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Vibronic Music Services, Inc.
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Blog Post Copyright © 2012 By: RetroSynthAds | Revised in 2023 and used with permission.

Contemporary Keyboard Magazine 1975
Vibronic Music Service "What a Combination!" ad

Image of Vibronic Music Ad featuring a Moog Modular Syatem from 1975

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Vibronic Music Service "What a combination!" half-page black and white advertisement from page 23 in the September/October 1975 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

Have you ever been flipping through a magazine you have read dozens of times (backwards and forwards), only to suddenly fixate on a certain image or article after all that time?

That is *exactly* what happened here.

The Moog modular drawing in this ad is fantastic. I just can't look away. It belongs on my wall or a t-shirt. Or two t-shirts. Gorgeous.

And so, after picking up a magnifying glass to read every little detail in that drawing, I decided I would try and find out more about Vibronic Music Services. It wasn't a name I was familiar with outside of the magazine ads I'd seen in the early issues of CK.

And I was curious.

Naturally, when starting to look for clues in to a synth company, the first place I look is at the ads and their ad-runs. Vibronic's ads started in the September/October 1975 issue of Contemporary Keyboard. This wasn't just an early issue of CK. But THE EARLIEST issue. There seems to only be one other Vibronic advertisement, which appeared a couple of times in early 1976. This tells me either the company didn't find value in advertising in the magazine or that maybe something happened to the company. Kinda like in the fossil record when dinosaurs just suddenly dropped off the face of the earth.

This got me even more curious.

The ad itself is also a good place to build up info on a company. The ad-copy in this ad may be sparse, but those five bullet points actually say a whole lot about Vibronic. It looks like the company was part of a network of service providers that supplied Moog products (Vibronic), service (Beacon), and customization (Polyfusion - another advertiser in early Contemporary Keyboard mags). The company even provided Moog sessions for other bands and recordings by someone named Kenny Fine.


A name. Google likes names. Especially when you can cross reference it with other unique terms like "Vibronic" and "Moog". And it didn't take long to find out more info.

The first search result led me to the Moog Music forum where the original owner of Vibronic popped up to introduce himself back in a 2005 post. According to the post, musician Ken Fine owned Vibronic Music Services, Inc in Ardmore, PA from around 1975-1977. The company was the "first all-synthesizer music store" in the United States. Vibronic's grand opening seems it was quite a big deal with already-legend Bob Moog attending, drawing curious local press to see what Vibronic was up to. From the post:

"We supplied various Moog products to area college music labs, recording studios, and of course musicians. I personally laid down Moog tracks for Philly Internationally Records, Sigma Sound Studios and Gamble Huff & Bell records. My Modular Moog III tracks appear on albums by the Spinners, Lou Rawls, The O'Jays and other Philly R&B groups of the 70's. Listen to "Rubber Band Man" by The Spinners! I also performed in a Moog Synthesizer group called the Philadelphia Moog Ensemble."

Later in that string (a lot later - 2010!) he provides a bit more information on what happened with the company, along with the name of his business partner.

"After I closed Vibronic Music Services, I returned to school and became a psychotherapist. I left psychology in 2001 and got back into entertainment. I now own a corporate entertainment agency, speakers bureau and production company based in Denver, CO. I also dabble around with video and have a photo studio on the side.
[2023 Update: I sold Blue Moon Talent in 2016 and started a Real Estate Photography business in North Carolina.]
"I have tried to contact my former business partner, Mark Peterka, but no luck."

And this next part is what I like about the Internet so much. Turns out Mark's niece had recognized a piece from the Philadelphia Moog Ensemble playing on the radio and through Google found Ken's post in this forum and responded. Unfortunately it wasn't good news:
"You mentioned in one of your posts that you had tried to find Mark. Unfortunately, he passed away several years ago, I believe it was 2005. He suffered for several years with problems related to obesity & diabetes and died from complications of pneumonia. He was living in Southern California in Ramona, a town east of San Diego, where he was director of musical liturgy for a church. He had earned Doctor of Musical Arts degree somewhere along the way, too."
I do remember the summer that Mark returned to Wahpeton, ND (his home town) with a (Mini?) MOOG and performed a concert in the catholic church with the pipe organ and the synthesizer."

A 2012 follow up post in the same forum provides a bit more information about the company:

"Mark and I sold mostly Mini Moogs and Moog modular systems. We eventually became an authorized service center."

So, looks like Vibronic Music was operated by two partners - Ken Fine and Mark Peterka. Not too shabby for a small company in 1975.

