks of a rushed advert.

{ Speechelo insecure connection }

😱Danger! Stranger!

I’m retired, I keep up out of interest, it is their job to job to understand. Sorry if this gets slightly technie, but it’s a “hackers stole my gran’s savings” sort of thing. You either know and understand, or you don’t. This troubles me.

Here’s the problem:

http bad, https good, so you look for the padlock, if you are sensible. Most people get that, now.

favicon (usually) good. You typically look for it without knowing you do. Doesn’t matter if it’s missing.

HTTPS with favicon, good.

HTTP without favicon bad, but, curiously, safer than HTTP WITH favicon ‘cos the favicon can be hacked, and they specifically target eMerchants.

BUT, what we have here is worse! 😱.
What we have here is an advert that has HTTP page with no favicon – that through neglect, incompetence, (or worse), yet sends you to an insecure side that has a favicon. 😨

Not of the above in any way implies intent, or asserts a present risk, but it would concern and possibly mortify many internet security experts.

(Their) About us
They have no “about us” page, no “contact us” page – yet have an “Earnings Disclaimer”
(One seemingly from another company, blaster suite. Noting of course, that the Speechelo site is the landing stage for a new product from the said company).
Well, that screams out untrustworthiness, to me, as they make all these big, bold claims, and slip in a clear ‘get out of jail’ clause. Nothing wrong with earnings disclaimers, in general, but not in conjunction with claims of huge boosts to your turnover. There a lack of clear transparency. Clear as mud, as the saying goes.

Offers aside, the ‘standard’ price is all over the place – from $100, to $97, to “$100 a time” (implying per use). Then there’s the ‘Pro’ version they go out of their way to NOT promote. (And a better A.I. product they are, as yet, hiding, it seems).

I’ve ‘watched’ them, and they skirt answers, avoid questions. Consistently. It’s not hard to find most of the answers, but most people are naturally lazy, they won’t look, and the affiliates need them not to look so get their commission, so they are disinclined to help. But there is another reason, one I’d argue would make the conversation more, not less likely, and it’s this:

You cannot buy the pro version. It does not, as such, exist.
You can only buy the standard version (which is a cloud service and not software) and then upgrade to Pro subscription, which, as well also being a cloud-only service, is not a one-time payment, it’s a quarterly billed subscription. They (Speechelo) don’t actually want you to have the offer, they want you to sign up for the expensive, billed option, with it’s add-ons and up-sells, and to then market their other product to you and an existing a ‘loyal’ customer. Nothing Amazon and countless others don’t also do as a matter of course, so why the underhand methods?

I labour the point of there being no software as they keeping showing a product box, implying it is an installable product. The box is a lie.

Here, in the lead-up offer is the claim that there is no monthly fee, which for the (sub) standard version is actually true.

{Speechelo countdown: No monthly fees claim }

Colour, layout, style (the big-ass arrows, the countdown clock, the crossed-out prices), their site is stuffed to the gills with psychological and marketing tricks to prompt and lead sales. That – to me – suggests their product is not good enough to sell on its own merit. Messrs Skinner and especially Watson might have been proud of their behaviour conditioning techniques, I, however, I find them crass and underhand!

One thing to note, again a marketing ploy, the offer is for “the first thousand customers only.” I do not believe that for a second. Firstly, it’s EXTREMELY unlikely, secondly, they have a small army of affiliates paying the likes of Facebook for traffic to get their commission, so again it doesn’t wash.

Lastly, well, less obvious, unless you are diligent. See that countdown? The big ‘scary’ one telling you to buy now or else miss the offer? Kind of obvious, right? Maybe a little intimidating, just right to trigger you to BUY, NOW, right?

Well, it’s a lie too. If you want to be generous, it’s a “marketing ploy”, but in my books if you say “you have TWO MINUTES TO BUY”, then you have two minutes to buy. If, however, that countdown resets daily, well, the countdown is a lie. It was around 16 hours yesterday, around 8 hours last night, and today, it reset. Tomorrow it will reset again. A lawyer might quibble over the ‘letter of the law’, but in my eyes it is a confidence trick, which makes it a scam.

