Speechelo: a scam or a great deal?
Speechelo makes bold claims, does it deliver?
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.
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.
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!
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:
And here’s what the official site says:
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.
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’:
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.
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.
Another, is less obvious, but it’s this:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
(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.
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:
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.
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.
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