Judgments of whether a sinusoidal probe is higher or lower in frequency than the closest partial ("target") in a multi-partial complex are improved when the target is pulsed on and off. These experiments explored the contribution of reduction in perceptual confusion and recovery from adaptation to this effect. In experiment 1, all partials except the target were replaced by noise to reduce perceptual confusion. Performance was much better than when the background was composed of multiple partials. When the level of the target was reduced to avoid ceiling effects, no effect of pulsing the target occurred. In experiment 2, the target and background partials were irregularly and independently amplitude modulated. This gave a large effect of pulsing the target, suggesting that if recovery from adaptation contributes to the effect, amplitude fluctuations do not prevent this. In experiment 3, the background was composed of multiple steady partials, but the target was irregularly amplitude modulated. This gave better performance than when the target was unmodulated and a moderate effect of pulsing the target. It is argued that when the target and background are steady tones, pulsing the target may result both in reduction of perceptual confusion and recovery from adaptation.