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I might not think Siri is all that and a bag of chips, but I've got to hand it to Apple for one thing: it sounds good. Listening to the articulate, smooth-talking Siri, I couldn't help but think how archaic Android's own text-to-speech sounded. Compare Android's voice to Siri and you're left with the inevitable comparison to the Speak and Spell.

During one of my stints in the Android Central podcast chat, a reader suggested I give the SVOX Classic TTS Engine a shot, and boy, am I glad I did. Now the text-to-speech on Android is more than tolerable, and that's saying something.

When you install SVOX, you can't really do much in terms of text-to-speech. What you can do, however, is browse more than 25 languages, and once you've chosen a language, see the available voice packs for that language. Languages are sorted by a country's flag at the top of the screen, and you can move from flag-to-flag by swiping left and right.

Once you've decided on your language, you'll see the available language packs for that language. They're all given a human name, which is helpful to give you an idea of gender, at the very least. US English has five voices to choose from, although three seem to be more "for fun" and less "for actual use."

If you tap on any voice, you can listen to a sample of the voice, go straight to the Market to buy the voice pack, or get a free trial of the voice. The free trial lasts two weeks, so there's plenty of time to get acquainted with a voice before you pull the trigger and buy it.

Once you've purchased a voice, it'll show up in your app drawer as a separate app. Opening this app gives you controls over that particular voice, so you can set things like the device volume, text-to-speech volume, speed, and pitch.

More importantly, though, is the text field where you can listen to the voice say particular phrases. You can save phrases (maybe to show to friends later) and you can also share the voice through a variety of methods as well as force different pronounciations on things.

The last tidbit is probably one of the coolest features in SVOX, and if you spell something out phonetically in one voice, it shows up in all of the other voices, too. So if you've got a difficult-to-pronounce name (like my last name, apparently), you can try and find the best way to phonetically spell out the name or word you're thinking of, and SVOX will default to that pronounciation over it's standard way. Nifty.

Lastly, once you've got SVOX (and a voice pack) installed, you'll want to set it as the default TTS engine. This can be accomplished by venturing into your settings menu, poking around in Voice input and output, hitting Text-to-speech settings, and selecting SVOX Classic TTS from the Default Engine menu. Do that and voila, you've just brought your phone's text-to-speech up to 11.

The only downside of SVOX's voice packs is that they're $2.99 a piece, but once you get used to hearing a voice that more closely resembles that of a human, you won't want to go back to anything else. SVOX itself is free, and hey, at least you can demo any of the voices for a full two weeks!

We've got more screenshots of the app and download links to SVOX, Grace, and Michael after the break.

Voice Packs: Grace, Michael

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Reader comments

Android App Review: SVOX Classic TTS Engine

28 Comments

I've used SVOX (with the US Grace voice) for several months and love it. It's much much better than the stock voice synthesis engine. Makes using the free turn-by-turn navigation much nicer.

I've been using SVOX for over a year, I use the UK Victoria voice, even though I'm in the US, I like her enunciation, and it's not all that british sounding, I use google navigation a lot, and the native text to speech is not tolerable after you've used svox for awhile, one of the first things I do after installing a new rom is set my default tts to svox.

Great app and it's well worth the $2.99 for a voice pack, and you really only need to buy one in most cases.

I live in the US too, and I purchased the UK Victoria voice. Sounds better than the default TTS voice.

Interesting. I'd read that navigation required the voice to have the same region as the rest of the phone. I'll have to try the Victoria voice out.

This was a bit of a memory hog last time I tried it.
I finally had to uninstall it from my memory challenged nexus one.

If you use the phone for turn by turn navigation a lot it would definitely be worth it. Otherwise it just takes up space.

It's a huge improvement. I've been using for about a month or so now, it makes the TTS applications so much more useful. Plus my phone sounds pretty sexy now with "Vicki"

UK Victoria is by far the best english-speaking voice. I use this with the speak-to-it assistant app, and voila, you pretty much have your own Siri on your android.

Loquendo TTS is a better app as far as voice quality. It does cost more though. If you are going to be using voice interaction frequently though I can see how a small investment of a few bucks would be worth a voice synthesizer that wasn't embarrassing to be heard in public.

Loquendo is nice. (I use the "Susan" voice.) It can laugh (giggle) when reading a smily and put inflections on the voice when reading punctuation. I have noticed that it doesn't quite handle contractions right. For example, it will say "doo int" instead of "don't". But the voice is very pleasant and clear otherwise.

I just bought Loquendo Susan a few days ago, and I've been really REALLY disappointed with how it handles the Navigation app (which is 95% of my TTS use).

Since you bought the app, pull up the LTTS Demo, and have Susan say "52nd Street". She'll say "Fifty-second Street-reet". Mispronouncing the word "Street" is pretty unforgivable (and annoying) for TTS in a GPS app.

Love SVOX! I have Victoria on my Tablet and "Dark Lord" on my Evo. I have tasker set to read off certain announcements. For example, when I get home, and the home profile activates, the dark lord on my evo says "Welcome Home, Jay" automatically. He also reminds me when it's time to go to bed. If I'm listening to music on my headphones and a text comes in, tasker is set to read the text to me using Dark Lord's voice. Sometimes that is just plain hilarious.
In the morning I have time between the gym and work, so I hang out in the little lounge at my gym and read on my tablet. When it's time for me to go, Victoria says "excuse me, don't you have somewhere to be right now?"

I should warn you that there's a bit of a STEEP learning curve. It's a powerhouse of automation, if you have the time to learn how to do it all. Luckily they have lots of documentation, a wiki, and I believe some forums. You can also download sample profiles to tweak. Lifehacker.com has tons of instructions as well.

I use the UK Oliver voice, the US Michael one slurs too many words and is hard to hear in a loud environment.

Make sure to set it to override language in the text to speech otherwise it'll keep flipping from the UK voice to the US one (assuming you're in the US).

The UK-Victoria voice is an amazing improvement over the default voice for GPS. I'm sold!

Now if they'd only manage to contract the voice talent of the original female onboard computer voice in Mechwarrior 2... :)

IVONA is free trial until Nov 15 for now. I'm currently using it and I think it is better than an already amazing SVOX. Problem with IVONA is that you have to download at 200MB+ file to your SD card.

IVONA TTS has the best voice pack quality hands down. Unfortunately, like many other, the file size is incredibly large. Also, it runs excruciatingly slow (if at all) on my dying MotoDroid.

Any recommendations for a voice app that works well with a bluetooth headset?

I've tried several of these voice apps, but all fall short when using a bluetooth headset. Here in California we legally have to use one when driving (plus, I listen to a lot of podcasts).

SVOX works so well !
I use it with the greatest alarm app ever : WakeVoice, and it's perfect for the morning :)

Guys Please Do Some Research For TTS By Far Loquendo susan is the best and Iris Sucks because it is early development stage. iF you want something that studies everything you say and respond back to you try "voice Action" on the app market its free and very intelligent it was out before siri it remembers your birth your name ect. and then add tts sunsan and will fall in love lol