I return yet again with another review, from the depths of the future. Posts on this site have stayed rather sporadic, mainly as job changes led to various conflicts of interest and drew me away from writing projects.
Yet here we are. After having received a new piece of technology, I realized that resources on how it works and general tips or reviews are quite lacking. As this player is sold in multiple places and I have had a few people publicly ask about how I have enjoyed it, I figured throwing a review together on my thoughts is important. This is meant to both introduce the player as well as compare it to others that those who are vision impaired are familiar with. I doubt these are used much outside of the assistive technology space in general, as they lack a screen and the rest of the world is not as familiar with Daisy content consumption. I don’t think this detracts them to be used as such. In fact, for older adults, a player such as this one could also be useful as a way to keep up with newer forms of media, such as podcasts and internet radio. As they are only marketed in stores that cater to the blind, not many would come across it.
What is it and what does it look like?
With that train of thought started, let’s take a look at the player in general in terms of features. This may be the only photo on the review, but have it anyway straight from Vin-Vision’s product page.
The player was released first in late 2016. This makes it on-par in age to the second-generation stream, although somewhat newer in internal technology by 3 years or so. The stream probably has had smaller revisions since the first announcement of the second generation in 2013, but the point still stands. This player as also revised in 2018 with a newer FM Radio module. Other Daisy players such as the PlexTalk (which the last Bookport generation was based on) were made even earlier, around 2012. This is the second generation of these Evo players, as there was also the E5 prior to this one. Time will tell if a new Evo unit will be released, as the company is still very much active.
The player comes with either 8 or 16 Gigabytes of built-in memory. It has both a microphone port and one for headphones, along with a much older but quaintly familiar Mini-USB cable. Yes, that’s right, mini USB. This is the grandfather of type C, and it shows since you need a full five hours to charge the unit from dead to full. In practice, I’ve noticed that using a mini-USB with an extra Capacitor-bulb can get it to charge quicker, but I would be also careful of using these as the battery could get too hot by doing so. The included cable is short and does not have the extra bulb so be mindful that you would be using a higher-current cable which could fall outside of warranty. When plugged into a computer, you cannot use the player if files are viewed. If it’s charging (for example when using “safely remove hardware” in Windows or ejecting on Mac) the player does work as it charges. This is similar to the competition.
You will also receive a pair of headphones which use a similar style to that of Apple’s older EarPods. It has the same shoe-shape buds although slightly smaller in diameter, along with a volume control. In practice, I have found these more useful as even “volume 1” on the player can be quite loud on earphones where you cannot independently adjust the volume from the device you use. Although volume 1 is not loud, it’s a mid-range volume moreso on headphones than speakers.
You also have built-in Wi-fi, most likely 802.11N (connects through 5 gHZ here.) Internet radio (M3u, PLS) formats are supported, along with podcast feeds imported as an M3u file, but not OPML. This is important to know because if you export podcast feeds from your Victor reader, there’s no easy migration route currently to do so. You will manually have to go into the exported file and copy the titles + addresses of your podcasts into the M3u playlist creation tool provided on your player. In recent versions of the player software, you are able to use a tool called V-Tuner to look up podcasts and radio stations as well, making this a bit easier. This works similar to what is in the Victor: You can type in a search or browse by country / genre to find something specific.
From their site:
► Audio format supported: MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, APE, ACC, OGG, RA, M4A, etc
► File format supported: TXT, DOC/DOCX, HTM, HTML, EPUB, PDF, etc
► Video format supported: RM, RMVB, AVI, MP4, 3GP, MOV, WMV, FLV, MPG, MPEG, DAT, etc
You have an alarm clock, a basic calculator, voice memos, and even voice reminders. In this way, some of these tools make the player have use beyond playing content. The time can be synchronized through the internet, and you can even import Wi-fi passwords through a text file if you don’t feel like typing them. There’s also a compass built in, which you can calibrate and use when holding the player flat to get a sense of direction. All in all, some of these add more advanced features to a line-up not included in much of the competition. Perhaps if you got stranded on a deserted island, this would probably be your better option to take in that way.