So, anyway, having established there is no monthly fee – ‘cos they wouldn’t lie, would they – we have the pro version. And what do you know, it’s only available on subscription. Fair enough, if you have standard version, and are happy with it, fine, but it still implied that if you upgraded, there would also be a one-off cost, which isn’t the case. It’s to do with establishing baselines. In more colourful terms, the upgrade pulls the rug from under your feet.

{Speechlo subscription }

As mentioned earlier, the page adds this:
“*This Is An Upgrade For Speechelo Standard! You Need To Purchase Speechelo Standard Before You Can Upgrade
Click Here to get the standard version”



Lies, damned lies, and statistics

You may prefer to call it misleading, but it’s not, it’s a con trick, a lie. For instance, they start with:

“Instantly Transform Any Text Into A 100% Human-Sounding VoiceOver”
“We GUARANTEE no one will tell your voiceover is A.I. generated”

A few lines below this is a line (their emphasis) they claim:

No one believed that this voiceover generated with Speechelo is synthetic:

Firstly, the alluded clip (‘cos colon:) is missing. Again, sloppy, and gives no clue to the quality or quantity of people who were supposedly unable to tell the difference.

At this point I’ll point out I am interested in a product like this, would even accept “good enough” instead of good, but they had to spoil it with the hard-sell techniques and deception to ‘close the sale’. As far as I am concerned (fairly or not) they might take all the money from these sales, close the cloud service after 90 days, and disappear. I do not actually expect or believe this will be the case, but that is the feeling their site gives out. Fly by nights.

And so we continue

“Speechelo
3 clicks and you have a BREATH-TAKING voiceover!
100% HUMAN SOUNDING”

No, they are not breath-taking, and while some are (such as the Spanish and French) clips sound more authentic to me (than the rest), I am English, so not attuned to nuances that might make a native speaker wince. And so to the English clips.

A few lines down we have:
“Listen to some Breathtaking voices from Speechelo:”

Breathtaking, instead of breath-taking. The former is more acceptable, but what is not acceptable is the lack of consistency. Choose one and stick with it!

Now we get to the nub of it: “100% HUMAN SOUNDING”

US English male and female: They are flat. Acceptable, certainly, but clearly synthesised, as are the rest.

US English kid: It’s hard to understand and sounds ‘wrong’.

British English: Did you even test that voice with Brits? No, just no!

The French and Spanish sound fine (to me), though the Spanish is the most authentic of the two. Native French and Spanish speakers, however, feel otherwise!

And here we have it:

“98% of the people hearing a voiceover generated with Speechel [sic]
can’t tell it’s not a real human voice!

There are several problems here:

Firstly, it’s dropped from 100% to 98%.

Secondly, most people are not taught to understand statistics, to ask “98% of what”, “98% of how many”. Twenty? A thousand? Twenty none native speakers? It matters. If the data was reliable, they’d want to share it, as they do not share it, it is untrustworthy. Everything about their website fails PROMPT tests

So, None of our voices sound Robotic!

Really? You obviously have never played the ‘British’ voice to many people from the UK, or possibly any, at all, ever.

I’ll grant you, some of the American samples are very good, not perfect, but good enough for sure. That British one? No!

The problem, as I’m starting to understand, is yet another deceit, another lie.
They talk about their A.I. and whether people can tell the difference (and it is hard to get to the truth here) but my understanding thus far is their ‘standard’ “AI” is not actually a neural A.I, it’s a dog’s dinner, a spewed out, cheap to produce, robotic drone.
But hey, that’s the sell, to push you to the professional version.
Which also doesn’t possess the claimed artificial intelligence.

I tried to get an answer from them about which ‘voices’ are genuinely ‘human’ quality. I’m still waiting. ‘Shysters’ comes to mind right about now!



Grammar and such

At one point, which shows the rushed and sloppy nature of their campaign, they spell their own product name wrong, calling it ‘Speechel’.

I draw your attention to this: “generated with Speechel”.

Not Speechelo (their actual product), but ‘Speechel’ – they couldn’t even spellcheck their own product brand name – on their homepage!

{ ‘Speechl’ typo their own name! }

Continuing on:

(OK, yes, I’m pedantic, I get funny about grammar, but it says a lot about a company.)

