This paper deals with the global reduction of axial flow fan noise in ducts in a building using a hybrid passive-active noise control method. The effectiveness of using an infra-red device as a reference signal source is also investigated. It is shown that using such a hybrid noise control system over an axial-flow fan reduces the overall sound pressure level by 5 dB(A) in the surrounding environment and global control of the blade passing frequency can also be achieved. This paper also shows that using an infra-red device as a reference signal source produces marginally better control as compared with using a microphone reference sensor. Moreover, long term stability is guaranteed and the possibility of acoustic feedback is eliminated. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.