Picture of the original Victor Reader Stream eBook player, model 303, front view, horizontal.

Victor Reader Stream 303 Daisy Player Review

The very portable   Victor Reader Stream 303   eBook player from Humanware, revolutionized high performance coupled with near micro miniaturization, when released in around 2007.

Victor Reader Stream 303 Summary

Since then, several firmware updates have enhanced this audio book player’s stability. Now, this original version has evolved into a rock solid talking book and DAISY book player, voice recorder, that also plays MP3 files too.

The Stream Victor Reader 303 further contains a voice synthesizer.  This can “read” text files for sight-impaired users.

Though Humanware replaced this Victor Reader with a much more feature-packed, smaller unit (the New Generation version), this original version will likely remain useful to the blind listeners for years to come.  As long as you can buy new batteries and chargers, we predict that people will want to keep using the 303.

Unfortunately, few model 303 Victor Readers show up on eBay currently.  So it seems that when people buy the Stream for approximately $350 retail, they rarely sell it.  They continue using it until it wears out.

We’ve used the original Stream since 2009 for journaling, note taking, and playing talking books, podcasts, and text files.  Plus, we like it so much that we have no plans to sell ours either.  It’s a great portable player over all.  And though we appreciate all the new features of the Victor Reader 2, we are saddened that the debut version is no longer available from Humanware.  Sigh.  Time marches on indeed, the way of electronic technology.

Picture of the front of the Victor Reader Stream Audio Book Reader, Model 303.
Victor Reader Stream Audio Book Reader, Model 303

Benefits, Pros, Advantages, and Features of the Victor Reader Stream 303 eBook Player

Victor Reader Accessories Still Sold

Replacement batteries and power adapters are still available at the Humanware Store web site.

Blind Friendly

Fully accessible device for vision-challenged users.  Access all menus via the provided voice prompts.  You need no sighted assistance to set up and configure the 303 Victor Stream.

Highly Intelligible Male and Female Voices

The included Samantha and Tom text-to-speech voices are highly intelligible, and not too monotonous.  The 303 has the usual speech inflections, like when it sees a question mark or explanation point in the text being read.

Records Digital Audio

The Victor Reader Stream is also a digital recorder, and produces very clear-sounding audio recordings, that it saves on an SDHC memory card.

Compact 3gp Audio File Format

The highly compressed 3gp audio file format sounds quite natural when used to record speech, and takes up very little space (9.1 megabytes per hour).  That means that on a 2 GB memory card, you can store up to

Comes with an SD Card

A 2 gigabyte memory card shipped with the 303.  This is a removable SDHC memory card.  So it’s nice store notes and talking books on a collection of memory cards like SDHC. Then, you play the card you wish, just like you do with discs in a CD player.

Stereo Sounds in Headphones

Plays in stereo when stereo headphones and ear buds are used.

Big, Easy to Work Buttons

The buttons are large enough and spaced far enough apart to assure easy operation.  The over all size of the unit fits well into the palm of the hand.  No need to make it any smaller, although the new Stream is 28% smaller.

DAISY eBook Support

Plays DAISY 3 and NISO 2005 eBooks.

Multipurpose Pilot Lamp

Features a bright LED pilot lamp that glows solidly when the player is powered on.

Plus, this lamp blinks when the 303 Victorreader is off and charging.  It goes out when charging from the wall adapter is complete and the unit is powered off. Find this light above the book shelf and book mark keys, and beneath the speaker and mic grills, on the face of the unit.

Can Operate While Charging

You can play the 303 while its lithium ion battery charges.

Users Guides Available Online

Extensive operating instructions provided on the web as well as text versions that are included on the 2 GB SDHC card, also provided.

Full Function Keyboard

The key panel features the speaker and microphone, the power lamp, the numeric keypad numbers 1-0, the pound and star keys, the sleep key, and the navigation keys (left, right, and play / pause).

The left side of this Victor Reader Stream has the  Power  and  Volume  keys.  The right side sports the  Record  button, along with jacks for an external microphone and stereo headphones.

We find the SD card slot on the top of the unit, along with the USB and power adapter ports.

Change the Battery Yourself

User replaceable lithium ion battery.  On a full charge, this removable battery lasts about fifteen hours on a single charge, when playing content at average volume levels.

Picture of the left side panel of the model 303 Victor Reader Stream Accessible Media Player, showing the power button, and volum / tone / speed controls.
Left side panel of the model 303 Victor Reader Stream Accessible Media Player

Disadvantages, Problems, and Limitations of the Victor Reader Stream 303 Daisy Player

Data Transfer Slowly Through the USB Port

Appears to be a USB 1.1 port. Interesting, because when this Victor Reader Stream first appeared on the scene, USB 2.0 was already around.