“Please Check All Of The Questions Where Your Answer is YES!”

I don’t feel comfortable recording my own voiceovers…

I don’t have a good microphone and other recording tools.

I don’t speak ENGLISH good enough to record a voiceover

#1) I would agree with the first line, except they had to spoil it with a pointless ellipsis.

#2) /sigh allow me to fix it:
“I don’t have a good enough microphone, OR other recording tools.”
Really, the sentence only needs “I don’t have a good enough microphone”, the rest is implied and therefore superfluous.

#3) /sigh allow me to fix this too:
“I don’t speak English well enough to record a voiceover.”

The first ends a sentence in a pointless ellipsis, the second with a period, the last with nothing. There is no consistency, and the level of their English and grammar is substandard. Would it have hurt to pay a professional editor or proofreader?

Don’t u guyz English?

And there’s more

I could go on, especially about all the grammatical errors and poor English, but let’s talk price.

Let’s assume, despite all my misgivings, I am still interested.

63% discount.

And they can’t do maths either. Wonderful!

A relative discount of 63% of $100 would be $37, but you say the normal price is $97, which would be 61.86%

Elsewhere, however, they do say the price is indeed $100, so again, a lack of consistency, a lack of thoroughness. A lack of care.

As the Americans like to say, “Go BIG or go home.” Being careless and sloppy is not going big, is it?

Acknowledging that most people do not bounce around their site like I am, their home page declares:

“I understand that I will not have to pay the regular $100 PRICE
Special Offer: $53 Discount.
ONE TIME PAYMENT:
ONLY $47”

Founders offer is definitely preferable, but again, there is this lack of consistency, but there is a more troubling one, and arguably more shifty one, in the following line:

What happens if I miss out on This Deal?
This is a VERY limited offer and a ONE TIME PAYMENT. Once the launch special ends, Speechelo will only be offered for $100 one time or $67 a month.

I’ll skip the grammatical error and point out the obvious: “or $67 a month.”

The site goes from inferring it’s a $100 app (a NORMALLY one-off payment) to $67 A MONTH ($804 a year), or $100 ‘a time’ service – for the one-off lifetime offer if $37.

Furthermore, I notice stuff; I’m a stereotype paranoid techie. The bit in question is:
“& commercial license and the “Tube” add-on.”
This implies the lack of a licence in the standard package.
The use of ‘Tube’ instead of ‘Youtube’ is also troubling, as is the fact this is an extra, one, which if I understand this right, is intended to allow you to take a youtube URL, and its content (their content, their copyright), and change the voice so you can pass it off as your own. That is rather illegal, actually, though they could argue its only intended to resample your own work.

The whole site is a glorified landing page, a sales gimmick. The legitimacy of the software is brought into question by such actions. A site called OnlineThreatAlerts is unlikely to give positive reviews, and such is the case: Is Speechelo a Scam? See the Reviews. If you go searching, there are a growing number of sites that claim this offer is – less than promised.



Final word

The advice above applies to all sites (even mine). I know mine has a lot of errors I need to get round to fixing, but mine is over twenty years old, has/had thousands of pages and has survived server moves, hacks, person meltdowns and more, they only had two pages to prepare for a large company.

I am cynical, and noting that the pro version is normally $127 a quarter, wouldn’t be surprised if – after the first 3 months at $47 a month – the offer suddenly ends and they start asking paying full price. Companies do it all the time. Introductory offer, to get you signed up, then the prices creep up. Their association with Clickbank does not help, in my eyes.

The whole thing stinks of MLM (multi-level marketing), which, in America, the FTC consider are pyramid schemes. They are not actually illegal, as such, but are morally questionable.

Given all the negativity in this post, I will include a (semi)positive review. It’s from a digital marketing company so it raises trust questions, but I’ll assume it in legitimate, in which case it raises an interesting twist, possibly.

{ There are happy Speechelo users though, it seems }

Clearly, he likes the product, and the pro version, but the comparison is interesting. A long time ago I worked in a crisps (potato chip) factory, one of the biggest in the country. We’d ship millions of our own brand, or with a bag and label change, the same crisps were suddenly not ours but another brand, typically a supermarket chain. Not saying this is the case here, or there’s anything essentially wrong with the repackaging were it the case, but it is conceivable that Speechelo is a white label version of Amazon Polly.

