I am using a FR2-LE with a few different mics (condenser and Dynamic) and I have to turn the levels way up to get a signal around -6 to -3db. This is when I record sound effects like glass on glass, or fork clinking on a plate. I almost have the trim level all the way up and the recording level control at about 9 out of 10. Is this normal for recording small sound effects?
Personally i never record that hot, i aim at between > -18, < -12, as i doubt that it would play even at that level in the mix, so no need to bring up mic/preamp noise, distortion etc.
Also whats the distance to the mics? I find that kind of sound effect or "schmoley", blends better by not close mic it.
Maybe your preamp is not the perfect match for your mic. I learned a few months ago the rule of thumb that there should be a factor of about 10 between your mic's output impedance and your preamp's input impedance. That's a rule of thumb, of course.
For example, I've got 1.2kOhm input impedance preamps on my Tascam DR-100, so I should be looking for a mic that shows about 120Ohms of output impedance. My AT8015 is 250Ohms and I need to crank my gain almost all the way up to get decent dialogue. Apparently an NT1-A (50Ohms output impedance) would do a much better job.
Hope this helps...
EDIT: that's a purely technical thing though, Filipe has an interesting point: think about how the sound will be used. In the end, all you're trying to do is process your recordings the least that you can. In a perfect world, you'd be able to record every single sound right at the level it'll be needed in the mix.
I've never used a Fostex but it does seem odd that you have the levels turned up that high and you're only getting -6 to -3dB at 2 inches. A fork clanking on a plate can be fairly loud but I suppose it depends on how hard your tapping the fork or whatever. In any case I would definitely recommend using the condenser for this kind of stuff, and an average peak of -12 seems sensible so that there is enough headroom to account for sudden large transients.
As an alternative to buying new microphones (if it turns out that you need to), you can buy impedance-matching transformers that attach to your current mics as a solution to the impedance issue that Justin brought up.
Also there is quite a good technical review of the FR-2LE here that recommends using a Sennheiser HMD25 in conjunction with this recorder: