The recognition and localization of sound signals is fundamental to acoustic communication. Complex neural mechanisms are thought to underlie the processing of species-specific sound patterns even in animals with simple auditory pathways. In female crickets, which orient towards the male's calling song, current models propose pattern recognition mechanisms based on the temporal structure of the song. Furthermore, it is thought that localization is achieved by comparing the output of the left and right recognition networks, which then directs the female to the pattern that most closely resembles the species-specific song. Here we show, using a highly sensitive method for measuring the movements of female crickets, that when walking and flying each sound pulse of the communication signal releases a rapid steering response. Thus auditory orientation emerges from reactive motor responses to individual sound pulses. Although the reactive motor responses are not based on the song structure, a pattern recognition process may modulate the gain of the responses on a longer timescale. These findings are relevant to concepts of insect auditory behaviour and to the development of biologically inspired robots performing cricket-like auditory orientation.