I have used a number of text-to-speech (TTS) readers. Each year brought incremental improvements but there was always some limitation that kept me from being enthusiastic about them. Does Voice Dream Reader break away from this tradition? Read on to find out.
Voice Dream Reader ($9.99) is a TTS reader that can render plain text files as well as text parsed from web pages. It also has a simple built-in text editor that can be used to assemble and edit text opened or pasted from a variety of sources. The application comes with a single commercial female voice called Heather from text-to-speech, and it's an excellent choice. While still slightly robotic at times, the voice is one of the more convincing human-sounding TTS choices available for the mobile end-consumer market.
Voice Dream Reader outshines most of the other TTS readers I’ve tried on any mobile platform in a number of ways. First, the program does an excellent job of saving its place when you pause playback, and naturally re-reads the sentence it was paused at when playback begins again. Second, Voice Dream Reader has been able to play back and keep track of enormous text files without issue. Third, the flexible on-screen highlighting maintains perfect synchronization with the TTS rendering. And fourth, Voice Dream Reader can import text files from a variety of local and cloud-based sources such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
In addition to the commercial Acapela-licensed Heather voice that is included with the program, Voice Dream Reader offers in-app purchases for many other voices from a number of other well-known TTS providers such as Ivona, NeoSpeech, and Nuance. The in-app purchase interface provides a playback sample to help determine which voice sounds the best. With over 150 voices available in a number of different languages, purchasing the entire available in-app inventory would cost close to six hundred dollars. The program can also use the iPhone or iPad’s built-in TTS voices as well, providing a great variety for listeners to choose from.
Using the application is as intuitive as using a music app. Simply load up the document you’re interested in having read to you and press the play icon. You can skip 30 seconds back and forward, and Voice Dream Reader smartly knows to start at the beginning of a sentence instead of strictly adhering to a 30 second start/stop rule. In addition, you can skip all the way to the beginning or to the end of a file or chapter. Speaking of which, Voice Dream Reader can render all types of text-based material, not just plain text files. This includes DRM-free PDF’s and EPUB formats as well as HTML, RTF, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Keynote, and several other file formats.
One file import option that I missed and would like to see in a future update is a built-in web server that would allow me to upload files via a web interface on a local network. It does support iTunes syncing over Wi-Fi, but that’s only applicable in a local area network scenario. Still, given the variety of content source support from Dropbox and Google Drive to services like Evernote, Instapaper, and Pocket, obtaining files from external sources is still fairly easy to do.
Overall, I am very impressed with what Voice Dream Reader delivers. This is not a cheap TTS plain text file reader, but a polished text-to-speech player that offers a high-quality, beautifully realized reading and listening experience. If you are a consumer of vast text-based content who is always on the go or just want to expand your listening library beyond music and podcasts, Voice Dream Reader is a dream come true.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars