After setting up my Asterisk@Home server and do all the configuring to get all lines and extensions up and running, it was time for recording the Digital Receptionist messages. My first stab at it wasn’t that great, let’s face it, I’m no voice-over announcer. I wanted a little more professionally sounding recording. So I started to search the net for a way to do it, and I think I found a pretty good solution.
Using Text To Speech For The Menus In Asterisk
Update: If you’re using Mac OS, these voices are included in the system.
There’s a text-to-speech software from a company called Scansoft that is amazing. They also have a demo so you can try it out. If you choose RealSpeak Telecom, you get examples that are 8 kHz WAV files, just what Asterisk wants. You can only write up to 100 characters in the demo, but I’ll show you how to download and stitch together the demo files to get a more extended message that’s usable. There’s a lot of different languages to choose from, but these two are the best sounding English ones.
- English Australian – Lee
- English Brittish – Daniel
I live in Sweden, so I have used the Swedish voice. It’s not as good as the English voices (especially the Brittish), but it’s good enough.
So when you’ve chosen the language and the voice you like, enter the text you want to use for your Digital Reception message. You can only insert 100 characters at a time. When the demo voice loads in your browser, listen to see if you like the result. If it sounds terrible, try to rephrase using other words instead, and try again. When you get the result you desire, copy the URL from the resulting page and download the file to your computer. On a Linux or Macintosh computer, the easiest way to do it is to open a terminal window and write:
curl -O http://url_of_demo_file
You should now have a .wav file in your home directory.
There probably is an easy way to do this in Windows, but I don’t do Windows. You could try this. But I haven’t tried it.
Repeat the above steps until you have all the speech you need for your voice menu.
Now open the first file you have downloaded with a sound editing program. I would recommend Audacity, an Open Source sound editor, downloadable free for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows.
When you have installed your audio editor, open the first sound file that you saved earlier.
Now it’s time to combine all the sound files you have saved, so open the next sound file. Then choose “Select All” under the Edit-menu.
All the audio is selected, and it’s time to copy it. Select “Copy” from the Edit-menu.
Close the window. You should now see the first sound file you opened. So now let’s move the cursor to the end so we can paste in the sound we copied earlier to the end of this one. Choose “Move Cursor… To track end” under the Edit-menu. Now choose “Paste” from the Edit menu. The copied sound should now be in the first document.
Continue to open the next document, select all, close, move the cursor to the end and paste in with all the other files you saved. Now you have a complete audio file to use for your voice menu.
Check to see if you need to change the sampling rate of the document. Down in the left bottom corner of the file you should see the project rate. Make sure it’s 8000, otherwise change it.
Now, we’re ready to save the completed audio file. Select “Export As WAV…” from the File menu.
Select an appropriate name for the file and save it.
So let’s create a Digital Receptionist in Asterisk@Home.
Open your web browser and navigate to your Asterisk server. Go to the Asterisk Management Portal and select Setup.
Select Digital Receptionist. Click on “Create a new Voice Menu.” You’re now going to get a question on which extension you have. Ignore this, because we don’t need to record a message, we have the new one we just created. Just click on Continue.
You should now have the Record Menu on your screen. Here you can dial *77 to record a message, but you also have the choice to upload your file. And that’s what we’ll do. Press the “Choose file” button. Select the combined sound file you created earlier. Now press the Upload button. Note to Safari users. Sometimes there’s a problem uploading files. Download Google Chrome and use that instead.
You should now be able to dial *99 to listen to your uploaded voice menu. If everything sounds good, give the list a name and enter a description of the menu. Press the Continue when done.
Now you need to enter the number of options in your voice menu. I’ve set up my list so people can leave a voicemail to all our four family members, so in my case, it’s four. Press continue.
Now you have to describe which phone keys do what. Select your choices and press Continue.
You now have a new Digital Receptionist to use.
This isn’t brain surgery, but not everyone has used a sound editor, so maybe this helps someone.
Next step, check if there is a possibility to use Scansofts RealSpeak together with Asterisk. Think about the opportunities.