No Charging Via the USB Port

Cannot charge this Stream through the USB port.  A separate barrel style power connector is provided for that.  So, the so-called “universal” USB wall chargers do not work with this reader. Fixed in the new generation Stream however.

Computers Won’t Connect without Power Cycling the 303

The hot-pluggable features do not work in the first Victor Reader Stream.  If you’re plugging this into a personal computer, in order to utilize the accompanying Stream Companion software, you must first power down the Stream, connect it to the computer via the long USB cable, and then turn the Stream back on.  You can’t just plug in the Stream to the computer while it is powered on.  Proper hardware recognition by the computer will not occur in that case.

No Clock Inside

You can’t check the time of day on the Victor Reader Model 303 Stream, and no timestamps are set on voice memo files created on this device.  This can create problems, when you want to know exactly when a recording was made.  However, this too has been addressed with the next generation Stream version.

3gp File Format, Though Compact, Not Very Standard

The 3gp format audio files this digital recorder creates will not play in popular media players like Winamp and QuickTime.  However, they do play well on the digital talking book players currently provided by the National Library Service for the Blind.  The new gen Stream does not create 3gp files; only WAV and MP3.

Does Not Manage Podcast Subscriptions  

While you can place podcast audio files on an SDHC card, and play them on this model of the Stream, this unit does not automatically download new podcast episodes, nor automatically delete episodes to which you’ve already listened. Added in next generation Victor Reader.

Firmware Updates Inconvenient to Install

Firmware updates are a bit cumbersome to apply, and require a computer to complete.  Again, this has been addressed in later Stream versions.

Does Not Fully Handle Larger Capacity SD Cards

Does not correctly recognize the 64GB SD cards.  Either you can only access a part of the card, or the machine simply issues the “No Media” message when these BIG cards are inserted.

Not Enough Playback Volume, Little Bass

The included loudspeaker is not much bigger than a fingernail, and so, is not that loud.  Humanware prioritized compactness in this unit over a great-sounding, larger speaker system.  So, it’s hard to hear this Stream 303 in noisy areas. Then, when you do hear it, its monophonic sound lacks bass and low midrange frequencies.

No Separate Volume Settings for Speaker and Headphones

Does not remember separate volume settings for the built in speaker and headphones.  So be careful when you decide to switch from  loudspeaker listening to earphones, since the speaker generally requires a higher volume setting than do headphones. Turn the volume down before plugging the headphones in; else, you  may be startled at how loud the audio content will be in your ears.

Needs Authorization Key to Play NLS Talking Books

To play NLS books, requires authorizing user key files (obtained through NLS and Humanware) be installed.

No More Firmware Releases for the Victor Reader 303 Stream

Firmware updates no longer issued.  The last issued version we know of was version 3.5.4.

Does Not Play CDs

No AAC Support

Cannot play AAC or AAC+ encoded music files.

Does Not Play Internet Radio Sations

Does not stream audio from the Internet.  No Internet radio functionality provided.

No WiFi Support

In fact, there’s no WiFi hardware included in this model of the Stream.  So, all content that’s on the Internet, must first be downloaded to a PC, and then copied to the SD card.

Picture of the Model 303 Victor Reader Stream, showing the Right Side Panel.
Model 303 Victor Reader Stream, Right Side Panel, showing the Record button, and the jacks for the stereo headphones, and external microphone.

Qualifiers

The comments in this review were developed using version 3.5.4 of the firmware for the Model 303 Victor Reader Stream.

Our Rating

We continue to use the Victor Reader 303 Stream eBook Reader routinely, even though we have also purchased the New Generation Stream.  We like the high-quality, low space recordings that this machine produces in the form of 3gp ANR Wideband Audio files. In fact, we wish that Humanware continued supporting 3gp in the later Stream.  But since they haven’t, as of yet, we’ll keep journaling with the first stream model, and hope that they’ll reintroduce the ANR audio in the future.  We give this Victor Reader a 96 out of 100 for its overall performance, use ability by the blind, and its portability.

Victor Reader Stream model 303 eBook player, top view, showing its DC power port highlighted.  Victor Reader Stream 303 portable book player review.

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References

Revision History

  • 2019-02-20: Added tags, optimized for applicable key phrases, added subheadings, and fixed typos.
  • 2018-02-01: Added more pictures and a Related Posts section.
  • 2015-11-15: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2014-11-06: Originally published this article.