But Ken made one mistake in those forums. He left contact information. Hee hee.    :) 

So I emailed him the other day (2012), introducing myself and rattling off a long list of questions. Ken was not only open to answering the lot of them, but took the time to talk to me on the phone for over an hour about the company, synths, bands, and even that awesome drawing in this ad.

We had a great conversation - he's a funny and engaging guy who has spent four decades with at least one foot, and often two, in the music industry. Musician. Synthesizer store owner. Audio researcher. Music lecturer and educator. To name just a few.

And his memory from 35+ years ago is astounding. Right down to the name of the font used in that awesome Vibronic logo. No joke!

[2023 Update: "It's now been 48 years!  Yikes!"]


Contemporary Keyboard Magazine 1976
Vibronic Music Service "SYNTHESIZERS" ad

Vibronic Music ad for Contemporary Keyboard Magazine in 1976

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Vibronic Music Systems "Synthesizers?" half-page black and white advertisement from page 30 in the January/February 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

Another gooder from Vibronic (sometimes referred to as Vibronix).

Where that first "What a Combination" Vibronic ad was a lesson in simplicity with a simple line drawing and a few bullet points, this advertisement piles on the content with a large ad-title, a large photo of a large Moog modular, and a large amount of ad-copy. All in a half-page space.

And it's all in the details. The way the keyboard in the photo breaks the border of the ad to catch the eye. And the way the dotted line of the form follows the shape of the photo, also breaking the lines of the ad and catching the eye. Not sure if any of that was done specifically for that reason (often its just 'cause it looks good), but it worked out that way. And it works.

















Ken Fine in his office at Virbonic Music.

I mentioned that through a few Google searches I managed to track down then-owner Ken Fine. And, after a quick email exchange, we ended up chatting on the phone about his experiences opening "one of the first synthesizer-only" instrument retail stores in the U.S. He also sent a few photos my way, including this one of himself at the store. Excellent!

Although not readily apparent in this photo of Ken hard at work (on the phone with Bob Moog?), Ken comes across as a fun and friendly guy. And that personality definitely played a role in the development of that first Vibronic advertisement with its most-excellent t-shirt-ready drawing of a Moog Modular, and this more comprehensive second ad.

I find that smaller companies like Vibronic Music can get away with a lot more fun and humor in advertisements than larger companies, but there is still that real danger of getting carried away. But Vibronic used humor well, without going over the top.

For example, take a look at the ad-copy in this second ad. "We take the fun of making music seriously."  Not over the top, but you immediately "get" where Vibronic is coming from as a company.  And then you come to the punch line found in the cut-out form section of this ad. In that form are two check-boxes.

  • First check box: Send me the free Vibronic Catalog

  • Second check box: I want technical expertise. Send Kenny Fine

I wonder how many people checked off that second box.  :)  kf: None!

I pointed this second line out to Ken and he chuckled as the memories surrounding this ad started flooding back to the front of his mind, noting that there was a lot of fun and laughter around the store during this time period.

And how could there not be humor and fun?  In his mid-20's, Ken was an owner of a 1,200 square foot futuristic-looking shop full of big analog monophonic, stand-alone and modular synthesizers, wired together through an audio switching matrix, feeding into a custom-designed sound system that would probably have felt at home in a large auditorium.

His excuse for the large custom PA - "so clients could hear that deep Moog sub-bass". I'm sure one note and that bank loan officer understood exactly why he needed this sound system.  :)

This conversation led nicely into one of the topics I was really looking forward to discussing - that drawing of the Moog modular in Vibronic's first ad (see top of page). That's one nice piece of... er... fun. Ken loves that drawing too  (why wouldn't he  :)

Ken recalled that the font used was Baby Teeth. We both did a quick Google search while we talked on the phone and... sure enough... there it was. Baby Teeth! The font was designed in the early 70s by Milton Glaser. And you may recognize Baby Teeth from another appearance it made in the early synth world - on the front panel of the Maxi-Korg synth! Hello!

Another question I asked Ken was how the heck he managed to get his advertisements into the first few issues of Contemporary Keyboard. I had three theories.

1. Cold call from CK sales guy?
2. Through his association with Bob Moog, who was a writer for CK and a guest at the opening of the store?
3. From the 1975 NAMM show that CK happened to attend prior to publishing their first issue?

