Another technology advance unveiled at this week’s SEMA show in Las Vegas: Sony has developed an AM/FM CD/MP3 receiver capable of storing up to 500 music tracks and receiving music directly from a computer.

The new receiver has 1GB of flash memory and a USB port engineered into the faceplate. When the faceplate is removed from the receiver and connected to a Windows PC, it is automatically recognised as an external drive. With the included USB cable, users can quickly transfer and save MP3 and WMA files to the faceplate.

The Xplod MEX-1GP (Giga Panel) model [we’re not kidding, that is what Sony calls it] also supports playback of CD-R/RW discs, including those recorded with content purchased from Sony’s online music store. Its ATRAC3/3plus playback capability also lets it play compressed music files burned onto a CD.

“Our Giga Panel receiver is designed for car audio enthusiasts who crave technology not available in a factory system,” said Sony’s US director of marketing for mobile electronics, Andrew Sivori.  “We’ve created a way for music fans to have large, personalised collections of songs in their vehicles without the hassle of scattered CDs or MP3 players.”

The new receiver has a 13-segment LCD display for simple navigation of track and title information. The screen displays album, artist and track name when playing downloaded music files. Users can shuffle or repeat tracks, albums or personalised groups through controls on the faceplate or with the supplied wireless remote control.

The MEX-1GP unit also has a built-in 208-watt power amplifier, three-band equaliser and selectable rear/subwoofer preamp outputs to control the frequency and output level of an external amplifier.

It will go on sale in the US next February for about US$350.