As of April 7, 2011, Found a way to reduce background hiss quite a bit. Instead of low mic gain setting, use medium, and adjust "recording level" to 64, from default of about 126. using audacity USB mode. mic has windscreen, held about nose level, I'm looking down on desk at laptop screen with sutta text, mic about 4in away.
for standalone mode, medium mic gain and recording level 126 works better. I use usb mode most of the time now, saves time in whole recording process.
As of March 10, 2011, unless otherwise stated most of my recordings will be under this condition:
Location: In my room, door closed to minimize housemate noise. Hardwood floors, bare walls so echo can be a problem.
The Mic: Zoom H2
Toshiba Satelliate laptop with a noisy fan that likes to be on frequently for no reason. This adds a little bit of background hiss to the recording, but not too much.
The mic has a windscreen cover, which helps to reduce "plosives" and unintentional noise spikes which make normalization more difficult.
Mic position is about my nose level, 6" away. An expert recommends 6" to 12" away. I'm usually speaking in a regular to soft voice to minimize the natural sibilance in my voice. If I'm reading something that has more dynamic volume range, then I'll back up to 12". Being too close to the Mic and speaking too loudly for that distance will cause distortion.
Using USB mode with audacity to record. I also record with "cntrl-B" to bring up the "notes" track. This is so whenever I make a mistake in reading to mark and timestamp the spot I need to delete section in post process, I use mouse button to hit audacity "pause", mouse button select the time stamp on the "notes" track, hit a key or two to label the note, look on the sutta text to see where I'm going to continue reading (I usually scroll the part I'm reading to the top 2 lines), then when I'm reading to continue recording I hit the "unpause" button.
In post process, I edit the deletion sections in reverse chronological order in case doing it in left to right order would mess up the timestamp of the future edit spots.
This allows my post process to go much faster - I don't have to look through every second of the entire track to make sure I found all the spots to delete, I just go in order of the "notes" on the note-track.