The great debate, HQ voices versus compact voices

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Hi. There've been some rather spirited discussions on twitter and other social networks concerning people's use of the compact voices in iOS 5 verses the hq voices. I've heard lots of reports that people have have had loads of issues with VO crashing while using the compact voices, whereas my experience has been that while using the HQ voices I've had almost no issues at all. I've had my iPod touch for a couple months now and the only problem I had with VO crashing was due to operator error. With these folks the speed of the voice seems to be a major issue. A lot of these folks need the voice to go as fast as possible, and they seem to think that using the HQ voices is not as pleasant to the ear...i've heard people say that Samantha sounds like a librarian that's about to slap your wrist if you make a wrong move. I guess it's a preference thing and theirs really no right or wrong answer, but i'd like to see if other people feel this same way. Remember i'm posting this purely to get people's ideas and thoughts, it's not an atempt to start any arguments. I, personally prefer the hq voices because they ssound very life-like and are more pleasant to listen to. But from what i'm seing I feel like I might be in the minority. I usually am and it's ok. So, what say you, which do you prefer? Compact or hq? and if you can say why that'd be even better.



Submitted by AnonyMouse on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
Well, I prefer the HQ myself. I to like the clearer and higher quality voice. It sounds better and more understanable to me. As a recent of becoming blind I do wonder if that comes in play at all? So for say those that have been blind from birth or a long time do they prefer HQ or the Compact voice? Not sure if that make any difference either? I can't stand Samantha in compact because it sounds like she had way to many cigarettes and is very raspy. Many have told me they prefer the Karen voice. Not sure in the HQ or Compact mode though. So HQ is for me.

Submitted by Amir on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by AnonyMouse

Well, as far as Samantha (the American English voice) is concerned, the Compact version is, IMHO, head and shoulders above its HQ counterpart. I'm using an iPhone 4S, but have never been able to come to terms with the oddities of the HQ Samantha voice. It's true that it provides slightly improved pronunciations, but that's very much all about it. It's got some shocking intonation and stress problems and also tends to crackle a lot.

Submitted by Toonhead on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In reply to by Amir

I talked to another friend of mine who has an iPhone 4 and she says that Samantha does tend to be a bit crackly, which i've never heard but you have to remember i'm using an iPod touch 4g, so things might be very different on each device. I've also tried the Karen voice and in compact mode she's a bit easier on the ear but I always go back to the Samantha voice, probably because it's what my ear has gotten used to. Like I say this is a real preference thing. Do you guys listen to speech at a particularly fast rate? I usually keep Samantha at about 60 percent, which admittedly is a lot slower than some other folks but I'm very used to keeping my speech at what I like to call a conversational level. I like to keep it at a speed that the average person talks at, again this is just what my ears have gotten used to. Interesting thoughts guys.

Same for me. I use Samantha at 60%. I would say a majority of people probably use it much faster. My brain can't seem to process her at any faster rate! ;)

Submitted by Derrick on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I tend to lean on the hq voices because I just plane thinks she sounds a lot better. The compact voice samantha sounds like she's got a head cold or something I keep my speed at about 90 although this may change because on some of her words on the hq side I can't come close to tell what she's saying at times.

Submitted by synthesizer101 on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I use the compact voice for two main reasons: 1. The HQ voice sounds terrible to me. I think it varries too much in pitch, and it sounds all quirky. The australian accent sounds weird to me, so I don't use that. Brittish is OK, but I'll stay with American. Maybe, they'll put the indian Sangeeta voice in the system. I'm not Indian, but whatever, I still like the accent. I use the fastest speed, and the HQ voice breaks up at that speed. Really bad the higher the speed goes. 2. system performance. I should be fine, seeing as I have the iPhone 4s, but I still like to keep things down because of times, using a friends iPhone 3gs to test before I got my own, when voiceOver would crack up and become irresponsive. That was really annoying, and more likely for people who use the larger HQ voices.

