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Pioneer Pro Audio consigns worst video call phrase to space

XY-2 loudspeaker broadcasts "you're on mute" until it air pressure mutes sound

Pioneer Pro Audio has marked the UK’s gradual emergence from the shadow of Covid, and the country’s workforce returning to something approaching normality, by consigning frustrating video call comments to space – a symbolic gesture designed to put a smile on the faces of all those who have been forced to work from home in tough times.

Video calls have played an essential role in sustaining business during unprecedented times (a role that is set to continue), but have also frustrated participants with repeated expressions such as “can you all hear me?” and “oh, we lost you there”. In a nationally representative poll of 2,000 adults who’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic, the Pioneer Pro Audio team discovered that the most loathed expression of all was “you’re on mute”.

Consequently, the company decided to made recordings of the phrase in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, before playing them on repeat through one of its XY-2 loudspeakers on a journey to space. Complying with all necessary regulations, the XY-2 was launched using a lighter-than-air gas balloon from a CAA-approved launch site in Sheffield, where it rose to an altitude of over 30,000 metres – where the earth’s atmosphere blends into space – surviving temperatures of minus 65 degrees Celsius.

As the XY-2 rose and air pressure decreased, the sound from the loudspeaker became progressively quieter until “you’re on mute…” was muted altogether. At the apex of the flight, the balloon burst, returning the XY‑2 to Earth at a rapid 250mph, before the 2.5-hour journey was slowed in its final stages by a parachute. Having been tracked throughout by a team on the ground, the loudspeaker landed near Retford, 35 miles away from its launch pad, intact.

“The past year has been challenging to say the least,” said Kristian Van Haute, European sales manager at Pioneer Pro Audio. “The closure of the events and nightlife industries has been incredibly difficult for everyone involved, including Pioneer Pro Audio. We’ve all experienced fundamental changes to the way we work, socialise and connect. Remote working has thrown up many expressions which have embedded themselves into our day-to-day language – not all of them welcome, and many of them increasingly tiresome!

“To mark what we hope will be the reopening of the world as we once knew it, we decided to symbolically ditch the very worst phrase to the furthest place we could think of – outer space. Our iconic XY-2 speaker did its job, so let’s hope we can all soon get on with ours without the need to say, ‘can you see my screen?’ or, worst of all, ‘you’re on mute’!”