We propose a novel, wideband spectrum analyzer based on spectral hole burning (SHB) technology. SHB crystals contain rare earth ions doped into a host lattice, and are cooled to cryogenic temperatures to allow sub-MHz hole burning linewidths. The signal spectrum is recorded in an SHB crystal by illuminating the crystal with an optical beam modulated by the RF signal of interest. The signal's spectral components excite those rare earth ions whose resonance frequencies coincide with the spectral component frequencies, engraving the RF spectrum into the crystal's absorption profile. Probing this altered absorption profile with a low power, chirped laser while measuring the transmitted intensity results in a time-domain readout of the accumulated RF signal spectrum. The resolution of the spectrum analyzer is limited only by the homogeneous linewidth of the rare earth ions (< 1 MHz when the SHB crystal is cooled to cryogenic temperatures). The spectrum analyzer bandwidth is limited by the inhomogeneous linewidth and by the electro-optic modulator bandwidth, both of which can be > 20 GHz.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.