In the end, I am judging the product and the company by their advertising campaign, by their visible face, as it were. My ‘review’ is from the perspective of a web developer, not a user.


Addenda: The competition, Amazon Polly

Noticed this on my travels, I’m sure you can find other examples. This is a collection of samples of Amazon Polly. You might notice some sound a lot like Speechelo’s. You might also note that all of them have a mechanical note to them and at at times wincingly obvious as synthesised. (At least for the English voice samples, with that being my first language).

Amazon Polly Voice Samples May 2020 | English | British | Chinese | Spanish



Ack

Been playing with computers since the stone age, online since the '80s, and developing websites since the '90s.

22 Responses

  1. Thank you for your great review about Speechelo. I agree – noone sells a really working AI software for 40 $ – good competitors charge about 300 – 600 $ for a single license. Additional I do not trust such a marketing shit. I would never install such a software – and it seems it’s only an speech API – nothing else. As soon as they have found enough stupid buyer the service will be shutdown and your money is lost 🙂 you will see.

  2. olipool2
    Oli says:

    Thanks for the real neutral analysis. The tool popped out of nowhere and I thought: “Where is the catch?”
    And then I looked at their site and it was very unclear what the offer actually entails. Thankfully I am old enough to investigate further if something smells fishy. o i found this article and it saved me a ton of trouble.

  3. ynot116
    ynot116 says:

    ok, this review is way too long.

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      I do ramble, yes, but it’s also thorough. It’s meant to be informed, therefore it will be long, relatively.

      If, as many on Facebook and social media do, you are the type to reply to a post after only reading the title, but no further, your opinion is reactionary and uninformed. It is therefore without value and largely meaningless. Try reading peer-reviewed journals and government white papers. They are long.

      Still, I’ve taken your feedback into consideration and made the article slightly longer but also potentially shorter for those too impatient to read beyond the headline.

      “This post: circa 5,1250 words, estimated reading time, excluding video content: 25 minutes.”

  4. Thanks for the in depth review, I am searching for days now to find a software that I can use offline on my windows computer that sounds as humane as possible. there is lots of TTS software around but most sound like Stephen Hawking 🙂
    I wanted to buy this speechelo but had a idea that they could just stop the cloud service at any time and so lets me lose my investment.
    Seems you can “hack” the price to 27 dollar by entering the code “-” in the payment link behind &coupon=
    If someone has a good alternative that sounds good and is free or acceptable one time fee I would like to know 🙂
    Have a nice day and stay safe

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      The code (removed) was just the affiliate link. They have a lot of affiliates. Speeechelo don’t make their money from the ‘buy while it lasts’ promotional offer, but from the fees attached to the full version, which seems to be a hard sell once they have you on their books.

      Some people seem to like the products, more have reservations. I suspect Google will one day offer free and high quality TTS, but as it standards, Amazon’s seems to be one of the best, and is usage based, so you just pay for what you need, no more.

  5. whitehot
    Anonymous says:

    Good article.
    Second the red flags coming up re. their cheesy marketing campaign.
    Base software for 1 shot $37 fee looks like a reasonable deal and appears to work fine in our tests so far.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I really agree with you, their marketing strategy just pushes the limits. I signed up and within the first 24 hours I got 9 emails, about userstories, webinars, all off course promting me to go pro. Anyways I tried it out. It was easy to hear that these voices was not real. I do not understand thoose who say they are close – they are not, or maybe my hearing is just to use to real quality voice-overs and therefor to fine-tuned. So, I asked for my money back, again, and again, and again … anyways now it has been nearly three weeks and I am still waiting – it is matter of principle. And I will keep on sharing about my experience everywhere I meet one of their commercials or posts. I can’t belive that I jumped on that train – their website pretty much says it all.

