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We describe a radio-frequency (RF) discriminator, or frequency-to-voltage converter, based on a voltage-controlled oscillator phase-locked to the signal under test, which has been developed to analyze the frequency noise properties of an RF signal, e.g., a heterodyne optical beat signal between two lasers or between a laser and an optical frequency comb. We present a detailed characterization of the properties of this discriminator and we compare it to three other commercially available discriminators. Owing to its large linear frequency range of 7 MHz, its bandwidth of 200 kHz and its noise floor below 0.01 Hz2/Hz in a significant part of the spectrum, our frequency discriminator is able to fully characterize the frequency noise of a beat signal with a linewidth ranging from a couple of megahertz down to a few hertz. As an example of application, we present measurements of the frequency noise of the carrier envelope offset beat in a low-noise optical frequency comb.