I really, really, really do not like the HQ voices! I thought I might like HQ Karen, but after hearing it on a podcast, I was dissatisfied with it, just as I was very dissatisfied with HQ Samantha. They both have weird intonation (I'm not sure if that's the word to use here), issues. Sort of like the voice was having a weird vibrato issue or something. I don't know any other way to describe it, other than shaky and disjointed. It's like HQ Samantha is pronouncing words as more than one word. I hope this makes some kind of sense. I also don't like compact Samantha for the very reason that she's got this weird breathy quality behind the voice--like a little air was flowing in someone's throat when they spoke. Also, compact Samantha is sort of raspy. Shersey

Submitted by Robin Christopherson on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In reply to by Shersey

I'm in the UK and have tried the UK HQ voice. I've also followed the instructions on this site in order to load the HQ voices for US and Australian English and just keep coming back to the compact Australian voice of Karen. To me her pronunciation is the best of the lot, and her sound quality the best (i.e. least fuzzy of the compact voices). There is a definite pronunciation problem with simple words with the higher quality voices (with UK HQ voice for example I had to spell out 'radio' as it was pronounced so strangely) and there is also a noticeable reduction in responsiveness (i.e. a gap before an item is spoken). Also I can't speed up the voice much past 70% before I have difficulty understanding HQ voices, whereas compact Karen is clearly understandable on 100% (and even my wife and kids who are sighted can understand her fine at that speed so she must be pretty intelligible). I do wonder sometimes, however, about system resources. You would think that turning off the HQ voice would free up some RAM, but then the HQ voice may well be loaded into memory at all times anyway as it kicks in when using Siri with VoiceOver unloaded so it would appear to be installed/active by default. Of course it is entirely a case of personal preference and many of you may have a very different idea of what sounds good to you. BTW one last point is that the synth that ships with Vokul (a breathtakingly wonderful app that I'm hoping will help my paralysed sister access a wide range of media) is in my opinion by far the best synth around. It's female and I think by Neospeech, but someone I'm sure knows for certain.

Submitted by Kevan on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In reply to by Robin Christopherson

I use compact Samantha most of the time, HQ samantha just sounds like she's an angry old witch under water, LOL. Speech at 100% and it's still slow. When I do use an HQ voice it's HQ Daniel, he's very realistic, and he doesn't sound like an angry guy.

Submitted by Katie P on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hi! I prefer the HQ voices, because to me the compact voices sounds as though the reader is holding a hand over his/her face while reading.This is very distracting to me. With that said, however, if I had to use a compact voice for any reason I'd pick Karen. With my iPad I have not yet figured out how to load her in HQ form to see just how that sounds. Also, I can't help but wonder if the iPad speaker plays a role in how I am hearing the overall quality of the voices? Last Summer when I borrowed my sister's iPod touch, before IOS 5 came out, I don't recall having such a strong avertion to the compact voice at all. For what ever it is worth, there is my oppinion. :)

Submitted by Borostar on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In reply to by Katie P

Hi. I'm in the Uk and I prefer to use the Daniel voice as I find it to be very crisp and clear. It's a joy to listen to this voice when out and about. I have this voice on HQ as the compact setting makes the voice sound all croky as if Daniel has crawled out of bed.

Submitted by DPinWI on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When the HQ voices came out, I liked the upgrade immediately. In the past, when i've read of others' disdain for the HQ voices, I've tried going back to compact. I don't like them nearly as much. It's that raspy shooshing sound that gets me. On my 4g TouchI run the speech at 80.

Submitted by ming on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

hi all, I also prefur the HQ voice. it very clear and understandable.