  7. fscheps – Switzerland
    fscheps says:

    Thank you for such an extended investigation on Speechlo, It also caught my attention their excessive marketing tactics which made me really doubt about them. Until I found your review and confirmed my suspicion. I also started to feel this is an Amazon Polly or a Google Text to Speech front end which in the end I would prefer to set it up on my own and pay for what I use from one of the market leaders. YouTube is also filled with referrals saying they are doing an honest review and obviously they are biased.

    I contacted them to check their way of responding to questions, here you have some of them:

    —————————–
    Hello Fernando,

    And buying these two would give me lifetime access to unlimited usage without any restrictions?
    YES

    How many natural voices, the real ones that sound like a human beings and in which languages?
    All are natural
    —————————–

    As you can see from the above, they claim not to have restrictions, but then when I found your screenshots and comments about the 500.000 restriction per month, I challenged them and only then they replied:

    ——————————
    Hello Fernando,

    I am sorry about this. Speechelo has no direct limits, but if you generate more than half a million characters in a 30 day period, our system will block you. This is based on our fair use policy, to keep Speechelo affordable and working for everybody.
    You can read more about our Fair Use Policy in our Terms Of Service:
    https://speechelo.com/terms-conditions/

    So that means that you can use about 16.000 characters/day with no problems.
    But if you use half a million characters in 1 day, you will need to wait 29 days for it to reset.
    If you use them in 20 days, then you need to wait 10 days and so on.

    Please try to not generate the same text multiple times.
    If you generate a long text, it’s better to split it in multiple sentences, and then merge them all together using the merge feature.

    To help keep our service working for everybody, please try to limit the number of text you generate in a short time.
    ALL our products comes with 30 or more day money back guarantee.
    Why not check it out and see if it works for you?
    —————————–

    When I asked them why they didn’t mention any of the restrictions when I specifically asked them if there were any, they said:

    Hello Fernando,
    Sorry about the confusion

    Finally to close this comment and to make it visible to anyone searching for the information, when I contacted them these were the prices they shared with me for the lifetime product they offer:

    Hello Fernando,
    You need STANDARD ONE TIME USD 37
    https://speechelo.com/founders-offer/
    and
    PRO USD127 one time fee
    https://speechelo.com/get-speechelo-pro-onetime

    So apparently because you approach them directly the commissions to the referrals are saved and they reduce a but the cost to you.

    I remember seeing some other product many years back with this same tactic, a website very commercial, fully loaded of graphics and that was quite suspicious.

    I do not like this abusive marketing tactics, so I will not be buying it, but will test Google or Amazon services.

    Thank you!

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      Aye, this type of tactic is commonly for commission-driven multi-level marketing (MLM).

      Some years back I wrote about what I saw as a similar problem with apps and such for Twitter. Affiliate based scamming. One guy in particular was setting up hundreds, possibly thousands of accounts and corresponding sites to push a commission based product. Interestingly, he used some of them to push an obvious scam and then pointed to these (his own sites) to say, “My product is the real deal, don’t be ripped off by people like him.” It was a confidence trick.

      https://ackadia.com/computing/twittertraffic-affiliate-spammer-johngoogle-et-al/

  8. Rami Honig says:

    Thank you for this post. It confirmed what I suspected for myself as soon as I started to use this flaky application. Definitely ticked that first “Sod it” box you mentioned in my case. All those glowing reviews from affiliates put a fog on the real situation and it’s my own fault for not Googling “Speechelo reviews” before plonking down $37 (Sod it).
    I will be checking other TTS machines that you graciously point us to in one of the other comments.
    May the powers that be give you the energy to continue with these reviews since they are really helpful.

  9. Anonymous says:

    it’s basically a front end for amazon/microsoft/google’s voice services all wrapped up. what a nice job for ease of use!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wow thanks… I’m researching for text to speech, speechlo one them. I want my language sample, but they want me to purchase since there are 30 days money back guarantee. I don’t want to enter the trap and cannot get refund :D. But this review makes me sure speechlo is not what I need. So thanks.

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      Some of the voices on Speechelo seem better than other, some – like the British one – are dire, but that fact they won’t offer a trial version is a teller.

      I did look into it a lot at the time as it sounds great and indeed some of the reviews are impressive. However, saying a product is awesome and following it by “get it now via my affiliate link below” well, they would say that, wouldn’t they.

