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For multi-channel noise reduction algorithms like the minimum variance distortionless response (MVDR) beamformer, or the multi-channel Wiener filter, an estimate of the noise correlation matrix is needed. For its estimation, it is often proposed in the literature to use a voice activity detector (VAD). However, using a VAD the estimated matrix can only be updated in speech absence. As a result, during speech presence the noise correlation matrix estimate does not follow changing noise fields with an appropriate accuracy. This effect is further increased, as in nonstationary noise voice activity detection is a rather difficult task, and false-alarms are likely to occur. In this paper, we present and analyze an algorithm that estimates the noise correlation matrix without using a VAD. This algorithm is based on measuring the correlation of the noisy input and a noise reference which can be obtained, e.g., by steering a null towards the target source. When applied in combination with an MVDR beamformer, it is shown that the proposed noise correlation matrix estimate results in a more accurate beamformer response, a larger signal-to-noise ratio improvement and a larger instrumentally predicted speech intelligibility when compared to competing algorithms such as the generalized sidelobe canceler, a VAD-based MVDR beamformer, and an MVDR based on the noisy correlation matrix.