Describing the player
Unlike the Victor Stream and Trek, the Evo E10 does not use a standard T9 keypad for entry. Instead, think of your more traditional NLS book reader button layout and shape, as it is quite similar. You know the player has correct orientation by making sure the smooth button (one with no tactile markings) is on the top left. This button is closer to the edge of the player than most others, and is direct opposite of the speaker grill which is at the bottom of the front face. The power button will feel smooth, almost like a button with glossy plastic over it. The record button is opposite from this at the top right edge, and it too sticks out. As it is significantly more raised (with a dot on the left corner of the button,) accidental presses of the record button are not uncommon. This is no different from the Victor Reader as it was also easy to press it on there with the button position on the side. This would be my first piece of feedback to the manufacturer: Add a setting for “disable record button,” a feature not present on the competition. The good news is that you do have a keyboard lock option, which can help from preventing this when you are listening to something.
The player is no bigger than a 4-inch iPhone, and weighs perhaps 4 to 5 ounces (around 100G). Very light, and with a 15 hour battery life, that’s not too shabby. The battery is built-in however, which is somewhat of a minus when compared to the competition. If the manufacturer goes out of business, replacement batteries could be impossible to come by. Take comfort in knowing that there are four screws in the back, should you want to void your warranty or take it in to check at a battery store. By the time you will need a new battery, hopefully at least two or so years would pass. This depends on the quality of what they include, so I’ll update this when my unit starts to have a major battery degradation.
Everything else is minimal around the sides. The top side has a standard SD card slot, while the headphone, microphone, and Mini-USB lie around the right side’s edge. The bottom holds a lanyard slot, as one is provided with the player. A case will also be included in-box, allowing you to attach the player to a belt loop, although not operate it while in the case.
Going through the button layout
Let us look beyond the power button. Power is good, but it’s not everything, fellow humans. Directly under the power button you will bump your finger into the left arrow. There’s a four-way d-pad (including a large enter key) which extends between the power and record buttons. Under this D-pad, you’ll find two additional buttons directly to the left and right of the down arrow key. These are the menu (left) and exit (right) keys.
Below this you’ll have a tactile line, similar to those on the NLS players. This line divides your controls. Under the line, there’s a group of six buttons, arranged in two rows of three columns. The first row includes volume and info buttons: Volume down, info, volume up. The last row houses hotkeys you can use to jump between assigned functions. By default, the first one on the left would be assigned to music, while the one in the middle the FM radio. The right-most button (on the bottom right corner before the speaker grill) is used for bookmark jump or to change keyboard entry mode.
And that’s pretty much it. It’s a simple design that lends itself to easy memorizing, and many of the buttons will slightly change function depending on the app you are in. For example, pressing the menu key in the FM radio opens up options to change the stepping mode, scan for stations or to manage presets. In the file manager, the menu key brings up the main menu, while hitting it twice shows you file operations. All in all, I have found this system well thought out.
Button presses that are handy to know of
Now that I’ve described the player and spent almost a thousand words on doing so, let’s really get into this thing. Oh wait. I can’t just yet. I have to tell you of some secret button combinations that can do special actions.
If the player ever freezes, you can try to hold the power button for 8-10 seconds (this is what the manual for the player recommends.) You can also hold the power and exit buttons for five seconds or so to force a complete “pull the plug” moment. I don’t recommend this at all, so only do it if the player is so frozen that you just can’t get it back no matter what you do.
Some less scary commands to know. For key lock, press the power and “music” (hotkey 1) buttons. So, button on top left, button on bottom left. Easy. You just press them together quickly and then release. Pressing the power and bookmark button (which is opposite of “music”) will reset all settings to the factory defaults, such as your voice rate. It will not erase wi-fi passwords, just change the buttons and functions to work like they did when you got it out of the box.
Your player should come with a TTS already installed. If it didn’t, there’s trouble. In the US, most distributers (if not all) are offering them with Ivona voices, specifically Salli and Joey. There’s a variant of the player which uses Vocalizer as the engine for US English, Susan and Tom. Changing voices is not easy or possible. These are built in to your player and updates don’t ever change your voice files, only the files needed to run your player’s functions. This makes updates small (< 2 Mb) and quite fast to apply.
