In this paper we investigate external phone duration models (PDMs) for improving the quality of synthetic speech in hidden Markov model (HMM)-based speech synthesis. Support Vector Regression (SVR) and Multilayer Perceptron (MLP) were used for this task. SVR and MLP PDMs were compared with the explicit duration modelling of hidden semi-Markov models (HSMMs). Experiments done on an American English database showed the SVR outperforming the MLP and HSMM duration modelling on objective and subjective evaluation. In the objective test, SVR managed to outperform MLP and HSMM models achieving 15.3% and 25.09% relative improvement in terms of root mean square error (RMSE) respectively. Moreover, in the subjective evaluation test, on synthesized speech, the SVR model was preferred over the MLP and HSMMmodels, achieving a preference score of 35.93% and 56.30%, respectively.