I've been recording live recitals and performances for a while... I've asked a similar question to this before, and eventually fixed it. However, I am still bothered by this: I eventually figured out that the reason I was getting so much hiss in my recordings was because of crappy equipment. Once I updated my equipment, the recordings come out better, but the background hiss is still there. I have a simple setup: Laptop, Adobe Audition 2, presonus Firepod, 2 Samson C02 pencil condenser mics in X/Y, 2 identical cables. I set the levels, record, take it home, start editing, and just can't get over the ambient background hiss that's present. I hate using the noise-reduction and hiss-reduction plug-ins because they make the recording sound muddy and just plain bad. So I need to find a way to make the hiss as minimal as possible before recording. Somebody here must be able to point out what I'm doing wrong, or help me improve. The other problem is that I'm a perfectionist, so I have to have my recordings sound very good! Or maybe the hiss is just normal and I'm over-reacting? If there is equipment out that would help I would be willing to get it, I just need to know what it is first. Someone clarify this for me please. Next issue: Often, when I record these recitals, the applause are way louder than the performer. When you look at the wave-form you can see these huge spikes... when you click and listen to the "spikes" they are always the applause. This can be annoying, because when you want to normalize the track it normalizes the highest point of the piece... so it will hardly normalize because the spikes will hit the set % (Ie: normalize to 97%) before the rest. I usually reduce the volume of the applause manually, and then normalize and it usually turns out OK. If there are any suggestions on how to prevent this from occurring I would love to know. I'm trying to learn this stuff as best as I can. I know there must be something I'm missing, or doing wrong, or just not doing at all... Thank you.