I was secretly hoping for "3" since I had noticed that the first issue of CK included an article on the 1975 NAMM show. In that article, the CK author mentions that the magazine had a booth there, promoting the magazine before its first publication. And well - that would just be cool if all those little pieces fell into place to create a great little story.

I was quite happy and surprised to learn that "3" *was* the correct answer.  Ken had been there with a few Moog synths and had met magazine editor Tom Darter, who convinced him to sign-up for a 1/2-page advertisement for the first issue. He seems to recall paying approximately $500 (1995 Dollars) for the ad in that first issue. There is always a cost to being a part of synth history.

So, why did Vibronic's advertising in CK suddenly stop early in 1976 after only a few ads? Ken realized that his audience wasn't nation-wide and that a national magazine maybe wasn't the best vehicle to reach his customer-base. He decided to focus his marketing and advertising dollars towards local area musicians as well as educators that were also discovering synthesizers and setting up labs to teach sound and music.

In fact for Ken, music and education played a huge role both before, during and after life at Vibronic.

Vibronic Music Services "Synthesizers?" Version #2, Contemporary Keyboard 1976






Vibronic Music Systems "Synthesizers?" half-page black and white advertisement from page 30 in the January/February 1976 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

This third and final advertisement from Vibronic only seems to have appeared once in the March/April 1976 issue of CK.  I learned that owner Ken Fine made the decision that marketing dollars could be better spent by advertising directly to local musicians and educators.

The ad itself borrows the ad-title and photography from the previous ad, but the ad-copy has been reduced considerably, but those few lines carry a lot of history.

"Customized" hybrid systems: In past ads, Vibronic really focused on Moog synthesizers and Moog modifications. But in this advertisement the word Moog is curiously missing. In fact, I learned that Vibronic carried a much wider selection of synthesizers and keyboards than just the Moogs of the time. He recalls his store carrying the Moog Sonic Six, Moog satellte (tough to sell), Minimoog, Moog Modular systems, as well as EMS synths, Electrocomp and Mellotrons, among others.

"Customized" high-intensity keyboard sound systems: Those customized systems were created by a high-end audio company called Music & Sound Ltd. Vibronic demonstrated those synthesizers to clients through their own customized sound system. Each synth was hooked into a matrix sound system, fed into a McIntosh amp and large speaker cabinets hung by chains from the ceiling. No surprise - adjacent businesses were often complaining about the sound.   :)

Even the company name and address in the ad have some good history behind it. Ken had come up with the name Vibronic by putting together the words "Vibration" and "Sonic", although there were plans to change the name to Vibronix at a future date.

The address in all three ads was actually the store's second location. He originally opened the store in Ardmore, PA, about 10 miles west of Philadephia, at 6 East Lancaster Ave. That is where the futuristic showroom and that first large custom-built sound system were located. Ken recalls that there was a Radio Shack across the street which received a lot of repeat business from Vibronics at the time! In fact, Ken still has a box of all types of cables and connectors that were originally from that store. (kf note 2023: "Yep, still have that box!")

The second location was actually Music & Sound Ltd's address, where he moved Vibronic after the first 2 years in operation. His business partner Mark had left the company so moving into Music & Sound's location in Willow Grove, PA would save money as well as give him more exposure since Music & Sound was a well-known audio retailer in Eastern, PA. Moving into Music & Sound also allowed Ken to spend more time doing consulting work with studios and schools as well as keeping up his chops as a session player at Sigma Sound and Philly International Records. 

I always jump at the chance to research and talk with people who were deep in the industry during this time period. People like Marco Alpert of E-mu fame and Sequential Circuits advertising artist John Mattos. They usually have some great history to share. And Ken Fine fits nicely into this category. He was surrounded by music all his life - before, during and after Vibronic.


Ken remembers growing up in a highly creative environment. His dad (Ben Fine) was a print model and actor, appearing in numerous commercials and print ads. His mom was a writer of children's plays as well as a docent at The Barnes Foundation. Ken's sister Diane attended art school and eventually became a highly successful landscape designer. 


Ken began piano lessons at 9 years old and eventually studied music theory at the Philadelphia Musical Academy (which became University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. In the early 1970s. He recalled finding a Moog IIIc in the school's Music department where students and professors were using it to record compositions. Ken was already fascinated with, as he put it, "the crazy electronic stuff". He became influenced by many electronic artists and their music of the day, including Isao Tomita's Snowflakes are Dancing.