      There are hidden limits too, but they don’t mention those. I remember the first text to speech some 40 years ago, things have moved on a lot since then, but they still need work. By 2025 they should have it nailed to the point it’s genuinely (almost) indistinguishable from a human voice. Until, Amazon seems the best I’ve found in terms of quality and value, through free versions pop up form time to time.

      Not tried these yet, but Google have one as an app – Google Text-to-Speech

      TechRadar recently did a review too ( Best text-to-speech software of 2021: Free, paid and online voice recognition apps ) Amazon is on top, Speechelo never made the list.

      In the free one’s listed by TechRadar, Balabolko came top.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yep. Thank you for this review.

  12. omar says:

    Thank you for saving me. So many fishy affiliates which reminded me of all the scares of pumping out VPN resales.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Speechelo is actually reselling Amazon Polly. The voices are exactly the same. Incidentally the voices were originally from the Ivona Text to Speech software, which Amazon acquired and converted to a pay as you use model which they renamed Polly.

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      I’ve heard a few people say that, and would make sense given their apparently undisclosed caps. Code a new front end (the Speechelo ‘app’), push it through Polly as an AWS – Amazon make money, they make money, the affiliates make money and some of the users are happy, for the most part. It’s Internet so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, but there are people who ‘say’ they have used both and prefer Speechelo. Could be true, could be a case of “I’m paying so much a quarter for this I’ll convince myself I like it”.

      The only caveat I have here is the lack of firm evidence and citations. So, lawyers might advise rewording “Speechelo is ‘actually’ reselling Amazon Polly” to something like “Speechelo is allegedly reselling Amazon Polly”.

      I used to work in a potato chip factory and with a reel change the own brand because Sainsbury’s or Asda’s label, not illegal as long as all parties are aware and signed up for it. I imagine that a company the size (and greed) of Amazon would be aware of someone reselling their services. The fact Speechelo won’t allow trials of the ‘software’ does support the idea that it’s actually Polly, so the question to consider here would be ‘do you like the Speechelo front end enough to pay a premium for it?’

      Plus, there are free text to speech apps, and the output quality of all TTS is improving year-on-year, so it pays to look around.

  14. Chris Lazos
    Chris says:

    Hello there,

    I was thinking of buying the non-pro version to create short messages (for my phone system) in English-British.
    I understand you mentioned that the quality of this particular voice is not good.
    Could you be so kind to create a short message sample (2-3 sentences) which might help me (and possibly others) to see the problem you’re mentioning?
    Very much appreciated if you can!

    Thank you
    Chris

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      As I said in the article, I was reviewing their marketing, rather than the actual product, because the latter case is far more complicated.

      Part of it is sociolinguistics, but mostly it’s dialectology. Over distance, slang, intonation, vocabulary change. This is affected by mobility. In America, for instance, it’s a lot more common to move a thousand miles for a new career, in the UK it’s more common to live within a mile or so of where you were raised, and your grandparents, and so forth, back generations. A generalisation, but close enough to fact.

      For instance, as I mentioned, it’s similar with Speechelo’s ‘Dutch’. It’s not Dutch, it’s Flemish. And again with the ‘Spanish’ – they say it’s “Spanish”, but not whether it is Castillian (to be assumed) or Catalonian.

      Also South American Spanish is not the same as European Spanish, just as Algerian French is different from Parisian French, and different again from Canadian French, as spoken in say Quebec. Linguistically then, it appears, they are rather ignorant, or uncaring, which is rather strange given the nature of their product. They will tell you if ask, but the marketing makes little to no effort to distinguish.

      Amazon’s Polly also sounds mechanical to me, so until the technology advances another few steps, it’s a case of what you consider acceptable, while trying to understand that what you hear, and how you hear it, depends entirely on your own first language, your childhood dialect, and how many other languages (if any) you speak. Plus a number of other factors (e.g whether you have musical training, the quality of the creation software they used, the hardware they used, the hardware you use to listen).