Using the player
Connect to that Wifi!
The first thing you will probably want to do is connect to a network. Going into “network” from the main menu (the file manager and menu key), should announce “network” as the first option. Entering this gives you a toggle that you need to use the right arrow to switch on. Once you do so, wait a few seconds for the scan, and choose your network from the list. After this is done, you will be placed into the typing field.
This is where I got confused. I thought you arrow to a letter and hit enter to type it in. It works a little different from that.
- Right arrow enters a letter.
- Left arrow deletes a letter.
- Enter confirms typed entry.
- To change to a different set of letters, numbers, or symbols, use the bottom right bookmarks key.
Those four concepts should explain how it works fairly well. You can also modify the wifi_password file at the route of the internal storage and place the network name and password on individual lines in the text file. This allows you to connect by importing the text file, an option found under the menu key and “stored access points.”
Once you connect to a network, you should hear the player tell you that the time was updated. If not, be sure to head into time settings and change “automatic time” to on.
Checking battery status
The info button, which is in the middle of the set of 6 (below the tactile line dividing the button sections) is always available to repeat the last prompt or what is currently playing. Its use can slightly change as you operate the player, but not by much. You can always press the info button twice to get a battery gauge, and three times to hear time information. A forth press tells you the connected network state. These extra announcements are available no matter where you are. Only the first press could speak something slightly different dependentt on context. The info button also has a single dot on the bottom right corner of the elongated key. One thing to note: The battery status is reported in increments of 25%, just as on older Windows Mobile phones of 2007. So Full, 75%, 50%, and 25%.
I must admit, when I first started using Podcasts on this Evo e10, I was not at all going into it with the right expectations. On the Victor series of players, you have podcasts that automatically download in the background once you have added them to your list of feeds. New episodes will download in the background, and you have an auto-delete limit for when that player deletes them. This can make using podcasts a bit unwieldy. At one point, the Victor had 30 or 40 episodes queued up at once, and as these get downloaded to internal storage only, you can quickly run out of space and be stuck in a spot where you’re living with full storage all the time.
This style of podcast management, while simple, can lead to horrible management problems. It’s great for those who follow only a few series, but for anyone with 50+ Podcasts in their lists, it is unattainable to balance. What a shame.
To access podcasts on the Evo e10, simply go into the internal memory by pressing the exit key multiple times, then choosing “internal memory.” Once you’re in Podcasts, you will have three folders you can switch among with the left and right arrow keys. “PreStored podcasts,” “Download manager,” and “my podcasts.” Pre-stored are the podcasts you imported into an M3u file using the M3u creation software included in the “software” folder of the player’s internal memory. You can run that on a Windows computer, though to my knowledge they don’t provide an equal tool for Mac on the player. When using that software, place the URL of the RSS feed as the “stream link” and the Podcast’s title as the name. Choose “save playlist” to have it write the feeds to a single M3u file.
Once you are in the list of pre-stored podcasts, you can choose one to bring up the latest feed of episodes. Using the menu key will reveal options to “add to my podcasts”, which will add that podcast to the other list. It could be useful to do this, because in “my podcasts” you also get the announcement of played or unplayed status. Placing a series into here does not mean it auto-downloads, though. The feeds do not need to be fetched (the episode lists will update quicker) and you can manage which podcasts you enjoy frequently listening to.
You also have an option to download the episode that is highlighted, but only if that podcast’s episodes are accessed through “my podcasts.” When you press the menu key on an episode for something browsed as a pre-stored podcast, all you will hear is “pre-stored podcasts.” This can be confusing as you then have to either add that series to “my podcasts” or switch to the other folder. The choice on whether an episode is saved to storage is yours though, and this is both a pro and con.