Submitted by ming on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In reply to by ming

hi again. I hope the coming IOS 6 can have all the voice in hq instat . of only just have the default voice in hq. I hope the coming voice over In IOS 6 w

Submitted by Piotr Machacz on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I'm about to say may be rather interesting to people, I'm hoping to write a guide about this soon. Back when I wasn't jailbroken I stuck to compact Karen on iOS 5, and serena on iOS 4. What I liked about compact Serena was that she brieved a lot. She was replaced with Daniel on iOS5, I used him i HQ for a while, but then switched to Karen because Daniel totally doesn't work for book reading. Then the Vocalizer NVDA driver came out, and some friends of mine got bored and figured out a way to replace the voice data. As a result, now, I've replaced Daniel with Compact Serena, as well as Moira, the irish voice, with HQ Lee, who became my primary. Over all though, I think weather HQ or Standard is better depends on the voice. Karen sounds better as compact IMO, on the other hand, Daniel and samantha sound better as HQ.

Hi. I didn't see a way of getting HQ lee to work, at least on the iPod touch 4g. the only Aussy voice I could get is Karen, which I certainly don't mind but I did wonder about Lee. Is there a way to use Lee in some way in IOS 5.1?

Submitted by Kira McCall on Sunday, October 14, 2012

I prefer the HQ voices because they are more pleasant to listen to than the compact. I agree with you that it's a personal preference thing, but, at least for me, the HQ voices provide relief from other screen readers that have much more robotic voices. I have listened to many different kinds of screen reader voices, and the HQ voices both in the Mac OS and IOS are definitely the best I've heard. Many screen reader companies claim to provide human-sounding voices, but Apple seems to be the only one that delivers, and they don't even make that claim. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to go for the company that doesn't make the claim. I say listen to what your ears are telling you, and go for that preference. I just happen to prefer the HQ voices. Kira

Submitted by Daniel on Friday, October 18, 2013

In reply to by Kira McCall

Well I don't have my speach rate all the way up and beyond the 50% mark. My admiration for those who can do this! For me though, its compact Daniel all the way or at least it was in IOS6 now, in ios7 he's gotten worse. I am a hearing in pared user (where two hearing aids) and have been since birth but if anyone can explain why in the world he's degraded in quality? Now I have to try the HQ voice and I'm worried that I won't understand him as much. As is the case I keep trying HQ for him but its not happening. I always end up going back to the compact voice for clarity in ios6 and to me he pronounces words more understandably where as the HQ is more croaky, pitch goes up and down when reading I don't mean that high pitch sound more of it doesn't seem to flow and sound natural to my ear. Not able to use any of the other english voices compact or otherwise because I might be the only one but find them all to be horrible, hard to understand etc. Really wanted to upgrade to ios7 but compact Daniel is worse for me and I hope they bring it back to what it was in ios6 or at least better sounding than at present. How do others feel about UK compact Daniel in IOS7? Fortunatly, I didn't upgrade but man I still want too! Its just the compact voice holding me back. grrr.

Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, October 30, 2015

I just came upon this thread while doing another search on here. I guess it only goes to show just how much great info is to be had here on AppleVis! Anyway, it appears that in El Capitan, both Compact and HQ voices are of very good quality. Curiosity once again got the best of me, so I played each voice sample in the VO Utility. But prior to today I preferred the HQ voices. Regarding speech rate, I generally prefer to keep mine at a conversational level. Pitch and intonation are somewhat a different story though. I like to vary those a lot. It would be awesome to have a breathiness setting as well.

Submitted by Ekaj on Sunday, November 1, 2015

I can't agree with you more. I really like Alex. I wonder how they got him to breathe. Apple's website says they gave him "human lung capacity," but I guess other than that it's a company secret. I was talking with a life-skills tutor here who works with a sister of mine, and they really like Alex as well. This tutor said that she thinks he's even better than Eloquence. I would honestly have to agree there also, even though I like Eloquence a lot.

Submitted by Justin on Sunday, November 1, 2015

Definitely agree on both points Jake. I, Too, keep my speech rate at conversational levels, I can't stand speech so fast where it just sounds like gibberish, sorry to those who like it fast! Alex is great, however I also use the InfoVox IVox acapella voices, especially the happy ones!

Submitted by Maria Reyes on Sunday, November 8, 2015

I would personally stick to Alex, but i sometimes use HQ Samantha.