In approx. 1973 Ken left music school to take a position with a sound reinforcement and electronics company called Freedom Recorders and Electronics in Minneapolis. His job was to create an electronic music division. That is where Ken met his future business partner, Mark Peterka. Mark had been to music school as well and studied classical organ music. He also performed in Churches around Minnesota. They visited various synthesizer factories around the U.S. and had a private tour of the Moog Music factory by, you guessed it, Bob Moog!


It was around this time that he realized he really wanted to be in the synthesizer business. He began speaking with others in the synthesizer industry like ARP owner Alan R. Perlman (Ken recalls having an ARP synthesizer back then) and this solidified his resolve to get into the business. And after only a year or so in Minneapolis, he moved back to PA to get to work on that plan.

Vibronic Music Services

Finding himself back in PA, he soon found his 23-year-old-self with a new bank loan and formed a business arrangement with Mark.


Opening Vibronic in their first location was a busy, but fun time. Ken recalls the "high" he felt when buying all those amazing synthesizers for the store. The direct access to a wide variety of rather rare keyboards that he stocked in the store got him started doing Moog studio and rental sessions for studios like Sigma Sound Studios, who were always looking for the latest sounds for their R&B artists. Soon the store expanded to offer Moog service and modifications.

The Philadelphia Moog Ensemble
























The Philadelphia Moog Ensemble Rehearsing at Vibronic Music

















Philadelphia Moog Ensemble recorded an album and only printed 25 copies.
Most were lost over the years but Ken found a copy in Spain and had to pay $100.00 for it.


It was during this time that Mark and Ken started the Philadelphia Moog Ensemble, an all-electronic keyboard duo that played community venues,  colleges and private events. They performed covers from such album favorites as Switched-on Bach and A Clockwork Orange. With just four hands, four parts, and no sequencers - everything was played live. PME also performed original music as well as some traditional classical favorites.

Mark and Ken ended up spending just as much time demonstrating the gear to students and curious on-lookers after the concerts.
Ken was asked to teach a graduate course on electronic music at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA, as well as represent Moog Music at several trade shows including Pennsylvania Department of Education ConferenceThe National Association of Music Merchants and The National Association for Music Education.

Rare photos of some of the keyboards used Ken used in performance.
Marc Used two Moog System 15 Modular Systems and a Mellotron.

Meanwhile, band members from all over the east coast (including Tony Banks from Genesis) continued showing up at the store to hear these new electronic keyboards played through a monster PA. Educators from schools setting up labs to teach music and sound design also popped in.

But there was a recession back in 1975-1976, so sales really began to drop off. At the same time, larger stores started selling more synthesizers, buying bulk from the likes of Moog Music and receiving massive discounts by buying in quantity. Small boutique synthesizer stores like Vibronic started to feel the squeeze. By 1977, Ken decided a change was in order, and decided to return to graduate school.

He sold his entire inventory including the missive sound system. Ouch. Mark had already returned to Minnesota.


Post Vibronic


When Ken first mentioned on the phone that he went back to school, I immediately thought he meant music school. But he decided to take his love of music in a different direction.


Ken became interested in how humans perceive sound, and created what he called a "musical Rorschach test".  Test subjects listened to 10 classical music tracks, each about 60 second. Then were asked a series of questions to determine their emotional response. This research led him to expand his interests into biofeedback, pain control, even interfacing people with machines. Gah! Terminator!   :)

But even as graduate school pulled him away from music, he continued to keep one foot in the door, playing in various rock bands.  To help pay the bills he also worked part time at The Guitar Center in LA, just as polyphonic synthesizers began to make their rise in popularity.


In 2000 Ken left his psychology private practice in Florida and Colorado, and decided it was time for another life change. He joined a band and spent four months on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship as a dance band leader.  This led Ken to look into becoming a booking agent. And he soon opened up a new business - Blue Moon Talent Entertainment Agency. He booked corporate entertainment and motivational speakers all over the world. He continued to grow the roster over the years to over 1000 acts.

[2023 Update: I sold Blue Moon Talent in 2016 and started a Real Estate Photography business in North Carolina.]

CEO Ken Fine sitting in office at Vibronic Music Services
Vibronic Music ad in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine for Moog Synthesizers

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Promotional ad for The Philadelphia Moog Ensemble - Ken Fine and Mark Peterka

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Record lable for The Philadelphia Moog Ensemble - 1975

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Photos of keyboards used with The Philadelphia Moog Ensemble

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Photos of Ken Fine

Ken Fine 1975 and 2020

Vibronic Music Business Card 1975

Original Vibronic Business Card 1974

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