Once an episode is playing, you can use the up and down arrow keys to choose a time increment and the left or right arrows to jump. This style of navigation is mirrored elsewhere, from listening to songs to playing Daisy material. Pressing the menu key brings up options for playback speed and pitch, choosing the repeat mode (whether the next to oldest episodes will play.) You can’t choose to only play a single episode, in stark contrast to the Victors. It will play in the order you set. Some of the options in the menu require the left and right arrow to change the option, and on that one you get “newest to oldest,” “oldest to newest”, or “shuffle,” but not “play single episode.” Using the enter key will dismiss the menu and resume playback.
Using the internet radio
The internet radio is quite simple, but I liked it because of the wide formats it supports. Even video streams that use Mp4 or M4a will work, or ones with Https over http. I have had very little trouble getting to play everything I threw at it. What I also like about the internet radio is that you can place multiple stations into one playlist file, and the player will place each track as a different station, rather than seeing that single file of multiple links as a single station. Again, this is a minor difference, something I know the PlexTalk / BookPort did not support but the Victors might as well.
Station management is more simple. You can’t increase the pitch or anything fancy like that. All you get is an option to add a station to “my stations” or remove it if playing an added one. Again, this gives you more control over stations in “my stations” and those categorized into your folders.
Using the V-tuner feature
The V-tuner folder is recent to players that have firmware 2.3.0 or above. It allows you to search for a station based on words you type, or country and category. To use it, just go into the “V tuner” folder. You get options for favorite station, favorite podcast, stations, podcasts. You can choose one of these, but keep in mind that favorites you add to these lists are kept only in V tuner.
Once you choose either stations or podcasts, you can search or browse. Searching brings up a similar typing experience to the Wi-fi information, and once results are listed, you can press the menu key to add that to your favorites. I find the V Tuner simple and easy to get used to, although I do wish you could integrate stations you add to your main list. Sometimes I forget that I’ve added a podcast or station in V-Tuner and not the main sections, and need to backtrack to find it.
Playing Daisy content
I have played limited Daisy on this player, mostly in text form. Unprotected audio Daisy formats are also supported, as well as some international DOPD services. What’s nice about Daisy playback is the ability to change the text to speech preferences for reading separate from that of the system voices. This allows you to use two different voices depending on reading or navigation, which is an added bonus.
Over all, level navigation was reliable, and you can do fairly quick jumps of large content sections.
This is the one feature I was excited about, as (I wrongly) thought you could set internet radio stations as alarms. The one downside I have found is that you cannot set stations added as alarms, only audio files. You could also set a song or downloaded podcast, if you feel like it. There are five slots for alarms, and you are able to customize it between Sound, Vibration, or both. The default alarm tone sounds more like an old school telephone ring, rather than a traditional alarm you may be familiar with. Just a fair warning before it startles you more than it should.
The FM Radio
The FM radio is great and will get some stronger stations without headphones plugged in. To use it though to the max, be sure to plug some in. In the menu, you are able to switch it back to speaker, change the step mode from “auto” to “manual” tuning, or delete presets. The downside of manual tuning is that the frequency gets repeated every single time you step, which can make it clunky to move among stations. Certainly radio experts will not enjoy it as much since you can’t do quick movement just by hearing the stations tune. I also had an issue where choosing “scan for stations” froze my player completely. I would wait ten or twenty minutes, thinking it’s still scanning, but in fact there would be no response from the player. Certainly an odd software quirk.
To add a station as a preset, press the enter key while it is playing and the only option will be to do so. This does not allow you to name the preset, simply to add it. You can then use the up and down arrow keys to move among presets, or delete one through the “delete preset” menu choice.
Other Miscellaneous loose ends
As we’re bordering the word count for a Windows review on a hardware product, I won’t keep your mind occupied much longer. Here are a few other comments on the player’s functions or features.
- The calculator is basic. As in, very basic. Use the menu key to cycle between the four operation modes after entering a number (addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.) Type your second number and choose “equal sign” from the menu to have it calculate. Very basic.
- Voice memos have settings between Mp3 and Wave formats under various qualities. The player does play Flac back, though.
- The compass won’t auto-announce the direction, you need to manually go into the choice to speak it. Still useful for intermittent use.
