The Matroska video file – or MKV, as it is more popularly known – has a history that traces back to the early-2000s, when it was established as an open standard/free container format. Named after the Russian word for nesting dolls, 'Matroska', the MKV format is renowned for its ability to encapsulate files within files, much like its namesake.
In the early days, MKV's non-proprietary nature and enhanced capabilities quickly made it a popular choice for the anime fan-subbing community. It was versatile, offering superior quality and the ability to incorporate multiple subtitle and audio tracks in a single file. This was a significant leap forward from other existing audio/video containers, like AVI and MP4, which were relatively limited in their functionality.
Fast-forward to today and MKV continues to gain traction for its versatility and openness, making it a suitable solution for the ever-evolving multimedia landscape. It has grown into a preferred format for numerous applications, including the distribution of high-definition video online. With a support structure for practically any audio and video codec, it has proven itself as a powerful tool for multimedia content.
Now, with the increasing popularity of immersive music, MKV is the perfect container to deliver lossless Dolby TrueHD/Atmos audio to audiophile listeners.
The Dolby Atmos music provided by streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music uses the lossy AC-4 codec, which reduces the file size roughly 20 times from the original ADM master file. In order to keep the file size that low, the perceptual coding algorithm throws out so much data that it’s easy to detect MP3-like ‘metallic’ or ‘watery’ artifacts in the rear surround and height speakers. The 768 kbps bitrate is simply not enough bandwidth for 12-16 discrete channels of audio.
Dolby Atmos music releases on Blu-Ray disc instead use the lossless Dolby TrueHD format, which reduces the file size 10 times from the source master. The MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) compression algorithm keeps the file size at a much more manageable 200-300 MB per track, with an average bitrate of 6000 kbps, while also maintaining a sonic quality indistinguishable to the source ADM.
Below, for comparison purposes, we’ve provided a short sample of the same section - height channels only - from A Bad Think’s song “Hungry Eyes” in both lossless Dolby TrueHD and lossy Dolby AC-4 format.
MKV’s ability to accommodate the TrueHD/Atmos audio and high-definition video content delivers on the promise of Blu-Ray, but without any of the hassles associated with physical media. This is particularly important in an era where music listeners are increasingly seeking out high fidelity audio experiences, wanting to hear music the way artists intended.
For those who have Dolby Atmos systems and are somewhat disappointed in the quality of the streamed Atmos content, here is the real deal! Up until now the only real high quality Dolby Atmos comes mainly from buying [a] Blu-Ray. While there are still Dolby Atmos Blu-Rays being released, it seems the studios have been pushing the streaming – which is fine – but unfortunately it's not the same quality as the disc. Well I'm happy to say that this company (Immersive Audio Album) is at least offering Lossless Dolby Atmos that is on par with a disc.User, AVSForum (link)
In conclusion, with its unrivaled flexibility, capacity for high-quality audio, and compatibility with high-resolution Dolby Atmos immersive audio, MKV is poised to become the preferred file format for the next generation of audio experiences. It's a testament to the foresight of its creators and the power of open-source solutions in driving the future of multimedia technology.