Photon echoes, observed recently in ruby and in NH2D gas by two-pulse laser excitation, exhibit a modulation behavior as the pulse delay time is varied. The effect, which arises in a three-level quantum system, is due to the interference of two optically coupled transitions that share a common level. In this article, the three-level echo problem is treated exactly. Wave-function solutions are incorporated that are handled conveniently by a Laplace-transform technique. We, therefore, extend the earlier theory of echo modulation by Lambert et al., by removing their restriction of on-resonance pulse excitation. This procedure allows us to examine the effect of inhomogeneous broadening on echo amplitude explicitly, and we treat the problem by numerical and also by analytical means for the case of a Doppler-broadened gas. Analytic expressions are derived either for a high or a low laser power regime corresponding to excitation of either a large or a small fraction of the Doppler linewidth. The former case is analogous to pulsed nuclear magnetic resonance and is well known, whereas the latter result is new and applies to current photon echo measurements. © 1976 The American Physical Society.