      I read a great academic paper on the subject a few years back, relating to linguistic tones. In the most basic sense, a Chinese baby, learning Mandarin, will have the ‘language’ hard-wired. To clarify, this is the linguistic and acoustic nuances, intonations, breaks and glottal differences, as opposed to the vocabulary and sentence structure, which comes later. Thus western person trying to learn the language, having been primarily been hard-wired to English or French, has an inordinately hard time learning Chinese, and visa-versa.

      (Hardwiring here refers to neurospasticity and not a culturally or genetically innate factor. An orphan child of Chinese parents, raised in London by English foster parents would have the same struggle to learn Mandarin as any other European.
      The argument for natural linguistic abilities is a separate matter, noting that musicians are better at learning languages because they trained themselves to pay close attention to sound patterns.).

      For instance, I have studied several languages to varying degrees (and forgotten most), and I know I can pick up romance languages easily, and Russian and Arabic with effort, but really struggle with Germanic and Dutch accents. If I watch foreign films, while I can’t understand them, I can pick out individual words in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Farsi, etc, but German, it’s too guttural, too harsh. Yet German is supposed to be one of the easier languages for Westerners to learn, so there are other factors too.

      Anyway, for me, if I had the time to and need for the product, the American male (Billy) would suffice, but the British voice – Arthur – is intolerable.

      As I said in the post, there are some voice samples on Speechlo’s home page, and if these are their best, their best is not nearly good enough!

      This guy – obviously an affiliate – offers samples on youtube: How to Howdy

      The next one is better again, and a much better insight to the product:

      VidSociety

      Another interesting video, this time from Ken Furukawa (yet another affiliate), points out the ‘obvious’:
      “A human voice can show inflection and emphasis, where an autogenerated voice simply can’t”.

      This is the difference that matters in learning languages, and how authentic (or not) the generated speech is. It’s also why the claim of “100% human-sounding” is a lie.

      If you played Arthur to 100 Brits from Chelsea or the East-end of London, claiming it was “undetectable” all 100 would probably laugh at you (You ‘aving a laugh?). If you played it to 100 Americans from NYC, some, perhaps many would think it was a “cool British accent – so your target audience should actually dictate which voice you use, and that can only be done with market testing.

      If Speechelo wanted to give me a trial I’d have a play, give a better, product focused review, but it would still be based on how *I* hear (audibly process) the results, which is not going to be quite the same as others.

      To give a better analogy, perhaps, ‘these’ earphones were free with a £1 phone, while these Bose QuietComfort® 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling™ headphones cost £250 on their own. The same wave file will sound completely different. Different manufacturing, you see. Or the same earphones from an iPhone verses an equivalent Android-based phone will each sound different to discerning ears.

      One last one, as these guy offers various languages too: ImminentBusiness

      Sophia, the British female is also dire. Not as bad as Arthur, but they clearly have made little to no effort to ask British folk how their authentic their translations are – or rather are not.

  15. Hi, I wish I read your article earlier on, because I’m one of the idiots who decided to use their product, even ordered the pro version and then I also entered the 500,000 word cap abuse notice you mentioned in your article. I also discovered it’s indeed a white label version of Amazon’s Polly. I used PayPal and ended the pro subscription so they cannot charge me quarterly. All I wanted was to create audio books. I use the American voices because they sound OK, not great, but good enough. I enhanced the poor 11khz output with CoolEdit Pro.

    • Ack – UK – Been in and and around computers and online since the stone age!
      Ack says:

      I would not say you are an ‘idiot’ at all, you bought the product in good faith, if it did what they ‘claim’, you would be satisfied, but their claims vary between obfuscation and misdirection to outright lies. That claim a full refund if you are not satisfied, so you should be able to get your money back. Also, if/as they hid the details of the cap, claiming it was unlimited, you should be easily able to get the ‘pro’ subscription refunded from Paypal as well due to false advertising. If enough people do they, they will either go bust, or change their sharp practices.

      I’ve not researched this area as much as I’d like, but there are a number of free text to speech products available, one of which might be adequate, but at least would give you a better feel for the market, similary with such products that offer trials (it is telling the Speechelo won’t offer a trial.

      Can’t speech for the quality of Amazon’s Polly, but it looks interesting, and if their pricing structure has no hidden extras, would allow you to convert add entire audio book for under a tenner (depending on word counts)

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