- Odd shuffle mode you’re probably not used to. When shuffling music, going to previous track with the left arrow will not replay the last track. Instead, it will shuffle to a different one. This is why you cannot “shuffle” and “repeat” both, only one mode at a time. It also means that the player does not keep track of which songs have already played in your shuffle. To most people, this will feel more like a traditional shuffle, such as found on older iPods. If you have the jump mode set on “file,” pressing left arrow will not repeat the song in progress. One work around is to move down to navigate by “beginning of file” which will then map both left and right arrows to jumping to the start of the track. For me, this causes a constant changing of navigation modes when shuffling music.
- Automatic power off VS Idle power off: This one is important. The manual does not do a good job at talking through these. Automatic power off is more like a sleep timer, where the player turns off after a specified time even while content plays. Idle Power Off, on the other hand, only switches the player off when not in use. To bring up auto power off, you can also conveniently press the power key a single time.
- You can even do automatic power on and time announcements for some advanced features.
Addressing the update situation
Some of you might be familiar with my saga on getting an update for this player. Because the voice files are different on each language, I made a horrible mistake of installing a British English update on my US English player. As a result, I did not have speech and had to reach out to Laz from Talking MP3 players and Daniel from Vin-vision, along with letting Vision Aid know to place a warning on their update page. Everyone I spoke to as super helpful, and I was able to get my player back on a 2.7.1 firmware.
This did bring up a wider conversation around updates. The player officially has a version 2.0.0, released in November 2018, as the last online automatic update. Yet there’s a version 2.7.1 which came out in 2021. This version is installed on many newer-made players, yet those who have previous generations cannot get the update online. In addition, the UK English file was for an even newer version 2.10.1, released late 2021. This fixed a few more bugs, yet was never made available for US English. Some languages may stay behind updates because of localization, but I did send this feedback to Vin-Vision and am hopeful that they will address the update situation.
Check this section later, I may be able to provide the latest update file with permission from Vin-vision to do so should you require a US English update for 2.7.1. I’ll also include instructions on how you can download the last official update for your language, should your player lose speech.
Conclusions and where to buy
Some people will have already made up their minds on not wanting this player. It does not have protected Daisy support, a removable battery, nor does it allow for Audible books. These three factors alone will be a problem for some. I completely understand, and there’s probably very little that can be done to make it work in those use cases. It also does not help that the player is only available in a handful of places.
Talking MP3 Players sells the 16 Gigabyte model in the US for $229, $329 normal price. The sale could end any moment, but this (at that rate) is almost half of the $475 price for the standalone Victor Reader Stream.
Mystic Access also sells the player along with documentation for $250. This is the 8 Gigabyte model, but a comprehensive multi-hour set of recordings is included detailing all functions.
In the UK, Vision aid sells the player for £249 along with linking to the correct UK-specific update file. Comproom also sells it on their site For £298. The firmware file linked there appears to be somewhat older than the one on the Vision Aid site, however, so do keep that in mind.
The player might also be sold in other countries through other dealers I am not aware of. I’ve been told that the Orion player might be based on a blueprint that uses the Evo e10 modified, although this is not something I could confirm in full. Different configurations that use other languages are certainly available and sold in the international market, however.
Despite this lack of availability (I found no mentions of countries like Canada and elsewhere) + some of the limitations, I am still sticking with this player. The feature set feels more advanced than the victor, in particular with the way podcasts are managed. On long flights, I will be likely to use the player over my phone, just to keep battery and uses separate. Plus, I won’t need to worry about getting connected to in-flight wi-fi. Returning it at this point is not an option since I find the features useful and somewhat retro. The lag when compared to at least the 2nd generation Victor Reader Stream is also more minimal. The Victor can bog down if you press too many keystrokes repeatedly, such as during scrolling of longer lists. By contrast, there’s maybe a .2 to .3 second delay on this player, which is very minimal and acceptable.
I hope this review can provide someone more in depth knowledge than found in the manual for the player, and perhaps help in making a final decision on whether it is worth buying. I thank Laz from Talking Mp3 Players for customer support on my purchase, as well as Vin-vision for their helpful comments and willingness to listen to my feedback.